On Tuesday night, Hungary held England to a 1-1 draw at Wembley in Group I of qualifying for next years World Cup in Qatar. The game was marred by crowd violence, as some of the away fans clashed with police. A section of the away fans also booed the England team taking the knee before kick-off.
On the pitch, England produced a display full of small mistakes, as Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate described it. It was an underwhelming display, which saw the home team produce a complacent performance.
Hungary produced a well-drilled display
Despite already being out of contention to finish in the top-two spots in the group, Hungary produced a well-drilled display. They looked far more disciplined and solid than in the reverse fixture when Southgate’s team recorded a 4-0 win.
However, it is important to note that it was 0-0 in Budapest at half-time in the previous meeting, only for England’s superior quality to shine through in the second period. Hungary managed to subdue the Three Lions on this occasion to come away with a creditable result.
Technically Hungary could still finish in second place in the group. However, they trail second-place Poland by six points and a goal difference of 16. It would need a completely ludicrous set of results in the final two games of the group for the Magyars to finish in second place.
England still have a strong record in World Cup qualifying
Despite the disappointing result and performance, England still has a very strong recent record in World Cup qualifying. The Three Lions are now 29 games unbeaten in qualifying. They have won six of their eight games in Group I. One of the games that Southgate’s team failed to win was a trip to second-place Poland, which was always likely to be their most difficult game of the group.
The fact that qualifying has come so simple to England in recent years has arguably led to some slight complacency on the player’s part. They may have believed that they could just coast against Hungary on Tuesday night. The likelihood is that on most occasions England probably would have beaten the visitors.
However, the draw shows that if England drops their level just slightly and become complacent, then they can come unstuck. Gareth Southgate is an intelligent coach and will no doubt not allow too much complacency into the Three Lions squad.
Still the favourites to qualify for World Cup 2022
England have just two qualifiers remaining, a home match against Albania and a visit to group whipping boys San Marino. Southgate’s team is currently three points ahead of second-place Poland with a superior goal difference of four.
The Three Lions cannot afford the same lackadaisical display against Albania, as they produced against Hungary. Albania still have a chance of finishing as the group’s runners-up and only trail Poland by two points in the standings. The final game of the group against San Marino should be the easier of the two.
England have big quality within in their ranks and are still big favourites to qualify automatically for World Cup 2022. It would be a massive surprise if they did go through to the World Cup as winners of Group I.
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