Jack Grealish was delighted to finally get off the mark in an England shirt after adding the final goal in Saturday's 5-0 win at Andorra.

A reshuffled England side were comfortable throughout as they closed on World Cup qualification, recording their sixth win in seven matches in this campaign.

The Three Lions were two up by half-time through Ben Chilwell and Bukayo Saka, the latter assisted by the outstanding Phil Foden. It was the first time two England players aged 21 or under had combined for a World Cup qualifying goal since Steven Gerrard's assist for Michael Owen against Germany in 2001.

Tammy Abraham got in on the act after half-time, before Grealish made a significant impact from the bench.

In 17 minutes, the £100million man won a penalty, which James Ward-Prowse saw saved before tucking away the rebound, and then hit the net following Sam Johnstone's throw from an Andorra set-piece.

The last substitute to win a penalty and score a goal in a European World Cup qualifier while playing 17 minutes or fewer had been Nicklas Bendtner in a six-minute cameo for Denmark against the Republic of Ireland in November 2017.

Grealish's goal came in his 16th appearance for his country, and the Manchester City winger acknowledged the drought had been on his mind. 

"It has been a long time coming, and it's about time that I scored because everyone has been saying it to me," Grealish told BBC 5 live.

 

"I think that is 16 games now. It was coming, and I'm just delighted that I've got off the mark.

"I want to be starting games, to be starting the biggest of games and keep playing for England. Luckily over the past few months and during the Euros I've had the chance to do that.

"In the back of my mind there has been that feeling that I've just wanted to score, just to get off the mark. Obviously I've done that tonight, I'm delighted, and it's a night I won't forget."

For Abraham, meanwhile, it was his first England goal for almost two years.

The Roma striker became the first England player to score while affiliated to an Italian team since David Platt, then with Sampdoria, netted against Sweden in 1995.

"I need to keep performing for my club and I hope I'll be in more camps going forward leading to the World Cup," said Abraham.

"It is never straightforward against Andorra. It was hard to break them down, but you could see the quality in the team as we had to find ways to score, and we did.

"I knew the opportunity would come. Jadon told me at half-time that sometimes he would cut back on his right and try and find me in the middle of the goal, so I should be ready.

"I was ready that time and got a good toe onto the ball. I was in the right place at the right time and I took my chance."

Bukayo Saka and Tammy Abraham were on target as England cruised to a comfortable 5-0 win over Andorra in World Cup qualifying Group I on Saturday.

Gareth Southgate named a largely second-string outfit at the Estadi Nacional but they had no problem dispatching a side ranked 153 places beneath them, Ben Chilwell setting them on their way in the 17th minute with his first international goal. 

Bukayo Saka added a second before half-time, while Tammy Abraham, James Ward-Prowse and Jack Grealish sealed the most routine of wins in the second period. 

A sixth win in seven group games means England move onto 19 points at the summit, while Andorra remain in fifth on three points. 

The Andorra Football Federation (FAF) expects Saturday's World Cup qualifier with England to go ahead as planned, despite a fire breaking out at their Estadi Nacional ground on the eve of the game.

The fire, which started a few hours after Gareth Southgate's squad had been training at the 3,300-capacity stadium, caused thick black smoke and was dealt with by fire crews.

A television gantry went up in flames while a VAR monitor and a dugout appeared to be damaged. Some of the playing surface towards the touchline was also burned.

However, the FAF has moved to allay fears that the fixture is at risk of being postponed or moved to a new venue. 

"No personal harm has been reported, only material damage. The schedule will continue as planned and the match will go ahead," a statement read on Friday.

UEFA is expected to have the final say on whether the game will take place at Estadi Nacional.

England lead the way at the top of Group I ahead of this weekend's contest, sitting four points clear of second-place Albania and a further point in front of Poland.

A fire broke out at Andorra's Estadi Nacional ground the day before the World Cup qualifying match against England.

Gareth Southgate's squad had been training at the 3,300-capacity stadium on Friday around three hours before the blaze started.

The fire, which caused thick black smoke, appeared to take place in the broadcast gantry in between the two dugouts.

After fire crews dealt with the incident, a VAR monitor and one dugout looked to be damaged, while there was also a burnt area of the playing surface towards the touchline.

Initial reports have suggested the fixture is not in doubt, but UEFA must decide if it can go ahead at the original venue.

There must be a back-up venue in place for all qualifying matches, per UEFA rules.

Gareth Southgate has rejected the suggestion that "most" of his England squad are not fully vaccinated against coronavirus and reiterated his support for a vaccine programme.

The subject of wildly varying vaccination rates at Premier League clubs recently prompted a passionate outburst from Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

Southgate supports the vaccination programme and Tammy Abraham this week became the first England player to reveal he had been jabbed, but others have been reluctant to speak about the matter publicly.

Asked about most players in the squad and Premier League in general not being fully vaccinated ahead of England's World Cup qualifier in Andorra, Southgate replied: "I'm not sure that's totally accurate, in terms of 'most', but I think everybody knows where I stand on the subject.

"To move out of a pandemic, the only way is a vaccination programme, I think that was essential.

"There is then the complication that there are lots of individual circumstances around that and I understand that some people would be anxious, perhaps.

"When you are in the camp of mine, over 50, there is less to consider really. The odds are more straightforward, it's a much more straightforward decision and I'm a believer that it's the right thing to do.

"I can kind of understand there are other topics we've talked about where everybody would be aligned and we would all have a very clear view as a team.

"With this, it's a little bit more nuanced, lots of people have had the virus, so maybe they feel the antibodies are high in their own bodies.

"Lots of people might have individual medical conditions, some people in the country might have religious reasons. It's a complicated area, my belief is the route out of the pandemic is a vaccination programme.

"I'm yet to hear anybody offer an alternative and there is not a lot more we can say than that."

Southgate says the England team doctor takes the lead when it comes to communicating with the players on the subject.

He added: "Our doctor over the last year and a half has always spoken to the players about the current situation.

"He has spoken in terms of infection in the country to explain what measures will be needed within the camp for us because those over the 18 months have changed.

"So whether masks are needed indoors for us, the level of testing and whatever that is going to be.

"He's always explaining the benefits of the vaccination. But, of course, we have had to deal with many different topics.

"We also have to prepare a team to play football and sometimes there wouldn't be enough hours to discuss all the things that everybody seems to want us to discuss and prepare a team to play a football match.

"We cannot impact the weather in the next two or three days, we could not jab everyone here in two or three days.

"There is a balance to strike. First and foremost, we are here to win football matches."

England are four points clear of Albania at the top of Group I ahead of Saturday's match with Andorra, who are fifth in the standings.

What is expected to be a more testing match with Hungary follows at Wembley on Tuesday.

Gareth Southgate says England know they are "close" to ending their long wait to win a major trophy as they prepare to try to seal World Cup qualification.

The Three Lions suffered the heartbreak of losing to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley in July, three years after crashing out of the World Cup in Russia at the semi-final stage.

It is 55 years since England won their only major trophy in the 1966 World Cup on home soil, but they are well on course to get another opportunity in Qatar next year.

England are four points clear at the top of Group I ahead of an away clash with Andorra on Saturday and an encounter with Hungary at Wembley three days later.

Southgate has been impressed with the way his players reacted to missing out on Euro 2020 glory and feels there is a belief they can avoid more agony.

He said: "Ultimately what I like last month [when they thrashed Andorra and Hungary before drawing in Poland] is that there was no hangover in terms of the disappointment and no complacency in terms of the attitude of the players.

"There was a desire to improve, to make sure the next steps are the right ones and keep the standards every day. 

"Of course we've got to qualify first, that's the task over the next five to six days, to get six points.

"But there is a definite understanding that we are close, that we are ranked well in the world and that our results over a period of time have been consistent, but we know we ultimately want to go one step further next time."

It is just over five years since Southgate initially took over as manager on an interim basis before landing the role for the long term.

The ex-England defender says there is much more desire in the camp compared to when he took the reins in 2016.

"Different periods across that timeline, I think the first thing we wanted to do was restore confidence and then across the period of time optimism," he said.

"I think it's best embodied in terms of the players in that I can remember at that time it was difficult to get players to come sometimes. Now we had three lads called into the squad late and they couldn't wait to be here.

"There's lots of markers we could use, but for me in terms of working with the team and the enthusiasm of the team the connection with the country I think they are probably the things at the utmost in my mind."

Southgate brushed off concerns about Harry Kane playing on an artificial pitch in Andorra with his history of ankle trouble and says he has no new injuries to contend with.

Harry Kane sits fifth in England's all-time scoring charts, but he could overtake Wayne Rooney's competitive record for the Three Lions against Andorra.

Kane has found the net nine times in 13 appearances in 2021 for Gareth Southgate's men to leave him 12 goals behind Rooney (53) as England's leading scorer.

However, the Tottenham forward has 36 goals to his name in competitive international fixtures – one fewer than Rooney – before the trip to the Estadi Nacional on Saturday.

Kane is also one shy of becoming just the second player to score 10 or more in two separate calendar years for the Three Lions, after Vivian Woodward in 1908 and 1909.

But comparisons between Kane and Rooney are likely to be the focus in the coming months, as the England captain targets his records – starting with this competitive benchmark.

Kane quicker to this point

Since opening his account on debut against Lithuania in March 2015, Kane has scored 36 times across 53 competitive fixtures – averaging a goal every 118 minutes.

By contrast, Rooney played 21 more matches for his 37 goals, netting once every 156 minutes on average having played an additional 1,545 minutes.

Kane, who is still waiting on his first Premier League strike of the season, has needed just 82 shots on target to reach his 36-goal mark as well, with Rooney requiring 32 more to achieve his tally.

Overall, Rooney has attempted 99 more shots than his counterpart, which translates into a 13.8 per cent conversion rate. Kane has turned 21.3 per cent of his 169 shots into goals.

 

Kane delivers on the biggest stage

Rooney may have scored five more goals than Kane (25) in major tournament qualifiers, but the latter shines when it comes to the showpiece events.

Despite playing in just one World Cup, Kane impresses ahead of Rooney in terms of goals at the finals, with his six to claim the 2018 Golden Boot towering above the former Manchester United forward's one across three tournaments between 2006 and 2014.

While Kane's goals were subsequently not enough to see England past Croatia in the semi-finals in Russia, the current Three Lions captain also guided his side to their first major tournament final in 55 years at Euro 2020.

However, Rooney (six) has scored two more European Championship goals than Kane, netting four times at Euro 2004 as he briefly became the youngest scorer in the tournament's history.

Nevertheless, Kane outscores Rooney by three at major tournaments, having proven himself the man for the big occasion on the international stage.

 

Rooney filled his boots with five competitive goals versus San Marino, against whom Kane has netted just once, but England's record scorer had an impressive four against both Croatia and Switzerland.

Kane's best hauls have been his four against Bulgaria and Montenegro, although he did score three in one match against Panama at the World Cup.

Two stars similar finishers

Strangely, Kane and Rooney have almost identical records when it comes to the breakdown of how their goals have been scored.

The pair have each scored four with their left feet and 24 with their favoured right boots, with Rooney heading in nine to Kane's eight.

Kane's swerving long-range finish against Poland last time out was his sole goal from outside the box to date, however, whereas Rooney has smashed in six goals from outside the area – two of those being free-kicks.

Rooney has six from the penalty spot, too, where Kane has proved particularly prolific, his 10 conversions from 12 yards allowing him to close quickly on a fellow great.

James Ward-Prowse has received a late England call-up to replace the injured Kalvin Phillips for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Hungary.

Leeds United midfielder Phillips has been ruled out with a calf strain he suffered in his club's 1-0 win over Watford on Saturday.

Ward-Prowse, who became the fourth Southampton player to both score and be sent off in a Premier League match after Peter Crouch (May 2005), Sadio Mane (October 2015) and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (December 2018) after he followed up a successfully converted penalty with a straight red card in the defeat to Chelsea on Saturday, is the latest addition to the squad for manager Gareth Southgate.

England's manager is already without a host of players for the October fixtures.

Reece James was ruled out on Monday, the Chelsea defender replaced by club colleague Ben Chilwell, who was part of England's Euro 2020 squad but did not feature in the tournament.

Meanwhile, ex-Blues striker Tammy Abraham was another to be drafted in, his addition coming amid the absences of Patrick Bamford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Marcus Rashford.

Defensive duo Harry Maguire and Trent-Alexander Arnold are also sidelined, while Southgate opted to leave out Jude Bellingham and Mason Greenwood, allowing the young duo to rest.

Phillips started all seven games as Southgate's Three Lions reached the European Championship final. Indeed, only goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (690) and John Stones (679) played more minutes in the campaign.

The 25-year-old ended the tournament with a passing accuracy of 85.92 per cent, creating three chances in the process, though missed out on glory as Italy secured the trophy via a penalty shoot-out win at Wembley Stadium.

Sitting top of Group I in the quest to qualify for Qatar 2022, England visit Andorra on Saturday before hosting Hungary three days later.

England have called up Ben Chilwell to replace the injured Reece James, while Tammy Abraham features as a late inclusion for October's internationals.

Gareth Southgate named a 23-man squad on Thursday for World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Hungary but has announced two changes to his group.

James, who suffered an ankle injury in Chelsea's 1-0 loss to Manchester City last month, is ruled out through injury and club colleague Chilwell takes his place.

The left-back was encouraged to prove his worth to both Southgate and Thomas Tuchel at club level after initially being left out, and he duly did so as he scored in a 3-1 defeat of Southampton on Saturday.

In that contest, Chilwell attempted four shots and made a game-high three key passes, subsequently earning a call-up at the expense of his team-mate, who was somewhat of a surprise inclusion in the first place.

Former Chelsea striker Abraham has also been included as a late call-up, with Southgate opting to extend his squad to 24 players due to the Roma forward's current form.

Abraham – who had not been selected since November 2020 – has six caps to his name and will have been disappointed with his initial omission, given the injuries to Patrick Bamford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Marcus Rashford.

Abraham has scored twice and assisted as many in seven Serie A appearances for Jose Mourinho's men and he will now act as a likely deputy to Harry Kane, who has scored nine times in 13 internationals in 2021 for England.

Gareth Southgate is cautious of overusing Jude Bellingham and Mason Greenwood and has left the young pair out of England's squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Bellingham and Greenwood were high-profile omissions from the 23-man group named by Southgate on Thursday, along with injured defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Harry Maguire.

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Bellingham has started all 10 games at club level this season and played an hour for England in their 4-0 win over Andorra earlier this month.

Greenwood has been used regularly by Manchester United this term, meanwhile, starting seven times and featuring from the bench on one occasion.

Bellingham's 802 minutes of playing time this term is the most of any England-qualified player in Europe's top five leagues when taking all competitions into account, while Greenwood's 634 minutes is the fourth-most of any United player.

Speaking at a news conference after announcing his squad on Thursday, Southgate said: "They're both in similar situations, young players with heavy workloads at the moment.

"I've spoken to both of them. Jude at the moment is playing a high level of matches with Champions League games, league games. As an 18-year-old he had a full season last season and then into the Euros with no break.

"We have to remember these lads are still physically growing, so when we talk about young player development we have to be really careful in how we handle them.

"These are two players we think can be really exciting for England's future. We don't want to overload them, we want to make sure we are making the right decisions with them."

With Maguire missing out through injury, Milan centre-back Fikayo Tomori has been called up nearly two years since earning his one and only cap against Kosovo.

Tomori has helped Milan to nine clean sheets in Serie A since arriving at San Siro from Chelsea in January on an initial loan deal that has since been made permanent, a tally that has been bettered by only three others.

He also ranks 11th for successful passes among defenders in the Italian top flight over that period, which played a part in Southgate's decision to recall the 23-year-old.

"I like Fikayo in terms of his aggressiveness of defending," Southgate said. "Because he's got speed he's confident enough to defend on the front foot and he's improving on the ball as well.

"I have been very impressed. I thought he finished last season well. We were tracking him well last season and he is playing well this season. 

"He is at a club that's expected to win every week. I thought he did well against Liverpool and Juventus recently."

Reece James and Mason Mount have also been selected for the games with Andorra and Hungary over the next fortnight, despite missing Chelsea's 1-0 loss to Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday as they continue to recover from injury.

Southgate explained: "They're clearly still to have appeared for their clubs so there's an unknown, but our understanding is Mason and Reece have a good chance for the weekend."

 

The other big news to come out of Southgate's penultimate squad selection of a memorable 2021 was the inclusion of Ollie Watkins and Aaron Ramsdale, the pair replacing Patrick Bamford and Nick Pope, respectively.

Ramsdale has made a positive start to life at Arsenal since ousting Bernd Leno as number one, his save percentage of 91.67 the second-best return of any keeper to have played at least three times for a team in Europe's top five leagues this term.

"Aaron was with us all summer and we had the opportunity to work with him for a long time and get to understand his strengths," Southgate said.

"Nick is still I think coming back from injury a little bit, but I think Aaron is just in a better vein of form at the moment.

"From Aaron's perspective, the move to a bigger club with higher expectations and a style of play where he is asked to build with his feet from the back, he's coping really well.

"I think that's an important factor for us when looking at the biggest matches, having a goalkeeper who has really adapted well to a move and is full of confidence."

 

England squad:

Sam Johnstone (West Brom), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal); Conor Coady (Wolves), Reece James (Chelsea), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Fikayo Tomori (Milan), Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid), Kyle Walker (Manchester City); Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United), Declan Rice (West Ham); Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Jadon Sancho (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa).

Trent Alexander-Arnold conceded he struggled in the midfield experiment with England against Andorra on Sunday.

The Liverpool star has been a key asset for Jurgen Klopp at right-back, who allows Alexander-Arnold and left-back Andrew Robertson licence to attack.

However, with Reece James, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker offering Gareth Southgate a wealth of depth at right-back, England opted to move Alexander-Arnold, who has registered 40 assists in all competitions since the start of 2018-19.

The 22-year-old recorded an 81 per cent passing accuracy in the first half, which increased to 87.1 per cent at the end of the game after a second-half change back to the right flank.

He also produced a game-high six crosses and two key passes – only bettered by Jude Bellingham (three) – but was uneasy when asked to reflect on his performance.

"It's a new role for me, a bit different, I think there's been a lot of questions being asked whether I can or cannot play in there and a lot of opinions being voiced over the last few weeks," Alexander-Arnold said to talkSPORT.

"It was an experiment the manager wanted to try out, but it was difficult to get on the ball for me, I found it a lot more difficult to get on the ball in those spaces.

"But whether I'm starting in there or starting [at] right-back I think naturally I just find myself drifting into midfield, getting the ball and affecting the game."

 

Since his debut in October 2016, Alexander-Arnold has created two chances per 90 minutes across all competitions for Liverpool.

Given he also averages 76.95 passing accuracy in that time frame, his self-assessment of the performance against Andorra perhaps seems harsh.

Those numbers increase minimally to 2.45 chances created per 90 minutes and 77.58 accuracy since his standout season in 2019-20 but the Liverpool academy graduate remained frank in his opinions of his first international midfield outing.

"The only difference was I was starting in there [in midfield] and it was a bit more difficult to really find the space that I wanted to," he continued.

"The second half we changed the system a little bit and I was able to find a lot more space and get time on the ball and get in positions that were fairly similar to playing in midfield anyway."

Jesse Lingard described his celebration for England against Andorra as "a little welcoming gift" for new Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lingard starred for the Three Lions on Sunday, scoring twice and setting up Bukayo Saka for a late header as Gareth Southgate's men ran out 4-0 winners at Wembley in World Cup qualifying.

It ended a long wait for the United midfielder to score for his country, his last goals coming 1,022 days ago against Croatia in November 2018.

Lingard marked his first by mimicking the famous celebration of Ronaldo, who rejoined United from Juventus and could make his first appearance for the club in 12 years against Newcastle United on September 11.

"Me and Mason [Mount] were thinking about celebrations this week and obviously, we mixed my celebration with Cristiano's and I said I'd do it if I scored," Lingard explained to beIN SPORTS.

"It's a little welcoming gift for him. He'll settle in very quickly and it will help the team tremendously this season."

Ronaldo's arrival has threatened to limit Lingard's game time at United even further. Although the Red Devils resisted attempts from interested clubs to prise Lingard away in the transfer window, the 28-year-old has only played four minutes under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season.

England boss Gareth Southgate believes Lingard will rise to the challenge of competing for game time alongside the formidable forward talent at United's disposal.

"It wasn't long ago that the numbers of English players in the league was low and we would have to pick players that weren't regulars in their team or on loan. We picked Mason from the Championship so we have had to be creative," he said.

"We know Jesse has a challenge and he knows he has a big challenge with the quality of attacking players at United. But they've also got a lot of matches in different competitions so hopefully, he can take that challenge on and he will take that challenge on.

"He has rebounded brilliantly in the last 12 months from a difficult period and he has shown today that he has got quality. It is not necessarily the quality of the opponent but it is performing with the quality of players that we have and stand out. That shows his level of quality.

"He has really good intelligence and works hard without the ball and presses well. Today, I thought he was the brightest spark, particularly in the first half as it was the type of game where those players who can manipulate the ball between the lines would shine more than others."

England kept up their 100 per cent record in World Cup qualifying with a 4-0 win over Andorra at Wembley on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate made 11 changes to the team that won in Hungary by the same scoreline, with Trent Alexander-Arnold starting in midfield and Patrick Bamford handed a full debut in attack.

Jesse Lingard broke the deadlock after 18 minutes but it was not until the final quarter of the game that the Euro 2020 finalists at last pulled clear on the scoresheet, Harry Kane scoring a penalty before Lingard prodded home a clever second.

Bukayo Saka headed in a late fourth from Lingard's cross after England caught Andorra napping with a quick corner.

Lingard, who has only played four minutes for Manchester United this season, was in the mood to impress from the off. He finished with aplomb with his left foot after Saka's cross was nodded into his path, and only the offside flag denied him a quick-fire second when he raced through and lobbed goalkeeper Josep Gomes.

Bamford almost provided a debut assist for Conor Coady, his header down hooked over by the Wolves defender from six yards.

Reece James crashed a fine effort off the crossbar early in the second half but, with Andorra keeping the home side at bay, Southgate turned to Kane, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount off the bench.

That was the trio that finally got England their second goal: Grealish and Mount combined well, the Chelsea man was bundled over in the box by Christian Garcia, and Kane converted from the spot.

Lingard had a quieter second half but made it 3-0 with 12 minutes remaining, a toe-poke from the edge of the box bamboozling goalkeeper Gomes and finding the bottom-right corner.

And it was the United man who delivered a pinpoint cross for Saka to nod in the fourth, the Arsenal winger marking his 20th birthday in style.

 

What does it mean? England comfortably on track for Qatar

With five wins from five games and just one goal conceded, England are six points clear at the top of Group I and their place at the World Cup is now well within reach.

This straightforward win also allowed Southgate to hand some fringe players the chance to impress while experimenting with his line-up, Alexander-Arnold's and James' credentials in midfield perhaps something to consider for tougher matches.

Andorra, with one win from their five qualifiers, are fifth in the group.

Lingard looking lively

Despite a lack of action at club level, Lingard looked sharp and eager to impress, taking his two chances extremely well and completing all but six of his passes.

He will hope to have caught the eye not just of Southgate, but also of United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of the resumption of the Premier League next weekend. There was something pointed about his Cristiano Ronaldo-esque celebration after his opener.

A missed chance to impress?

While the game was something of an exercise in possession – England had 90 per cent of the ball – there was an argument that some could have done more to grab Southgate's attention.

Bamford only had 17 touches in his 62 minutes on the pitch, while Alexander-Arnold failed to create a goalscoring chance until the 89th minute.

What's next?

England face a far sterner test on Wednesday against Poland in Warsaw. Andorra will visit the Ferenc Puskas Stadium to face Hungary.

Gareth Southgate revealed his England stars are fed up of racism controversies overshadowing their strong performances – but vowed they would not back down.

England are on a high after reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, the same stage in the Nations League, and then marching to the Euro 2020 final.

It should be a time when their achievements are being splashed across coverage of the team.

Yet the disgusting treatment that England's black players have frequently received at away games has meant the team's positive results have been accompanied by reporting of the problems they have encountered, often overshadowing on-field success.

FIFA has launched an investigation and opened disciplinary proceedings against the Hungarian FA after England players were targeted as Southgate's team won 4-0 in Budapest on Thursday.

England should be on safe ground in such regard when they face Andorra in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley on Sunday, which will come as a relief to the head coach, who says progress in banishing the bigots has been "very slow".

Asked about how well Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham had handled the abuse in Hungary, Southgate said: "I don't know how many camps we've had in the past four years, but I seem to have been talking about this subject almost every time we've been together. I can only reiterate our players are incredibly mature the way they deal with it.

"They feel supported by their team-mates, which is very important to them, and their team-mates recognise how challenging it must be for our black players and how disappointing it is in the modern world that we continue to have to answer these questions because of the incidents that happen.

"But we can only keep taking the stance that we have done and hope we continue to send the right messages, not only to people in football but across society, and that everybody keeps progressing.

 

"We know it's going to take time and we know it feels very slow for everybody, but we have to keep fighting that battle.

"There's a balance there that the lads want to get on with their football, and as much as it's important we talk about this publicly, they don't necessarily want it to be uppermost in the conversation.

"They want their performances on the pitch to be recognised, and when you've played as our lads did the other night, they want to be talking about how well they've played and that is the thing that they're here to do.

"They recognise their wider responsibilities and at the right moments they want to affect those things, but when they're playing they want to be judged on their play."

England have won all four of their previous matches against Andorra by an aggregate score of 16-0, with this their first match against them since a 6-0 home win under Fabio Capello in June 2009.

A typically comfortable England win can reasonably be expected for their latest meeting, with Andorra having lost 55 of their 57 away qualifying matches for the World Cup and European Championship, drawing against Macedonia in 2005 and against Albania in 2019 in the two games where they have avoided defeat.

Andorra did manage a 2-0 victory over San Marino on Thursday, however, while England were solidifying their status as Group I front-runners in Hungary.

Southgate confirmed Wolves defender Conor Coady would start against Andorra but declined to offer any further morsels about the make-up of his team.

Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford could make his England debut, and Southgate urged him to make the most of any opportunity he gets.

"It's a special moment for him and his family," said the England boss. "We want him to do what he does every week with his club. I think he's got a really clear picture of how we like to play.

"We just want him to go and enjoy his football. We know what he's capable of and we're looking forward to seeing him play."

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