FA chief plays down England’s World Cup chances

England’s striker Harry Kane (R) celebrates scoring with defender Kyle Walker during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification match against Slovenia at Wembley Stadium in London Thursday. — AFP

LONDON — Football Association chief Martin Glenn was cautious about England’s chances at next year’s World Cup Friday after the team qualified for Russia 2018 with a lackluster performance against Slovenia.

Thursday’s 1-0 win at an under-capacity Wembley, thanks to a last-gasp Harry Kane goal, sealed its place in the Finals as group winner but the labored manner of the victory drew widespread criticism.

Glenn admitted the performance lacked fluidity but pleaded for realism in Russia, saying the team was still young.

“To me, success is to see the team continue to develop,” he told BBC Radio. “Some of the bright young stars will get a fantastic experience upon which they can build for future tournaments.”

“I think you’ve got to be realistic looking at our historical performance,” he added.

“We’re ranked 15 in the world and that ranking’s there for a reason but what I think we all really want and can expect with Gareth (Southgate) in the way that he’s setting the team up and working on them is that we want to go out there and fulfill our potential.”

England has qualified for every World Cup since 1998 but has struggled to make an impact at the tournaments themselves, with its best performances coming in South Korea/Japan in 2002 and Germany in 2006, when it reached the quarterfinals.

Defending champions Germany clinched a place at next year’s World Cup in Russia with a 3-1 win in Northern Ireland.

Sebastian Rudy and Sandro Wagner struck brilliant first-half goals in Belfast before Joshua Kimmich added a late third as Joachim Loew’s team made it nine wins out of nine in European qualifying Group C.

The four-time world champions also maintained its proud unbeaten away record in World Cup qualifiers — a run spanning an incredible 47 matches dating back to 1934.

Northern Ireland, which grabbed a consolation through Josh Magennis, remains on track to claim a spot in next month’s play-offs as it attempts to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Harry Kane continued his stunning goalscoring form with a 94th-minute winner as an unimpressive England overcame Slovenia at Wembley.

Gareth Southgate’s side looked utterly bereft of ideas until skipper Kane converted Kyle Walker’s inviting cross to score his 14th goal in nine games for club and country.

Scotland kept alive its hopes of reaching the Finals for the first time since 1998 after a last-gasp 1-0 victory at home to Slovakia.

Martin Skrtel’s own goal, just a minute from the end of normal time in Glasgow, leaves Scotland second in Group F, two points ahead of Slovakia and three in front of Slovenia ahead of Sunday’s trip to Ljubljana.

Robert Lewandowski scored a hat trick to become his country’s record goalscorer as Poland thrashed Armenia 6-1 in Yerevan.

Poland, which finished third at the 1974 and 1982 World Cups, needs a point from its final match at home to Group E rival Montenegro to assure itself of a place in the Finals.

After Kamil Grosicki’s second-minute opener, Lewandowski curled in a brilliant freekick to draw level with Wlodzimierz Lubanski, who represented Poland from 1963 to 1980, on 48 international goals.

The Bayern Munich star claimed the outright record when he blasted home an indirect free-kick and completed his treble in the second half as Jakub Blaszczykowski and Rafal Wolski also scored for the visitors.

Lewandowski also broke a European record set in August by Cristiano Ronaldo by increasing his tally in 2018 World Cup qualifiers to 15 goals, one more than the Portugal captain.

Ronaldo is level with former Yugoslavia forward Predrag Mijatovic, who scored 14 goals during qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, but could establish a new mark on Saturday when Portugal visit lowly Andorra.

Christian Eriksen’s 16th-minute goal steered Denmark to a 1-0 win in Montenegro to maintain its hopes of overhauling a three-point deficit to Poland when it hosts Romania in its final qualifier. — AFP