England earned their first away victory since Gareth Southgate took charge

Former England captain Terry Butcher believes the Three Lions are short of the quality required to unlock defences at next year’s World Cup.

Gareth Southgate’s side won 4-0 away to Malta on Friday to remain top of their qualifying group.

However, the scoreline masked a laboured display by England, with three of the goals coming late on.

“When it comes to something special, we haven’t quite got that,” Butcher told BBC Radio 5 live.

“Is this England team going to pass you off the pitch? No. Is this England team going to work hard? Yes.

“All the basic attributes it has. We have good attacking players but we need someone in the middle of the park who can spray the passes, switch the play quickly and play at a tempo that Gareth likes.

“He hasn’t got the blend of his team right, he hasn’t got the shape of his team right to what he wants, but that requires work.”

‘Champagne football rare in qualifying’

England failed to break down Malta in the first half and some of the travelling fans expressed their frustration at the quality of football by booing the team at half-time.

Harry Kane opened the scoring in the 53rd minute but England did not add a second until five minutes before the end when Ryan Bertrand struck. Danny Welbeck and Kane then added to the scoreline in injury time.

“I understand if we don’t score until late, the game feels different for everybody,” said Southgate.

“But I’ve played in so many qualifiers and watched so many qualifiers, and I don’t remember many of them being free-flowing, champagne football. It just hasn’t happened, especially when there’s no space to play.

“You have got to work your way into the opportunities.”

Victory for England ensured they remained top of Group F and a win against Slovakia at Wembley on Monday will put them on the brink of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia.


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