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England can be real contenders at Euro 2016, says Theo Walcott

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Theo Walcott sees no reason why England cannot challenge for the European Championship crown after becoming the first nation to qualify for next summer's finals.

Roy Hodgson's men have responded impressively to last year's disappointing World Cup, winning all seven of their qualifying matches during a long, unbeaten run.

Saturday's 6-0 triumph in San Marino continued that fine run and those three points were enough to secure the Three Lions' place at the finals with three matches to spare.

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England have caught the eye at times during the qualification campaign and, while accepting improvements still need to be made, Walcott believes next summer could be a tournament to remember.

"I think this team is getting better and better, and that's what we want to do going into the tournament next year," he said, after coming off the bench to net a quick-fire brace in Serravalle.

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"We've gone a long way towards that, so I am sure things are going to improve.

"There are big tests for us, but I believe in that dressing room and just the way we are playing as well.

"We are playing in the best league in the world, we're improving every day, the players are playing at the top of their game.

"It'll definitely be a big achievement if we can go far. I am sure that we can. The manager has got that in our system; that he believes in us.

"The belief is there, the confidence is there, so why not?"

England have lined up some high-profile friendlies to aid their Euro 2016 preparation after completing the qualification programme.

Estonia and Lithuania await next month, but first up is Tuesday's home tie with Switzerland - a match which will again see the focus fall on Wayne Rooney.

The 29-year-old wrote his name into the record books in San Marino, where wife Coleen and son Kai saw him draw level with Sir Bobby Charlton as England's all-time top scorer.

Rooney's surprisingly early withdrawal meant he was unable to usurp the Manchester United great, meaning the record-breaking 50th goal could instead arrive at Wembley this week.

"What can you say? Wayne has been doing it for years," Walcott said. "It just shows how established he is as an England international and a Manchester United player.

"He is so good in that dressing room, he is a winner. In training, he always wants to win - never wants to lose.

"He just wants to improve and improve this team. He has that belief in this dressing room that this young talent can actually go on and do something special and I believe that too."

Walcott hopes to join Rooney in the starting line-up against Switzerland after making such an impressive impact off the bench against San Marino.

"It is always lovely to score for your national team," the Arsenal forward said. "It is a great achievement for myself, personally.

"I want to be able to hopefully do that on a starting level next time.

"It is going to be more testing in the bigger games - no disrespect to San Marino - as that's where you're going to be tested.

"Then come the Euros. Hopefully I will be playing well for Arsenal, firstly, and be back in this team."

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Topics:
Football
Theo Walcott
England Football

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