England currently sit second in Group H of the World Cup qualifiers with 12 points, two points behind group leaders Montenegro, albeit having played a game less.
England have looked decent so far and are yet to register a loss in their World Cup qualifying campaign. However, the fact that they have registered three draws against Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro is most definitely a cause for concern.
England will know that anything less than two wins against Moldova and Ukraine will be seen as underachievement, even though the squad is missing a few players. Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones and Glen Johnson have pulled out of the squad while in-form Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is an injury doubt for Friday’s game against Moldova.
Here’s the squad that Roy Hodgson has chosen for these two matches:
Joe Hart, John Ruddy, Fraser Forster; Ashley Cole, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Kyle Walker, Chris Smalling, Steven Caulker; Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, James Milner, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley, Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Andros Townsend; Jermain Defoe, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Rickie Lambert.
The format of the World Cup qualifiers is such that only the group toppers of each group will automatically qualify for the World Cup. The team that finishes second will qualify for the play-off depending on how well they have fared in their campaign (of the 9 runners-up, 8 will make it to the play-offs). England would prefer to make it to the World Cup directly and not face the prospect of playing a few extra matches to fight it out for the remaining spots.
The main problem for manager Roy Hodgson will be to get the team to score enough goals against the better teams in the group. England have scored 21 goals so far but it’s worth noting that 18 of those goals came against minnows like San Marino and Moldova.
Despite that, England can still qualify for the World Cup directly. They’re only 2 points behind group leaders Montenegro and have played a game less. Wins against Moldova and Ukraine will go a long way in ensuring they make it to Brazil next year.
Moldova aren’t exactly a big test and even though England are missing a few players, the Three Lions should have no problems seeing them off. England beat Moldova 0-5 in the previous leg of the qualifiers and will no doubt be eager to complete the double over them in order to further their bid for World Cup qualification.
Ukraine will be a slightly tougher team to beat, especially given the fact that England will be playing the match away from home. Ukraine almost beat England in the last match but a late Frank Lampard penalty ensured that Hodgson’s men walked away with a point.
At the moment, England’s destiny is in their own hands, which is the way they will like it. There’s nothing worse than having to rely on other team’s results. The equation for England is simple; win all their remaining matches and they’re through. However, that’s easier said than done. They will have to take it one match at a time. However, it’s not an impossible job, not by a long shot.Published 04 Sep 2013, 21:30 IST