Three Lions, Seven Goals: England Are Brilliant - Just Sit Back And Enjoy It

Bukayo Saka scored a hat-trick as England beat North Macedonia 7-0
21:41, 19 Jun 2023

England thumped North Macedonia 7-0 at Old Trafford in a Euro 2024 qualifier thanks to Bukayo Saka’s first career hat-trick, in the final match of a draining season. But unlike twelve months ago, when England were humiliated at home by Hungary in June, the Three Lions were full of vibrancy and life. 

Perhaps more than that, they were fun to watch and clearly enjoyed the task at hand, when the pull of the beach must have been stronger than ever. We’ve seen several talented squads over the course of the last 30 years, but none of them have made qualification look so easy. 

And North Macedonia are no mugs, They are the team that stopped Italy making the World Cup in Qatar. But England took them apart with ease, as Gareth Southgate’s men were fully fit and firing in the middle of June. Marcus Rashford was on red hot form having been given a start on the left, and he, along with Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka all found the net in a wonderful first half. 

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The struggles of qualification in the past have been long forgotten. This summer marks 15 years since Euro 2008, the last tournament England failed to qualify for, and now, under Southgate, they are making it look so simple. This was only the third time England have played North Macedonia in this country, and the two ended in draws in the mid 2000s. 

So when the Golden Generation often struggled against nations like this, you have to praise Southgate and his talented troops. For all the quality of the first half that involved some wonderful goals, England’s fourth was the pick of the lot. 

It involved Trent Alexander-Arnold, in his new midfield role. The Liverpool man whipped a wonderful long ball over the defence to Saka, just as he had done to great effect on Friday. The ball bounced up to the Arsenal man after a touch and he leathered it into the top corner, just moments after half-time.

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It was one of the best England goals we have seen in a long time, but also showed the intent that Southgate had instilled into them, even though the game was already won. Minutes later, he completed his first ever hat-trick for club or country. He raced through to slot past the goalkeeper after a great ball from Kane, and the emotion from the whole squad, even those on the bench, was wonderful to see. 

England’s most popular squad member had got himself a hat-trick and everybody in attendance was delighted. But five wasn’t enough for this side, as they kept the goals coming. Four substitutes came on, including treble winners Phil Foden and Jack Grelish, but it was Kalvin Phillips who got his first England goal from close range before Kane converted a penalty to make it seven. 

The XI that start had a combined 950 appearances for their country, the second-most experienced side England have ever fielded. Yet they weren’t stagnant or boring to watch. They were fun, and absolutely brilliant on the night. You’ll get the usual damp squibs saying ‘it’s only North Macedonia’ - but it was only North Macedonia in 2007. It was only Iceland in 2016. 

Gareth Southgate has crafted an England side that is full of confidence and talent. An atmosphere that every single player wants to be a part of, even if it is the middle of June. If you can’t enjoy England playing like this - you never will. Just sit back and enjoy the Three Lions being brilliant. 

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