England captain Harry Kane plundered a hat-trick before halftime in a 5-0 hammering of sorry Albania at Wembley on Friday to all but guarantee his side’s spot in next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar.
Two draws in their last three Group I matches for Gareth Southgate’s team had opened the door slightly ajar for chasing Poland in the qualification race, but Kane slammed it shut in memorable fashion as he moved level in fourth place on England’s all-time scoring list.
Defender Harry Maguire settled any early nerves with a ninth minute headed opener before Kane’s spree began when he headed in from close range in the 18th.
With Albania in disarray Jordan Henderson weaved his way through to make it 3-0 before Kane powered in his second from a tight angle and then completed his fourth England hat-trick with a stunning overhead kick on the stroke of halftime.
It moved him level on 44 goals for the national team with former Tottenham Hotspur great Jimmy Greaves who died in September.
The second half was a non-event but the fans cared not as with one match remaining England have 23 points to Poland’s 20 and a far better goal difference ahead of the formality of a trip to group whipping boys San Marino on Monday.
Albania’s capitulation ended their slender hopes of grabbing a playoff spot as they are now five points behind Poland.
Italy draw 1-1 with Switzerland to leave top spot still up for grabs
Italy midfielder Jorginho blazed a late penalty over the bar as his side were held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland in their Group C World Cup qualifier at the Stadio Olimpico on Friday, leaving both sides with a chance of automatic qualification for Qatar.
With 15 points from seven games and the winners going through to the finals, Italy top the group on goal difference ahead of the Swiss, with Northern Ireland third on eight points. Italy are away to Northern Ireland in their final qualifier on Monday, while the Swiss host fourth-placed Bulgaria.
Moldova (0) 0 Scotland (1) 2
Italy (1) 1 Switzerland (1) 1
Northern Ireland (1) 1 Lithuania (0) 0
Austria (0) 4 Israel (1) 2
Denmark (1) 3 Faroe Islands (0) 1
Andorra (1) 1 Poland (3) 4
England (5) 5 Albania (0) 0
Hungary (2) 4 San Marino (0) 0
Saturday, November 13 fixtures (GMT)
Bosnia-Herzegovina v Finland (1400)
Norway v Latvia (1700)
Turkey v Gibraltar (1700)
Belgium v Estonia (1945)
Wales v Belarus (1945)
France v Kazakhstan (1945)
Montenegro v Netherlands (1945)
Sunday, November 14 fixtures (GMT)
Croatia v Russia (1400)
Malta v Slovakia (1400)
Slovenia v Cyprus (1400)
Armenia v Germany (1700)
Liechtenstein v Romania (1700)
North Macedonia v Iceland (1700)
Portugal v Serbia (1945)
Luxembourg v Republic of Ireland (1945)
Greece v Kosovo (1945)
Spain v Sweden (1945)