Here’s a scenario: someone presents you with a bank card, a pin number and tells you – with no strings attached, no catch – to go to a machine and make a withdrawal. What are you going to do?
You would help yourself, of course. Well, here in Serravalle, we witnessed the sporting equivalent of that situation as Harry Kane did what the rest of England’s squad anticipated by going on a scoring spree that took him ever closer to history.
Qualification for the World Cup was always going to be confirmed in San Marino, all we needed to know was how many goals England would plunder in Group I’s final fixture – and with Kane on the teamsheet, it had the potential to be a lot.
Harry Kane (left) scored four first-half goals as England qualified for the 2022 World Cup with a 10-0 win over San Marino
Gareth Southgate’s (right) Three Lions just needed a point to progress to Qatar but made it through via an emphatic victory
So it proved. Kane, in normal circumstances, might have missed this trip but he made it clear to Gareth Southgate after his hat-trick against Albania on Friday that he was determined to be involved again. This, to be clear, wasn’t a captain leading his team into battle: this was hunter sensing blood.
It is now inevitable that Kane will become this country’s leading scorer, the only question now is when he will get there. Inevitably, given the way of the world now, there will be some eye-rolling but because we are living through this feat, the sense of achievement should not be lost.
Think how long Sir Bobby Charlton was out there on his own; think of the angst Gary Lineker felt at not being able to usurp and the joy that consumed Wayne Rooney when he moved to the top of the tree. That Kane has been able to get into that conversation within seven years speaks volumes.
To give what Kane has done further context, consider this: he has scored 26 goals in 27 appearances since September 2019 and he will be a major reason why other nations will want to avoid England when the draw is made for the tournament next April.
Harry Maguire headed the Three Lions in front on six minutes by crashing home Phil Foden’s corner following early pressure
Bukayo Saka’s shot deflected in off Fillippo Fabbri and into net for England’s second goal in Serravalle on Monday night
ENGLAND MATCH STATS
England (3-4-3): Ramsdale; Maguire (sub Gallagher h/t), Coady, Mings; Alexander-Arnold, Bellingham, Phillips (sub Chilwell h/t), Saka; Foden (sub Abraham h/t), Kane (sub James 63), Smith Rowe (sub Stones 73)
Subs not used: Johnstone (GK), Pickford (GK), Walker
Goals: Maguire 6, Fabbri (OG) 15, Kane 27 31 39, 42, Smith Rowe 58, Mings 69, Abraham 79, Saka 79
San Marino knew they were on a hiding to nothing but, perhaps, they went a little bit overboard in their efforts to be welcoming hosts: to hear Three Lions, Football’s Coming Home Again and Sweet Caroline – all those summer anthems – being willingly played by the stadium DJ raised an eyebrow.
You couldn’t even compare this to a Premier League team being drawn away to someone from the National League in the FA Cup because, in that scenario, you know the plucky underdogs will have a go and make life as difficult as possible for as long as possible.
It will be a long time before these players have chance to play in a game so devoid of stress that the only headache England had was keeping their feet on a cabbage patch pitch that would have had club managers holding their breath in apprehension.
They need not have worried. The charade of this being a contest was over after five minutes and six seconds, when Harry Maguire rose to thud home a header that broke the deadlock – no ear-cupping in celebration, this time – and, from that point, it became about statistics.
Bukayo Saka, the wonderfully gifted Arsenal flyer, started the game with a spring in his step – he plays with an infectious and energetic zest – and a dart into the area ended with him cutting in from the left and firing in a shot that the hapless Filippo Fabri turned into his own net.
Southgate had demanded that his players take this seriously and show respect and the fact they kept playing would have pleased him. Nobody was taking it more seriously than Kane and, shortly after, he embarked on his personal crusade.
His first came via the penalty spot after VAR spotted that Dante Rossi had handled Phil Foden’s acrobatic scissor kick and he dispatched with the minimum of fuss; number two arrived five minutes later, as he was in the right place to finish good work by Arsenal’s Emile Smith-Rowe.
A 13-minute hat-trick was completed with another penalty after another San Marino handball and his fourth, which put him level with Lineker on 48 – and England’s sixth – came in the 41st minute when he danced around a couple of challenges and poked in his finish.
Dante Rossi’s handball earned England a penalty which Kane dispatched by putting the spot kick straight down the middle
Kane scored a fourth from Emile Smith Rowe’s cross and got his hat-trick then a fourth an England’s sixth before half-time
Were England finished? No chance. We made the analogy about free money and plenty of others wanted to get involved, so Smith-Rowe (58), Tyrone Mings (69), Tammy Abraham (78) and Saka (79) all profited to take the score to double figures.
Here was another piece of history, as it was the first 10-goal victory margin since 1964 against the United States; England were so prolific that they even confused the stadium scorer, who had Jude Bellingham down as one of the scorers – but his strike was disallowed.
A good night, then, but will everyone remember it fondly? Ask Aaron Ramsdale, who spent much of his first cap trying to keep warm and retain his concentration. He can be assured bigger tests will arrive in the future – specifically in Qatar in 2022.
Emile Smith Rowe made it seven on his first England start by crashing home Tammy Abraham’s flick on inside the box
Tyrone Mings headed in England’s eighth just after Rossi was sent off for San Marino for a foul on debutant Connor Gallagher
Tammy Abraham made it 9-0 for England just Saka (above) made it ten goals for England with a close-range header
Sportsmail’s SAM BLITZ was on the live blog for World Cup qualifier coverage of San Marino vs England