SERRAVALLE, San Marino (AP) England became the first team to qualify for the 2016 European Championship by beating San Marino 6-0 on Saturday, with Wayne Rooney’s opening goal tying him for first place on the country’s all-time scoring list.
Rooney set England on its way to a seventh straight win in Group E by converting a 13th-minute penalty to move to 49 international goals, the same total as Bobby Charlton.
An own goal in the 30th was followed by second-half goals from Ross Barkley, Theo Walcott (two) and Harry Kane, ensuring England a top-two finish in the group with three games to spare.
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Rooney was surprisingly substituted in the 59th, denying him the opportunity to break Charlton’s record against San Marino’s part-timers. The next chance for Rooney to hold the record outright should come at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday, when England hosts Switzerland.
”It’s a proud moment to equal Sir Bobby Charlton’s record,” Rooney said. ”My aim is to push on and try and help the team win on Tuesday and break the record.”
Switzerland scored three times in the final 14 minutes, the last goal coming in the fourth minute of stoppage time from Josip Drmic, to rally to a 3-2 win over Slovenia and tighten its grip on second place. The top two teams qualify from each group, and the best third-place team also qualifies automatically for next year’s tournament in France.
Estonia was third, a point ahead of Slovenia, after beating Lithuania 1-0 on Konstantin Vassiljev’s 71st-minute goal.
Nearly 12 years after scoring his first international goal, Rooney was gifted the opportunity to move alongside Charlton’s haul when England was awarded a penalty for handball – even though England defender John Stones appeared to be the player to make contact with the ball with his hand.
There was a look of bemusement on the faces of both sets of players but Rooney did not mind, stepping up moments later to send the goalkeeper the wrong way. He was mobbed by teammates, then waved to family members in the crowd.
Rooney was playing his 106th game for England, matching the total number played by Charlton – another Manchester United great.
”He comes in and gives me advice to try to help me,” Rooney said, ”and I am sure if there is anyone who would be happy for me to have broken his record, it would be him.”
It was like a practice session at times for England against opponents who included a barman, a lawyer, a pharmacist, and a student, and it was a laborer – Cristian Brolli – who headed in the own goal to make it 2-0.
Barkley headed in the third for England just 15 seconds after the restart, Walcott scored in the 68th and 78th minutes and Kane grabbed his first goal of the season for club or country in the 77th.