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England vs Hungary: Five things we learned as Three Lions continue perfect World Cup qualifying record

England vs Hungary: Five things we learned as Three Lions continue perfect World Cup qualifying record

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England continued their perfect start to World Cup qualifying as they secured an impressive 4-0 win over Hungary in Budapest, on a night marred by reports of racist chanting from the home crowd.

In their first match back in action since defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, England went the opening 45 minutes without having a shot on target as Harry Kane saw an effort sail over the bar and Harry Maguire couldn’t keep his header down from a corner.

Kane had a golden opportunity to open the scoring minutes after the restart but couldn’t finish past Peter Gulacsi, but Raheem Sterling was much more clinical when presented with a chance inside the penalty box soon after as he gave England the breakthrough.

The forward continued his sparkling form for his country as he cushioned a half-volley past Gulacsi from a Mason Mount cross and then turned provider as he drilled a ball across the box for Kane to steer a header past the keeper. Maguire added a third from a corner before Declan Rice scored England’s fourth with a long-range strike.

Here are five things we learned.

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Alleged chants highlight lack of action from Uefa on racism

As reported by ITV, England’s Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were subjected to racist chanting in the closing stages of their 4-0 win over Hungary.

Unfortunately, it was not a surprise, following the boos as England’s players took the knee before kick off in Budapest.

As highlighted by The Independent’s chief football reporter Miguel Delaney, who was at the Puskas Arena, the boos from the home crowd that followed England’s players taking the knee were the loudest he had heard inside a football stadium.

Both Hungary’s head coach and the president of their FA had urged home supporters to respect England’s anti-racism message prior to the match but their calls were ignored.

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So much, then, for the punishment Uefa handed to give Hungary following “discriminatory behaviour” from some of their fans at the Euros.

The team were ordered to play their next three home Uefa fixtures behind closed doors – but that did not apply for the visit of England as the World Cup qualifier was an official Fifa fixture.

Instead, Uefa were left with the embarrassing situation of Hungary playing their first game after the Euros in front of a capacity crowd, less than three months after monkey chants and homophobic banners were reported in the Puskas Arena – and to make matters worse, England’s players were then let down as Sterling and Bellingham were subjected to the same disgraceful abuse was heard during the game. They should, again, be applauded for how they responded – but Uefa should be ashamed for the fact they had to hear it.

England pass challenging away test

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It had been a while since England had last faced an away test such as this, following their home run at Euro 2020 and the previous 12 months of fixtures being played behind closed doors.

Hungary proved during the Euros that they can be a challenge to break down on home soil. Backed by a partisan crowd of 68,000, who provided further intimidation after there were loud boos for England’s players taking the knee, this was the toughest away assignment Gareth Southgate’s side had faced for some time.

(AFP via Getty Images)

In that context, this was an incredibly impressive victory for England. Their first-half performance may not have set pulses racing, but it succeeded in quietening the home crowd, setting the platform for England talk a hold of the contest in the second half.

Some accused England of having an unfair home advantage during the Euros, and while that may be true as Southgate’s side played six of their seven fixtures at Wembley, this was a performance to show that they still secure results when the crowd is against them.

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England continuing with plans since Euros

Gareth Southgate made one alteration to his starting team, as well as a change in formation, for his side’s first game since the Euro 2020 final – anything more from the England manager would have been a surprise.

There were no drastic adjustments from how England played during their tournament run, barring a start for Jack Grealish. Kalvin Phillips resumed his partnership alongside Declan Rice in midfield and retained the license to push forward, Harry Kane continued to drop deep and create, England’s possession was slightly tilted to the left side of the pitch.

However you looked at it, England’s style of play was largely unchanged from the summer and in many ways, for this type of fixture, it didn’t need to be. Southgate trusts his system will allow England to control matches such as these while he knows his players have the quality to take their chances when they come.

You could easily file this performance against Hungary alongside the group stage wins over Croatia and Czech Republic back in the summer. There were cries of frustration then, in some parts, for how England were playing within themselves. Results remain the most important factor, however, and all that matters for Southgate at the moment is his side remain in control of their qualification to the World Cup with a 100 per cent record.

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Sterling continues to be England’s main man

Raheem Sterling continued his sensational form for England as the forward once again provided the breakthrough goal for his country.

The Manchester City man has now netted 16 times in 24 appearances for England and has scored the opening goal in the last four matches the Three Lions have won in regulation time – including three at the Euros.

Sterling started on the right of England’s attack against Hungary, with Grealish on the left and Mount through the middle, after usually operating on the opposite wing during the Euros.

It does not seem to matter where he starts, however, as Sterling continues to find the net for England.

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Rice and Phillips grow in authority in midfield

(The FA via Getty Images)

To highlight the strides England midfielders Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips have made, both as players and as a partnership, you have to go back to England’s previous World Cup qualifiers in March.

Back then, there were plenty of questions as Southgate trialled the midfield duo he wanted to be in the centre of the pitch during the Euros, especially around their creativity in fixtures such as these.

After shining during the tournament, this was another night where Rice and Phillips seemed to grow in stature. As Hungary looked to rile England early in the second half, both players were there to meet the physical challenge – and put in one or two tough tackles or their own.

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Rice’s late strike, his second for his country, was fully deserved for an impressive away performance – while Southgate should also receive credit for sticking with this partnership, which goes from strength to strength.



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