Blog by: Shayne
England go into tonight’s match against Ukraine knowing that nothing less than a win will be seen as a good enough result for them. England are currently on top of Group H but only on goal difference as they have the same number of points as Montenegro (15). England, however, have played one match less and will no doubt be looking to increase that lead tonight.
The Three Lions were expected to get a result at home against minnows Moldova and they didn’t disappoint, recording an emphatic 4-0 win and in turn keeping their destiny in their own hands. However, Ukraine will be a lot tougher to break down than Moldova were, and one would expect manager Roy Hodgson to take a slightly pragmatic approach to the game.
As far as team news is concerned, Hodgson has already confirmed that there will only be one change made to the side that beat Moldova. Danny Welbeck, who grabbed a brace in the previous match, is suspended due to a yellow card he received. Hodgson will be playing James Milner in place of him. Expect England’s line-up to be as follows:
Joe Hart; Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Ashley Cole; Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere; Theo Walcott, Rickie Lambert, James Milner.
The last time these two teams met was at Wembley when Ukraine managed to get a draw against the Three Lions. Only a late Frank Lampard penalty saved England the blushes. Constantly dropping points to the big teams is unacceptable and England would not be in the almost desperate situation they are in today if they didn’t drop unnecessary points against Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro. But what’s done is done and Roy’s men need to focus on the future.
A win would be the ideal result for England. Even a dull 0-1 would do the job because it would ensure that they get three points and therefore open up a convincing lead at the top of Group H. The win would also ensure that England don’t need to rely on other teams’ results for their qualification; winning their remaining two matches would be enough to ensure safe passage into the World Cup.
A draw wouldn’t be an awful result for England but it would make automatic qualification out of the group a whole lot tougher to achieve. England would still remain on top of the group but only by a single point; a lead that England could easily surrender in their remaining two matches. While a draw wouldn’t necessarily be the end of England’s World Cup hopes, Hodgson would prefer if they didn’t make World Cup qualification tougher on themselves than it already is.
An England loss would mean that Ukraine would then lead the group by two points. If this happens, then unless Ukraine drop points in their remaining fixtures there is no way England can qualify for the World Cup automatically. They will have to look to finish second and hope to make it to the play-offs.
Tonight will be the biggest test Roy Hodgson will have faced as England manager. He knows that England are expected to at least qualify for the World Cup and if they fail in their pursuit, the blame will lie solely on his shoulders. To say this match is an important one both for his players and himself is an understatement.