England vs Lithuania – Sunday 26, March 2017 16:00 GMT / 17:00 CET – Wembley Stadium London.
England come into this World Cup 2018 qualifier with a history of mixed fortune. On the one hand, they haven’t lost a tournament qualifying fixture since 2009, on the other hand, however, they enter Sunday night’s fixture fresh from an international friendly defeat to world champions Germany. It is perceived that the Lithuanians will provide less of a test than Thursday night’s opponents but the Three Lions will still need to tread with care. Second place Slovakia are only two points behind and a slip up here could witness a flip of positions within Group E. England swept aside home nation rivals Scotland 3:0 in their last World Cup qualifying match, this time, however, they are without two of the night’s goal scorers—Daniel Sturridge is out injured and Gary Cahill is suspended. With Jamie Vardy just finding form for club side Leicester, the Three Lions will look towards the Premier League’s top marksman from last season to fire their hopes of Russian adventures come the summer of 2018.
With Gareth Southgate making his full managerial debut in the England dugout for the fixture versus Germany, this home fixture versus Lithuania will mark the official start of the Southgate revolution. The former England U21 coach took over the senior side on a temporary basis after a ‘Football for Sale’ scandal which forced former manager Sam Allardyce to quit after only one game in charge. As temporary manager, Southgate oversaw four fixtures and, with an undefeated record, the Football Association moved quickly to offer him a full-time contract in November 2016. Southgate has been keen to instil a ‘new chapter’ ethos into the England squad. One of his first actions was to drop senior players like Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott, to opt to blood youth such as Dele Alli, James Ward-Prowse and Marcus Rashford. The Lithuania’s visit will emphasize Southgate’s ambition of building an England squad that can compete at the highest level by using the best youth players the nation has to offer.
Lithuania had a bright start to their World Cup qualifying campaign. The Rinktine picked up five points from their first four matches. Drawing with both Slovenia and Scotland, two points many observers thought wasn’t possible—before a well-earned 2:0 win against fellow UEFA minnows, Malta, brought their first maximum points of the campaign. Their last outing however, was a reality check, when they were hammered 4:0 by a strong Slovakian side. Like their opponents for this fixture, the Lithuanians also have a relatively new manager, Edgaras Jankauskas.
As a player, Jankauskas was a centre forward and was used to great effect as a target man. He began his career at local club, Žalgiris, before moving to Russia to first play for for CSKA Moskva and then for FC Torpedo Moskva. He became Lithuania’s most expensive player when he signed for Real Sociedad in 2001 for a reported €2.3 million. Shining while on loan at Benfica, he opted to join Portuguese Liga rivals, Porto, in 2003 and was part of the team that won the UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League under José Mourinho, although he did not play in either final. His first appointment as a coach came when assigned as assistant coach at Lokomotiv Moskva while working under José Couceiro. His first Head Coach role was with Lithuanian side Trakai in 2014 before he was subsequently named Lithuania boss at the start of 2016.
England vs Lithuania – Players to Look out for
Player to look out for: Adam Lallana ENG #20
Adam Lallana looked destined to be another hotly tipped for success Englishman who never quite made the grade. However, after the arrival of Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool in September 2015, his fortunes soon turned around and he is now one of the first players on the team sheet for club side Liverpool FC. Since dramatically turning his game around, Lallana now has the output to match his technical ability. Adept at driving towards the goal, his ability to take on opponents at speed is key to England’s quick transition, as is his ability to press the ball high up, thereby forcing opposition players into mistakes. He has learnt the ways of the ‘Gegenpress’ very quickly. With seven goals and seven assists in this season’s Premier League, he will look to add to his international tally on Sunday evening versus Lithuania.
Player to look out for: Fedor Cernych LTU #10
Fedor Cernych has scored in three of Lithuania’s qualification matches for the 2018 World Cup so far, with all of his strikes coming as the opening goal. The Moscow-born Lithuanian centre forward plays his domestic football in Poland’s Ekstraklasa for Jagiellonia Bialystok. He will most definitely be the biggest threat to England’s goal on Sunday—with 12 goals and five assists in 23 matches, he averages a goal every 169 minutes. Internationally, he has notched eight goals in 31 games. The Lithuanian captain should keep the rumoured back three of England on their toes. Primarily a centre forward, this versatile number nine attacker can also play on either flank of a forward three.
England vs Lithuania – Match Stats
- England haven’t lost either a World Cup, or European Championship, qualification fixture since October 2009 – 33 games.
- Lithuania haven’t won any of their last six away International tournament qualification matches, drawing two and losing four.
- England defeated Lithuania twice in qualification for Euro 2016; winning 4:0 at Wembley and 3:0 in the LFF Stadium.
- Lithuania have conceded seven goals in their last two matches, failing to score in both.
- England haven’t failed to score at home since losing 0:1 to Germany in November 2013.
Prediction: England vs Lithuania 3:0
Hart; Keane, Smalling, Stones; Walker, Dier, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana; Sterling, Alli, Vardy
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Setkus; Vaitkunas, Luksa, Mikucis, Slavickas; Zulpa, Kuklys; Cernych, Silvka, Novikovas; Valskis
Coach: Edgaras Jankauskas