England meet a new opponent at senior level on Friday night but for a group of Roy Hodgson’s players, it will not be the first time they have come up against Lithuania.
Ten members of the Three Lions squad have faced Lithuania in seven previous encounters at youth level, enjoying a favourable record of five wins and two draws.
England v Lithuania
7.45pm, Friday 27 March 2015
Wembley Stadium connected by EE
Live on ITV
Captain Wayne Rooney netted in a 4-0 Euro qualifying win for the Under-17s at Bristol Rovers in March 2002, a month before a double-header at Under-19 level.
England were then paired with Lithuania in two of the last three Under-21 European qualifying campaigns.
Following a 0-0 in November 2009 in Vilnius, where Hodgson’s men will in October, Colchester United’s Weston Homes Community Stadium hosted a vital group encounter a year later.
“We needed to win that game to get through to the Euro 2011 play-offs,” said Jordan Henderson, who was making his third appearance for the Stuart Pearce’s side that night.
“It was quite a nervy first half, which ended goalless. I think they also had a couple of chances to score themselves.
“But we finally opened the scoring after about an hour and ended up winning 3-0. Welbs [Danny Welbeck] was brilliant all game and scored a couple and Marc Albrighton got the other one.”
England U21s 3-0 Lithuania
Henderson continued: “There was a lot of that squad who have made it through to the seniors. Welbs, Studge [Daniel Sturridge] played, too. Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Kyle Walker were at the back, Jack Wilshere came on.
“We went on to the finals in Denmark and though we didn’t do as well as we’d have hoped, it was a great experience for us and an important part of our development as individuals and playing together as a team.”
Welbeck, scorer of a brace in that game, has fond memories of the must-win clash in which he put in a man-of-the-match performance.
“I remember it was a big game and the fans in Colchester came out in force to support us,” The Arsenal striker told TheFA.com.
“The victory made sure we reached the play-offs for Denmark, but it wasn’t an easy game.
“Fortunately I scored our first midway through the second half and then got another near the end.”
He recalled: “The first one I linked up with Jack Wilshere, who I now play with at Arsenal. I made a run down the left and he slipped a nice pass through to me in the box and I cut in and found the bottom corner.
“I was at Sunderland on loan when we played that game and Jordan Henderson was also there at that time, before he moved to Liverpool.
“I was unmarked in the box and Jordan’s little back-flick came through to me and I was able to tuck away in the corner.
“It’s always a great feeling just playing, never mind scoring, for England, at whatever level I’ve played.
“Luckily I’ve been able to get a few this season and would love another one on Friday night, but as long as we get the three points, that’s all I’m worried about.”
This season, Gareth Southgate’s Under-21s have also faced Lithuania on their road to Euro 2015.
Lithuania 0-1 England U21s
Goalkeeper Jack Butland, who stepped up from Southgate’s squad to the seniors earlier this week, was in goal as Harry Kane netted a late winner.
“I played against Lithuania twice during the qualifiers for this summer’s Euros in Czech Republic,” said the Stoke stopper.
“We beat them 5-0 at Ipswich in the first game 18 months ago and then earlier this season went over to Kaunas where we won 1-0.
“That second game was a little frustrating, they made it difficult for us and we found them hard to break down.
“Harry [Kane] came on in the second half and managed to get the winner with a superb header. He just has that knack of being in the right place at the right time and is a terrific goalscorer. I’m glad he’s got his chance with the seniors, he’s earned it.”
Butland added: “That win kept our unbeaten run in qualifying going, and from a goalkeeper’s perspective it’s always nice to keep a clean sheet!
“What I remember most about that game is being handed a piece of paper as I left the dressing room just before kick-off. It had an anti-racism message on and, as captain, I had to read it out in front of everyone in the ground.”
Hodgson will not be relying solely on the experiences of his players in those games, though, and Henderson says they’re approaching this Euro 2016 Qualifier as they do for every game.
A win at Wembley will extend their 100 per cent start to the season and become the first time an England team has kicked off a campaign with seven victories on the bounce.
“Lithuania may be a new opponent at senior level for England but we’ll be ready for what they might offer at Wembley as they’ll want to get a big result themselves,” said the Liverpool midfielder.
“We know if we focus on our game and play the way we can and have done in the six games so far this season, we’ll be ok.
“We’ve looked at videos of them, their strengths and weaknesses, and there are a few of us who can also draw on the experience of playing against their Under-21s a few years ago in the Euro qualifiers.
“No doubt some of their players from that game will be at Wembley on Friday too.
“It’s been good to be back with England this week and we’ve prepared like we usually do for every other game. We’re looking forward to the game.”