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England Nears Euro 2024 Top Seed with Lackluster 2-0 Victory Over Malta

 England Nears Euro 2024 Top Seed with Lackluster 2-0 Victory Over Malta

Harry Kane of England
Harry Kane of England (L) celebrates with teammates Bukayo Saka (R) and Phil Foden after scoring the team's second goal during the UEFA EURO 2024 European qualifier match between England and Malta at Wembley Stadium on November 17, 2023 in London, England(Image-Getty)

England inched closer to securing a top seeding at Euro 2024 with a hard-fought 2-0 home win against Group C underdogs Malta on Friday, a victory that failed to captivate the Wembley Stadium crowd. Gareth Southgate's team struggled to make an impact against the 171st-ranked Malta until the 75th minute when an early own goal by Enrico Pepe separated the sides. Captain Harry Kane later doubled the lead with his 62nd goal for England after a setup by Bukayo Saka. Despite the win, England's lackluster performance left the home crowd unimpressed.

With already qualified England sitting atop Group C with 19 points from seven games, victory over Malta guaranteed their group leadership, irrespective of the outcome of their match against North Macedonia on Monday. Italy and Ukraine follow with 13 points each. A draw in North Macedonia should secure England's position among the top six seeds for Euro 2024.

Southgate acknowledged the team's slow start, stating, "It was a game when we didn't start well, and if you don't start well, it's hard to pick the game up." He defended the players, recognizing their consistent efforts, and attributed the lackluster performance to the extensive playing schedule.

Despite several first-choice players on the bench, England struggled in the first half, with Malta having more goal attempts and showing greater energy. The hosts took the lead in the eighth minute through an own goal by Pepe. The lack of fluidity in England's play was evident, and Malta, with no points and only two goals in the group, made a commendable effort to keep the game competitive.

The second half saw substitutions, but England's performance hardly improved. Kane's goal secured the victory, but the overall display was lackluster, prompting Southgate to note that England will face tougher challenges in upcoming friendlies against Belgium and Brazil in the lead-up to the Euro 2024 finals.

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