26 min Lingard is making a lot of third-man runs past Bamford, and Henderson tries to meet one with a pass over the top. But there’s just too much on it, and the flag goes up anyhow.
25 min I’m not sure Sam Johnstone has touched the ball yet.
24 min Two hooked clearances, neither of them clean, see the ball drop for Henderson at the right corner of the box and he can’t help but take a swing, sending his shot high and wide.
23 min Bellingham is the best player on this pitch by a colossal distance. It’s incredible really, that when he and Haaland were going for relative cheap, only two clubs seemed to be in for them.
21 min Bamford picks up a poor defensive header and flicks in behind for Lingard, who hoists a luscious chip over Moreira and into the net, but I’m sure he was a couple of yards offside … and up goes the flag.
20 min You’ve got to admire Lingard’s mindset, because Ronaldo’s arrival puts paid any chance he had of establishing himself in United’s first XI. But a meme is a meme.
GOAL! England 1-0 Andorra (Lingard 18)
Siuuuu! Lovely feet from Bellingham outside the Andorra box, rolling studs over ball, backwards then forwards at an angle, to work space for Lingard. He finds Saka and moves into the box then, when the resultant cross is deflected into his path, controls well and drags a finish into the corner from 10 yards before celebrating, Ronaldo-style.
17 min I take it back, partially. The flag went up for offside, presumably against Lingard, and the shot flicked the inside of the defender’s thigh, though it shouldn’t have done.
16 min WHAT A MISS! Bellingham slides a decent ball down the side for Lingard who, on the by-line, swivels into a decent cut-back for Saka; he must score! But his shot megs the defender and goes wide! Eesh, that was not good.
15 min Andorra have disappeared the first 15 pretty effectively, Vieira seeing off some more when he induces a wild swing of the leg from Alexander-Arnold.
14 min …then Trippier, stood next to the ball, flips over the top and Lingard, back to goal, chests down for Saka. But it takes its time to drop and Andorra crowd England out, then the flag goes up for offside.
13 min Andorra have their line of five on the edge, then their line of three five yards in front of that; England are struggling to penetrate, but win a free-kick 35 yards from goal. It’s probably too far for a shy, but Alexander-Arnold looks like he fancies it anyway…
11 min On Lingard, I’m not totally sure why he stayed at United. Perhpos they priced him out of a move, and I’m sure he’d like to force his way into the first XI reckoning. But that’s never happening, and at his age he needs to play every week, not come off the bench or wait for the Rumbelows.
10 min nice from England, Bamford coming deep and turning around the corner for Lingard, haring towards the box … but Moreira comes out to smother.
10 min “OK trivia buffs” emails Ben Raza, “if we’re including Le Tournoi as a proper tournament, who is the only player to win a tournament with England without ever winning a full cap?”
I actually think I know this one, but I’ll keep schtum for the now.
8 min Garcia is down holding his lower shin – he slid in to clear, catching Bamford – and the physio comes on.
7 min England knock out about, probing for gaps, and Trippier clips a decent ball over the top for Bellingham, who collects near the line, does brilliantly to control and keep his feet, then again – he is going to be such a player, ok he already is such a player – but England still has to go backwards.
5 min And his kick swerves just beyond Bamford who’s beyond the back post, and flies behind.
4 min Saka controls a long pass near the corner flag – he appears to be on the left for now – and Rubio ploughs through him, so Trippier will stick a free-kick into the box….
3 min Lingard finds Bellingham, who dinks over the for Alexander-Arnold, inside the Andorra box, dead centre. He leaps and chests-down well, but England can’t win the second ball and concede a free-kick.
1 min Interesting team,” emails Niall Mullen. “Seemingly Southgate is prioritising the league over the Carabao. I’m not sure that’s the way to end 56 years of trophyless hurt.”
I think you’re forgetting the glorious Tournoi victory of 1997.
The England fans have a banner supporting Sancho, Rashford and, on his 20th birthday, Saka. I still can’t quite believe that Southgate gave the former two just a minute each to acclimatise nor that he didn’t want them on sooner given England needed a goal, nor that Saka was given the fifth kick having never taken one before and knowing the temperature of the country. But here we are.
There’s a lot going on elsewhere, and you’d expect we’ve got you.
Sweet Caroline was banging on the PA, so in the spirit of sustaining the summer, please can we have the Italian anthem too?
When I look at the England team, I can’t help but want a better partner for Maguire than Stones, who’s a good player but lacks the pace you need to keep the line as high as you’d want. Perhaps Ben White will be that man, but he’ll need to do a lot to win that spot because Southgate is hard to shake off his preferences.
Roy Keane is pleased to see Bellingham, noting that midfielders shouldn’t be “holding” or “attacking”, but able to do everything. On which point, here’s something to read about England’s best ever in that aspect.
Southgate says the players showed in Hungary that they’re focused and onto the next challenge, and tonight that’ll be penetrating a deep defence – Andorra are good at keeping the score down. On Bamford, he says it’s a chance for him, then confirms that Alexander-Arnold starts in midfield. They’ve been wanting to try him there for a while, for Liverpool he’s been swapping positions with Harvey Elliott, and they want him to play the role his way, drifting wide to create chances.
ITV reckon it’s Alexander-Arnold in midfield, and there’s a fair chance they’ve been tipped off in that regard. I’m not sure he’s the answer – England need control and I don’t think he’s that – but another route to goal is helpful, and I’m certain Hazza Kane would appreciate the service.
“Heard on Olympic Way,” emails my production editor Philip Cornwall. “‘Who put the ball in the racists’ net? Who put the ball in the racists’ net? Who put the ball in the racists’ net? Raheem [expletive deleted] Sterling.’ Of course, experience shows you could sing the same chant if Sterling had the misfortune to score an own goal and we look a bit ridiculous trying to claim the moral high ground after our last game here, but at least it’s an England chant partly about football.”
Agreed in all aspects. We need to make sure we direct our outrage internally, because we’re part of this.
“Probably the best present I could’ve asked for,” says birthday boy Patrick Bamford. He always believed in himself and is treating it like any other game, something that’s aided by the presence of his teammate, Kalvin Phillips – “he’s done fantastic,” says Bamford, showing that even though he went private school he still speaks fluent football. Sorry Patrick, sorry everyone, I promised I’d not mention that but here we are.
Let’s not forget what happened to England’s players of colour in Budapest on Friday night, nor the role of the respective countries’ prime ministers in all this.
As for Andorra, they beat San Marino 2-0 on Thursday and make seven changes from then. Going out: Cervos, Alavedra, Martinez Palau, Moreno, Alaez, Pujol and Fernandez; coming in: Vales, Chus Rubio, Clemente, Rebes, Rubio, Sanchez, Vieira.
Other hand, it’s great to see Bellingham starting, and I hope Southgate is planning for him to be a first XI player by Qatar. A holder, a box-to-boxer and a creator is a better combination than two holders and a creator, all the more so when that box-to-boxer is better than both of the holders.
I’m not totally sold on the inclusion of Bamford, though it’s great for him and he’s earned his spot. He’s 28 today, and the chances of him making a serious impact at a tournament are minimal – the only serious consideration, given how easy qualifying has been made for the better teams. The likelihood is that he’s only playing because Calvert-Lewin is injured, but Mason Greenwood is already streets ahead of both.
Looking at England XI, it’s not entirely clear how they’ll play. It might be the 4-3-3 set out below, but it’s equally feasible that Trippier or James start on the right of a back three. I hope, though, that Alexander-Arnold is in midfield because that would indicate an acknowledgement that the trio who started that Italy final, though good, are not good enough to boss games and something different is required.
Before we take a closer look at the line-ups, we should note that a Gareth Bale hat-trick, featuring two penalties and an injury-time winner, gave Wales a 3-2 victory in Belarus.
England (4-3-3, at a guess): Johnstone; James, Coady, Mings, Trippier; Henderson, Alexander-Arnold, Bellingham; Saka, Bamford, Lingard. Subs: Walker, Pope, Shaw, Stones, Maguire, Rice, Phillips, Mount, Kane, Sterling, Pickford, Grealish.
England should’ve won the Euros – apologies if it’s too soon to say that. Obviously Italy were worthy champions, but after taking the lead in the second minute, the home side’s decision to spend 118 more sitting back and hoping was not the best of which they were capable, likewise their performances in beating Germany and Denmark. It doesn’t matter how ludicrous your bench is if your manager is reluctant to use it, in thrall to his undeniably excellent first choices.
Of course, there are reasons. Gareth Southgate doesn’t entirely trust his defence, doesn’t think he’s a midfield capable of controlling big games, and doesn’t believe in his spare attackers as much as he believes in Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. But it remains the case that for England to improve, those things need to change, and there are players good enough to make that happen – if he lets them.
The team he’ll pick for today’s game probably won’t reflect that, but we can expect to see Jude Bellingham given a go, and it may be he who holds the key to the improvement required. Ultimately, a midfield base of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips lacks the imagination and craft necessary to dictate play, but if yerman replaces one or t’other and it works, everything changes.