England posted wins seven and eight of a flawless qualifying campaign thus far to confirm a spot at Euro 2016 with room to spare, as a cluster of players strongly advanced their cases for game time in France while others floundered.
The Three Lions are now guaranteed a seeded spot in the tournament, with Ladbrokes labeling Roy Hodgson’s charges as fifth favourites early in the running at 12/1, behind Germany, France, Spain and Belgium.
As always when the national side are assembled, there were winners and inevitably losers over the two games, not least England’s record-breaking captain and talisman, Wayne Rooney, who finally surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton’s long-held marker of 49 goals for his country.
Alongside Joe Hart in goal, Wazza is about the only other nailed on starter next summer, so here’s a breakdown of the others who’ve been auditioning to join them.
Luke Shaw – Looking far more reminiscent of the raiding full-back that Manchester United broke the bank for and having played every minute of the two qualifiers is now the natural first choice.
Chris Smalling – Another Red Devil whose early-season form has been replicated when given his chance against Switzerland. He was the official man of the match and looks the consummate centre-back right now.
James Milner – Never one to shirk responsibility, rather relish it, Milner was on hand on numerous occasions to save England’s bacon with covering tackles against the Swiss and has staked a genuine claim to play a central role.
Harry Kane – Left on the subs bench twice, but came on to score twice. Kane-mania has begun again in earnest and for good reason as the Tottenham striker is here for the long haul.
Nathaniel Clyne – The Liverpool man gives England balance and a threat to match Shaw on the other flank. Was a little quiet at Wembley, but Clyne’s rivals for the spot are now an endangered species.
MADE A CASE
Jonjo Shelvey – Being the stand-out midfielder against San Marino won’t be enough to cement a place, albeit the Swansea star showed a fine range of passing and creative spark that will have impressed Hodgson.
Ross Barkley – On the scoresheet against the minnows, but a little more subdued when faced with far better opposition. The Everton prospect has the X-factor but won’t necessarily be ready for starts in France.
Theo Walcott – A brace against San Marino won’t have harmed his case, but not playing at Wembley won’t have advanced it much further either. Needs a big season for Arsenal.
John Stones – Handled himself well in the first match but looked a little flustered when introduced late against Switzerland.
Jamie Vardy – Showed the industry and verve Leicester fans have come to love, but as a striker given a window of opportunity against cannon fodder, scoring is crucial and Vardy may have missed a trick.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Failed to score against San Marino and was fairly ineffectual against the Swiss. There is much to like about his direct style and moments of skill, however, he needs to adds goals and is likely to be a substitute in France.
Fabian Delph – Only a substitute in the first match having seen his playing time dramatically reduced at new club Manchester City and then lasted less than 10 seconds before a hamstring put paid to his involvement. He will be back, but his England status has suffered.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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