England Stunned by Late Equalizer Against Poland in World Cup Qualifier
© AP Photo / Facundo ArrizabalagaEngland's Harry Kane reacts during the Euro 2020 final soccer match between Italy and England at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday, July 11, 2021.
© AP Photo / Facundo Arrizabalaga
England’s perfect start to World Cup qualifying has come to an end. An extra-time equalizer from Poland nullified a wonder strike from Harry Kane. While England’s perfect start is gone, their chances of sealing Group I remain strong.
Halfway through England’s World Cup qualifiers, the European Championship runner-ups remained perfect. Five matches, five victories, 15 points, and sitting pretty atop Group I.
Another victory over Poland, to make it six victories in six matches, would give the three lions a stranglehold on the group and all but book their ticket to the Qatar World Cup.
After 90 minutes of action, clinging to a 1-0 lead and with four minutes of extra-time on the ledger, it looked like England had accomplished their mission in the Polish capital of Warsaw. All it took was one minute of extra time for Poland to equalize and snatch two points from the three lions.
The match was defined in the early goings by England’s dominance of possession and the Polish side’s willingness to play physically. Poland conceded possession in an effort to maintain their defensive shape and opted to create chances in transition. For the first 45 minutes, neither side was able to break through. However, the match would come alive in the second half.
Caught in a deadlock for 72 minutes, England opened the scoring with an absolute stunner from Harry Kane. England overloaded the left side of the field and with Poland in retreat, Harry Maguire drifted into an advanced position where he switched the play to Kyle Walker.
Walker, who had tucked in centrally, wasted no time moving the ball and carefully volleyed the ball to an unmarked Kane leaving the Polish defense flat-footed. Kane, nearly 40 yards from goal but with Poland’s defense camped out on the 18-yard box and their midfield disoriented or unaware of Harry Kane’s rocket launcher of a right foot, had more than enough time and space.
A turn and touch were all Kane needed to unleash a stunning 32-yard shot on Poland’s goal. The ball, blasted right at Polish defender Jan Bednarek, narrowly missed decapitating the Southampton defender before dipping and darting with outside foot movement.
The shot, first hidden behind Bednarek and then darting away like a driver asleep at the wheel, left Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny rooted to his spot for too long. The goal harkened back to days when players, unknowing of expected goals, would unleash long-range efforts with abandon. Harry Kane had delivered England the goal they needed to make it six out of six. All they needed was to hold on for 20 more minutes.
Hold on they did. England reached extra-time with a 1-0 lead over Poland and four minutes of extra-time away from 18 points in Group I. Spurred on by their home crowd Poland launched a late attack in an effort to claim a point and move ever closer to second place in the Group. It was at the end of the 91st minute when Poland drew, even taking two points from England and one for themselves.
The play started with Jakub Moder beating Kyle Walker down the right side and playing a low cross into the box. Mason Mount was on scene for England, but a poor clearance saw the ball fall to Polish midfielder Karol Linetty, who blasted a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box. Kalvin Phillips made the block but unfortunately for him, and all of England, the ball careened to Polish number nine, Robert Lewandowski. Lewandowski took a second to assess the situation and lofted a ball to the back post where a streaking Damian Szymanski rose up, obliterating Luke Shaw in the process, and thumped home the header that brought the game even.
England will feel disappointed that they weren’t able to secure three points tonight. They had the lion’s share of possession and outshot Poland on the night 14 to 12. However, a draw was a fair result. According to Footystats, England barely edged Poland in expected goals 1.62 to 1.32 and for all their possession they struggled to consistently create big chances.
Drawing on the road against your group’s toughest opponent while you maintain a lead of four points is hardly a disaster. England has already played Poland twice, taking four points, and their remaining four games are all incredibly favorable. They face Hungary and Albania at home, and their two remaining road contests are against Andorra and San Marino.
The way England drew against Poland stings, but they remain in an incredibly enviable position. England should have no problems taking the group and, assuming England beat Andorra and San Marino, can afford to drop points against both Hungary and Albania. Albania, currently in second, is sitting on 12 points. Even if they win out, they’ll finish with 24 points and England already has 16 points in the bag.
All England needs to do to punch their ticket to the World Cup is take care of business against the minnows and draw Albania. Although, a clean sweep of the remaining competition is likely what England has their sights set on.