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SERRAVALLE, San Marino (Reuters) - England manager Gareth Southgate praised a job well done after his side booked their place in a seventh successive World Cup finals with a 10-0 hammering of San Marino on Monday.
They ended Group I six points ahead of runners-up Poland with 39 goals scored and only three conceded and while San Marino were pitiful opposition, Southgate said the hard work had already been done to reach next year's Qatar showpiece.
"The qualification was earned away in Budapest, Warsaw and Albania," he told ITV Sport.
"I have to credit all our players and staff for a very good year. We cannot do anything about the level of opposition but the mentality and the way they applied themselves was terrific."
England, runners-up to Italy in this year's Euro 2020 tournament, ran riot in Serravalle with Harry Kane filling his boots again to make it seven goals in four days for his country.
He struck three times against Albania in Friday's 5-0 win that left England needing only a point against San Marino, the world's worst international team, to guarantee top spot.
Kane went one better on Monday, scoring four times in the first half, including two penalties, to make it an England record 16 for the calendar year and reach 48 overall.
He is now joint third with Gary Lineker on the all-time list and only five goals behind record scorer Wayne Rooney.
"If we left him on another half an hour, we would have had Wayne Rooney's family on the phone," Southgate said of the striker's substitution in the second half.
"He is a phenomenal goalscorer, we wanted to give him the chance tonight and he took it well."
Southgate now has a year to wait before the start of the World Cup and selecting his squad will not be easy, such is the prolific talent at his disposal.
"I haven't really thought that far ahead, we have had 19 matches this season and there is so much to take in," Southgate, whose side have won more games (15), scored more goals (52) and kept more clean sheets (14) in 2021 than in any other calendar year in their history.
"This is a good opportunity to look at the last few months and what experience the younger players need before the World Cup."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)