England: March Qualifiers Preview

Last updated : 20 March 2021 By Three Lions

In this most unusual of football years, England will begin their World Cup qualification campaign just months ahead of their bid to win a major tournament, the delayed Euro 2020, on home soil.

Gareth Southgate's squad will play ten qualification matches in 2021 in their bid to book a spot at the 2022 finals next winter, starting with three matches before the end of March.

San Marino come to Wembley on Thursday evening.

The UEFA minnows are painfully used to heavy defeats in qualifying campaigns but the advent of the Nations League, and regular matches against sides of a similar standing, has allowed San Marino to build some more promising foundations for the future.

Most recently they achieved a major milestone by avoiding defeat for two consecutive matches, a goalless draw against Gibraltar following a similar result against Liechtenstein.

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A trip to Albania follows on Sunday and the hosts should enter the qualifiers in good heart after topping their Nations League C group and potentially earning a play-off place for Qatar 2022 in the process.

Over the past decade Albania have placed their faith in Italian coaches with Edoarda Reja the current man in charge.

The first set of matches ends with Poland's visit to Wembley a week on Wednesday in an atmosphere far removed from the 2014 World Cup qualifier when a huge away support galvanised the home fans behind their team.

England's biggest rivals in the group will be at this summer's European Championships and have possibly the world's top player right now, striker Robert Lewandowski, in their ranks.

They have undergone some upheaval recently, however, the nation's football federation deciding that coach Jerzy Brzeczek wasn't the right man to take them into an important year.

Former Portugal international Paulo Sousa was appointed manager in January.

All three qualifiers will be shown live on ITV.