England’s World cup qualifying campaign got underway last week with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Moldova, a result which saw the Three Lions (penalty shootouts aside) extend their unbeaten run to eight matches and make the perfect start to their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Manager, Roy Hodgson, should be well satisfied with his team’s performance but there is no way that he will get carried away given Moldova represented only poor opposition.
Led by Steven Gerrard, who combined well with Frank Lampard in midfield, England assumed control of the game very early on. A penalty converted by Lampard after four minutes served notice that the hosts were in for a long night but his trademark second goal following a beautifully timed run into the box, confirmed that Moldova were not going to be let off the hook.
It was the first time Lampard had scored a brace for England since 2009 when he scored twice against Croatia. These two goals however took him past the 24 scored by England World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst and on to 25. He is now 13th in the all time England goalscorers list and the 11 goals scored in world cup qualifiers is now a new record.
In addition to Lampard’s contribution, Jermaine Defoe clearly enjoyed his England return and scored to mark his 50th cap whilst the other goals came courtesy of James Milner, who managed to get on the end of a breakaway move engineered by Theo Walcott, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck before a deflected Leighton Baines free kick completed the victory.
Next up is Ukraine, who will pose much tougher opposition and will no doubt come to Wembley on Tuesday night looking for some sort of retribution following their 1-0 defeat at the hands of England at Euro 2012. Ukraine will be playing their first qualifier and are a team that have not played together since they drew 0-0 with the Czech Republic last month in a friendly. Nonetheless, they are a team worthy of great respect and with England going into the match without the injured Chelsea defenders, John Terry and Ashley Cole and doubts surrounding the health of Theo Walcott and Daniel Sturridge who both missed training on Monday, a repeat of Friday night’s score is unlikely to be happening and a win at any cost will be the orders from Hodgson.
Terry’s team mate, Gary Cahill, looks set to replace the former captain in central defence alongside Jolene Lescott, although Hodgson still might elect to play Phil Jagielka who played with Lescott during their Everton days.
Gerrard and Lampard look set to continue in central midfield with hopefully Walcott and Oxlade Chamberlain providing width on either side of them. The only other question mark will come at right back and which of Glen Johnson or Kyle Walker will start.
England will know that this match will be crucial towards eventual qualification for Brazil in 2014 and a win would be regarded as a major step towards that goal. The bookmakers have made England 2/5 hot favourites to win the game with Ukraine 7/1 to cause an upset and the draw a 7/2 chance. I’d personally take a 1-0 win now and will be having a couple of quid at 5/1 in what I predict will be a close and hard fought victory.