Following their 4-1 victory over Montenegro, England will face one final test before they clinch World Cup qualification for next summer.
Roy Hodgson’s side must defeat Poland at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday in their final qualification match to secure an automatic bid for the World Cup next summer. Although the squad’s emphatic win against Montenegro was well-earned, England have yet to show much consistency in their Wold Cup qualification performances. This inconsistency has many English biting their nails in anticipation for Tuesday’s match.
The two sides are not without their history. In 1973, it was Poland who famously held England to a 1-1 draw, knocking the English side out of World Cup qualification. Since then, however, Poland has failed to defeat England in their last fifteen encounters.
Roy Hodgson will surely put his best attacking force on the pitch Tuesday, seeing as a draw will do nothing for his side. With all of his attacking options available (Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge) England with be likely to score on the day. Andros Townsend will probably receive another start following a scintillating performance against Montenegro. In terms of offensive power, England should be far too much for Poland’s defense to handle.
England’s true concern lies with the central defensive partnership of Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill. The two English defenders have shared a fair number of mistakes between them in earlier World Cup qualifiers and they have yet to test their qualities together against world-class opposition. Cumulatively, Poland is far from a world-class squad. However, Robert Lewandowski, who plays his club football for Borussia Dortmund, is a striker the likes of which Jagielka and Cahill have yet to face together. He is a prolific goal-scorer on foot and in the air and is easily capable of a hat-trick on his day. England will need to stay disciplined at the back and hope that Tuesday isn’t one of those days.
On top of their talents on the field, Poland will be pushed on by the predicted 18,000 Polish supporters who will be in attendance at Wembley. The FA ruled in favor of allotting the Poles 20% of the stadium’s occupancy, twice as much as they are entitled to by regulation. The highly controversial decision will ensure an electric environment for Tuesday’s match. It will also serve to motivate the Polish side, who are already out of the running for World Cup qualification.
All will not be lost if England fail to earn a victory on Tuesday. They will still have an opportunity to compete in the playoffs if they cannot defeat Poland. If it were to happen so, England would be facing a two-legged tie against another country who finished second-place in a European group.
In spite of concerns, the English captain, Steven Gerard, is confident his side will overcome this final obstacle in their path to Brazil. Fueled by the painful memory of England’s 3-2 loss at home against Croatia in the 2008 Euros, and England’s subsequent exit from the tournament, Gerard is determined to take his country to Brazil.
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“When Roy first called me over the captaincy and gave it to me full time, the job was to lead the lads into Brazil and it would be a huge satisfaction for me if we do it,” said Gerard in a recent statement. ”We want to try and avoid the play-off situation. It is a safety net but the boys want to do it on Tuesday and if we can seal it in front of our supporters it would be absolutely fantastic,” he added.
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