With their second Euro 2020 Qualifier on the road ending in a resounding three points to take back home from Montenegro, the England men's national team not only took strides in reaching that tournament, but simultaneously extended a simply astounding competitive away record.
(Sir) Gareth Southgate’s men saw out a resounding 5-1 win at the Stadion Podgorica City.
The result looks magnificent on paper, although England suffered a scare early on after their hosts took the lead. This was the fourth straight game Montenegro have managed to slot past England, with the three previous results being a 1-1 and 2-2 draw, and a 4-1 win for England last time out.
However, it’s six points from six in attempting to get to next year’s UEFA Euro tournament for Southgate and England, courtesy of Michael Keane, some icing from captain Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling being Raheem Sterling and a brace by Ross Barkley.
Barkley’s first was assisted by his Chelsea teammate, Callum Hudson-Odoi. He may not be able to get a game for Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri, but this hasn’t hindered Hudson-Odoi’s standing in Southgate’s set-up.
At 18 years, 138 days old, Hudson-Odoi become the second youngest male player to start a competitive match for England after Wayne Rooney vs Turkey in April 2003, with Wazza doing so at a staggering 17 years, 160 days old.
Hudson-Odoi has helped to maintain England’s absolutely stellar record in competitive away matches.
Putting aside the relatively neutral locations offered by the UEFA Euro and FIFA World Cup competitions, and the multitude of friendly matches, England’s away record is stunning, and so easy to hover under the radar in something that should be given due praise.
The last away loss outside of these parameters - get this - came almost a decade ago, in a 1-0 World Cup Qualifier away defeat to Ukraine at the Dnipro Arena in October 2009, punished by a single Sergey Nazarenko goal on the half-hour mark, when England had been reduced to 10-men after just ten minutes when goalkeeper Rob Green was dismissed.
In official competitive matches - as well as the UEFA Nations League - England now haven’t lost an away game in 22 matches (with the latest Montenegro result), stemming all the way back across the last decade. The Lions have won 15 of them, drawing the other seven.
Two draws have come by a 2-2 result (Montenegro in October 2011, and Scotland in June 2016, both in Euro Qualifiers), two by 1-1 (Montenegro, again, and Poland), and three 0-0 stalemates (Ukraine in September 2013, Slovenia in October 2016, and the last UNL meeting with Croatia back in October 2018).
Extending this observation slightly further back, it’s the Ukraine result ten years ago that registers as their only away loss in a total of 25 away games. This result came in the middle of a dire run sandwiched between a 2-2 friendly draw with the Netherlands, and a 1-0 friendly loss to Brazil, slap-bang in the middle of the Fabio Capello regime.
There have been friendly away losses of course in that ten-year stretch, which ultimately shouldn’t take away from this ongoing achievement.
Under Capello there was that 1-0 loss to Brazil in November 2009. Under his successor Roy Hodgson, England suffered a 4-2 defeat to Sweden exactly - to the day - three years later, and, incredibly, a 2-0 loss to incumbent Euro champions Spain almost exactly three years after that again (13th November 2015).
Don’t play your away games around those dates, England!
Under Gareth Southgate, there have been two more; a 1-0 defeat to Germany in March 2017, and a 3-2 loss to eventual World Cup champions France three months later.
Since the humiliation of not reaching the Euro 2008 Finals, that took place in Austria and Switzerland, under Steve McClaren, England have managed to reach every single international tournament; three World Cups and two subsequent Euros, now hoping - in a group with Bulgaria, Kosovo, Czech Republic, and of course Montenegro - of a third.
Next up for Southgate’s men is the United Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands at the Estádio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimarães, Portugal.
Three more away Euro qualifiers, follow in the Autumn, in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Kosovo (interspersed with several fixtures at Wembley) can allow England to plough on with a simply remarkable away feat.