England prepare to face Estonia knowing they are just two wins away from a flawless qualification campaign heading into Euro 2016.
Roy Hodgson has promised to field a strong team for the game against the side ranked 87th in the world, before donning his lab coat and safety glasses for an experimental concluding qualifier with Lithuania.
In doing so, he places England’s prospects of achieving a 100% competitive record ahead of flying to France in jeopardy, the degree of which is minimised by the inferiority of their adversaries.
However, judging by the success savoured by the previous four sides to navigate their pre-major tournament mini league with the maximum number of victories, the ‘Croydon Commandant’ must resist the temptation to send a weakened delegation into either of these fixtures.
The four European nations to have achieved flawless records each prospered in the tournament they so easily reached.
Both Spain and the Netherlands upheld 100% records ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where they would meet in the final.
La Roja’s effort was especially impressive, seeing off Bosnia, Turkey and Belgium home and away, while they only conceded two goals en route to claiming their maiden world title.
Spain were once again imperious en route to Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, where they successfully defended the continental crown they won four years prior.
They weren’t as mean defensively, but scored at a greater goals-per-game rate as they booked their place with eight victories from eight.
Germany are the only other outfit to achieve the feat, also doing so in qualifying for Euro 2012.
Their tournament ended in disappointment, losing 2-1 to a Mario Balotelli-inspired Italy in the semi-finals when they were universally expected to prevail, but replicating Die Mannschaft’s last-four finish would be England’s best effort since Euro 1996 and would certainly be considered a success.
Having conceded just three times in response to the 26 they’ve scored, the Three Lions not only stand an excellent chance of qualifying flawlessly, but they could do so with the best goal difference of any of those they seek to emulate, promising greatness in France.