As a newly club-free manager, following my sacking by Cagliari, I had international honours to fall back on as we England began the qualification process for the 2034 World Cup.
We had been drawn in a group alongside Switzerland, Slovakia, Israel and Azerbaijan, which gave us a pretty decent chance of qualifying for next year’s tournament in South Korea.
World Cup qualifiers round 1
The group began in style with an absolute annihilation of Azerbaijan. Philip Cohen bagged a 5-minute hat-trick inside the first 10 minutes as we raced into a 7-0 half-time lead. Then we added 9 more in a ridiculous second half! Cohen ended up with a double hat-trick, while his strike partner George Clarke and substitute Mason Greenwood also scored hat-tricks. That saw us break the all-time record England win of 13-0 over Ireland that had stood since 1882, record goals in a match, and record winning streak in World Cup qualifiers of 18.
We backed that up with a dominant 4-0 thumping of Israel led by goals from both centre-backs Will Reddie and Stuart Josey-Hopkins. Supersub Greenwood curled in a free-kick then Cohen added a late fourth to mark his 50th goal for England.
World Cup qualifiers round 2
The second round of fixtures began with the touhest game of the group, away to Switzerland. We struggled for a while but the game turned on debutant Martyn Talbot – who I’ve just signed in my new role at Dortmund – coming off the bench to score and create a second for Cohen.
That earned Talbot a first start and he delivered big-time by scoring a hat-track and laying on two assists in a 6-0 thumping of Slovakia. He now has 4 goals and 3 assists in 2 caps for England!
World Cup qualifiers round 3
The penultimate round of qualifiers began with another thumping of Azerbaijan, this time only 10-0 at home. Clarke bagged 5, while Foden scored on the day of becoming the all-time most-capped Englishman with his 151st cap – previously held by Marcus Rashford.
And we moved a step closer to qualification by thumping 3rd-placed Israel 5-0 away with braces by Clarke and Lewis Pearson-Elsdon.
World Cup qualifiers round 4
We secured England’s place at the 2034 World Cup with a dominant 3-0 win over the second-best team in the group, Switzerland. Clarke got us started, Greenwood scored on the verge of half-time then Josey-Hopkins added a third after the break. That win also took England to 24 consecutive World Cup qualifying wins, which broke the UEFA record.
We finished the group off by somehow only winning 1-0 in Slovakia despite having 40 shots!
However, that ensured we topped the group with 8 wins from 8, 47 goals scored and just 2 conceded. Foden led the way with assists in the qualifiers with an impressive 14, which was a new UEFA record alongside a new England record of 15 for the year. While Cohen and Clarke were the 5th and 6th top scorers with 11 and 10 goals respectively.
Join us as we head to the World Cup 2034 with England in the next instalment of the series on Tuesday!