SERRAVALLE: England became the first nation to join hosts France in the Euro 2016 finals after winning their Group E tie 6-0 in San Marino.
Wayne Rooney opened the scoring in the 13th minute by converting a penalty which provided him with his 49th England goal, equalling the national team record set by Sir Bobby Charlton.
England’s other goals came from Christian Brolli (own goal, 30min), Ross Barkley (46), Theo Walcott (68 and 78) and Rooney’s substitute Harry Kane (77).
Rooney looked set to pass Charlton’s record when he scored his 49th England goal from the penalty spot in the 12th minute. But manager Roy Hodgson took Rooney off in the 58th minute, therefore robbing him of a chance to bring up his 50 in the 6-0 win.
Brolli scored an own goal and Barkley headed his first England goal before Walcott and Kane sealed the win.
After an embarrassingly early World Cup exit, Hodgson has turned the formbook around for England to make it to Euro 2016 with three matches to spare and after seven wins from seven. England have gone 12 matches unbeaten for the first time since 1996.
As for Rooney the 29-year-old must wait until Tuesday’s home game against Switzerland to bring up his half-century. His 49 goals have come in the same of appearances as Charlton, 106; Rooney’s total included five penalties compared with Charlton’s three.
Hodgson, explaining the substitution, said later: “The substitution was planned with a view to Tuesday night. It would be nice if Wayne could get the 50th goal against Switzerland on Tuesday night, but one thing is for certain – he’ll get it.
“If it’s not on Tuesday, it might be October, if it’s not October, it might be in November, and if it’s not in November, it might be 2016. But he’ll get it. It’s not as if this was his last and only chance. If this had been his last game for England and he needed one more goal to break the record, I wouldn’t have taken him off.”
Elsewhere in Group E, there were wins for Switzerland and Estonia.
The Swiss produced an incredible comeback with three goals in the final 10 minutes to defeat Slovenia 3-2 at St Jakob-Park.
Goals from Milivoje Novakovic and Bostjan Cesar either side of half-time looked to have set Slovenia on the way to victory. However, substitutes Josip Drmic (80) and Valentin Stocker (84) turned the match around before Borussia Monchengladbach forward Drmic struck a last-gasp winner.
They are now up to second, while Estonia sit behind them in third after Konstantin Vassiljev scored the only goal against Lithuania.