Lithuania vs England – Sunday, October 8 17:00 BST/18:00 CET – LFF Stadium Vilnius – Vilnius, Lithuania
Lithuania have never been in contention to qualify for the World Cup in a lethargic group, having picked up just one qualification point from their last five matches. The former Soviet republic has a dismal record in recent years, having only managed to beat Malta, Estonia and San Marino – who come to a combined 479 places in the FIFA rankings – in the last three and half years. Vykintas Slivka did score their first goal in the last year on Thursday in Ta’Qali against Group F bottom-feeders Malta, but it is hardly a terrifying statement of intent ahead of the final group game.
Not long ago there was reasonable pedigree in the Lithuanian squad, with the likes of CSKA Moscow’s UEFA Cup-winning midfielder Deividas Šemberas, former Lazio defender Marius Stankevicius and all-time top goalscorer and former Dinamo Moscow, Arsenal and Bologna forward Tomas Danilevicius. Current manager Edgaras Jankauskas also led a colourful career playing career through Europe, but the cream of his current crop ply their trade in Poland and Scotland rather than Serie A. They haven’t finished higher than 4th in any qualification group for two decades, even if they can lay claim to 11 Baltic Cup titles.
England are now officially through to the World Cup finals next summer after their dreary 1-0 win at home to Slovenia was sealed, predictably, by a Harry Kane goal deep into added time. The highlight of the game to seal their status as group winners was a paper aeroplane that a fan threw into the goal from the stands. Impressive as their qualification history is – unbeaten in eight years in any qualifiers, and unbeaten at home since losing to Germany 17 years ago – the momentum is a world away from the passionate drama that followed David Beckham’s last-gasp free-kick against Greece that sent the Three Lions to South Korea and Japan.
With a demanding schedule facing England’s players at club level coming up, it is certain that Gareth Southgate will use this game an opportunity to give some of the fringe players in his squad a taste of international action. Kane ‘s Tottenham Hotspur teammate Harry Winks may earn the first cap after his first international call-up while promising Leicester City new boy Harry Maguire – who arrived for duty carrying some belongings in a bin bag – will be hoping for a chance to put his name forward for next summer.
While this fixture is unlikely to set the pulses racing, it will be interesting for England fans, in particular, hoping to catch a glimpse of some younger players. After the sharp criticism from media and fans over the mind-numbing approach taken by the team of one of the world’s wealthiest national associations, there is at least some hope that England will look to salvage some semblance of pride.
Lithuania vs England – Players to Watch:
Fedor Černych #22 – Lithuania (Jagiellonia Bialystok)
The Russian-born attacker plies his trade in the top flight in Poland, where he has started all but one domestic fixture so far this season. Černych has an impressive record of four goals scored in 11 qualifiers and is the top goalscorer for the Baltic nation in this campaign with three. Often played out wide, or as part of a front three, the 6’2” forward looked to have set them on the way to a famous win over Slovenia with the opening goal last September and has scored in three of the four games in which Lithuania have claimed points in this campaign.
Marcus Rashford #10 – England (Manchester United)
In one sense it wasn’t the hardest achievement to be the brightest light in England’s XI against Slovenia given how dreadfully dull the overall team performance was, but this shouldn’t detract from the Manchester United forward’s exceptional display. His direct running, close control and sheer self-confidence is a heady concoction that Lithuania will do well to resist. He may be protected from the full 90 minutes seeing how this is a dead rubber for England, but if anyone can lighten up the match, it is Rashford.
Lithuania vs England – Match Stats
- Lithuania haven’t beaten any team higher the 87th in the FIFA rankings for seven years
- They have never qualified for a major tournament, although they did finish third in their Euro ‘96 and World Cup ‘98 qualifying campaigns.
- England have met Lithuania three times, winning every match without conceding a single goal
- England haven’t lost away from home for eight years, and have been beaten just once in the last 12 years, in World Cup qualifiers
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Lithuania vs England: 0-2
Lithuania vs England – Possible Lineups
Zubas – Vaitkūnas, Andriuškevičius, Kijanskas, Mikuckis – Černych, Slivka, Kuklys, Novikovas – Spalvis – Matulevičius
Manager: Edgaras Jankauskas
Butland – Walker, Maguire, Keane, Bertrand – Dier, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alli – Lingard, Kane, Rashford
Manager: Gareth Southgate
Andrew Flint is an English freelance football writer living in Tyumen, Western Siberia, with his wife and two daughters. He has featured on These Football Times, Russian Football News, Four Four Two and Sovetski Sport, mostly focusing on full-length articles about derbies, youth development and the game in Russia. Due to his love for FC Tyumen, he is particularly interested in lower league Russian football and is looking to establish himself in time for the 2018 World Cup. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMijFlint.