Harry Kane is in line to make his England debut in Friday’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley Stadium, although coach Roy Hodgson refused to be drawn on the Tottenham striker’s possible selection. Kane has come from near nowhere this season to become the Premier League’s top scorer, hitting 19 goals in England’s top division and 29 in total. In doing so he has become a media sensation, and the clamor for him to lead England’s attack has only increased after Daniel Sturridge was forced to withdraw from the squad, having suffered a hip muscle tear. Hodgson, though, despite declaring his delight at Kane’s performances in training, would not be tempted into divulging his lineup.
“I’m not prepared to reveal that,” he said in a pre-match press conference. “We’re very happy with Harry this week, he’s done well. I can certainly say he’s not in any way damaged chances of playing in the full senior team. I'm pretty sure over the course of these two games we’ll see him make his full debut but people will have to wait and see when that is and whether its’ from the start tomorrow or on Tuesday or whether it’s coming on from a substitute.”
The other newcomer among the England squad is Kane’s Spurs teammate Ryan Mason, who was called in following an injury to Liverpool’s Adam Lallana. Tottenham left-back Danny Rose has also been forced to withdraw.
While not nearly as headline-making as Kane’s possible debut, the match could also see a first appearance in an England shirt since 2013 for Michael Carrick. Despite being a regular and an increasingly important figure at Manchester United for nearing a decade, he has never received the same status with England, winning just 31 caps. One player who is fully aware of what Carrick can offer, though, is Manchester United and England captain Michael Carrick.
“This season he has had a few injuries which has meant missing quite a few games for United, but he has come back fit at the right time, and is doing well,” he said, reports the Football Association’s official website. “He has deserved his call up to the squad, and knowing Michael as I do, if he is picked he won't let anyone down.”
England go into the match top of Group E, having won all four of their matches so far. Given the expanded format of the next European Championship, which means even third-place finishers in qualifying will enter a playoff, Hodgson’s side already look nailed on to make it to France. And they will be expected to have little trouble with their next opponents at Wembley.
However, Lithuania still have much to play for. Opening wins over San Marino and Estonia mean they lie in fourth place in the group, but level on points with Switzerland and Slovenia, despite defeats to those sides. Still coach Igoris Pankratjevas was happy to admit that the occasion at Wembley will take some adjusting to for many in his squad.
“None of your players have played in such an atmosphere,” he said, according to Uefa.com. “It will be difficult even for myself, because I guess the players won't be hearing any instructions from the touchline.”
Prediction: After victory in Switzerland to open the group, England’s qualification campaign has long been a stroll. A convincing 4-0 defeat in Switzerland last November demonstrates that Lithuania should not provide undue trouble for Hodgson’s side at Wembley, either. England may take a while to get going, as is often the case against a lesser opposition, but there is enough quality to deliver a comfortable win for a packed crowd that could well see a debut goal for Kane.
England 3-0 Lithuania
Kickoff time: 3.45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 2