Roy Hodgson’s England team travel to Warsaw on Tuesday night knowing that a win against Poland will increase their lead at the top of World Cup qualifying Group H and with it, improve their chances of reaching Brazil in 2014. However, defeat would have the opposite effect and would put England’s chances of automatic qualification in doubt as Poland would draw level on seven points with a game in hand.
Hodgson is almost certain to bring some of his more experienced players back into the team having rested a few in last week’s 5-0 win over San Marino, the most obvious of those will be Steven Gerrard, whilst Jermaine Defoe, James Milner, Joleon Lescott and Ashley Cole are also in contention for a return.
As far as the history between England and Poland is concerned, the Three Lions should have nothing to having won 10 and drawn 6 of the 17 games played since 1966. The past two matches between the sides came in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers played in 2004 and 2005, which were both won by England 2-1. Defoe in fact was amongst the goals in the first of those two games and is a best price of 15/8 to be on the score sheet in this match. The Spurs striker can also be backed at 11/2 to open the scoring although favourite is Wayne Rooney, who is 9/2 to score the first goal following his brace at Wembley on Friday night. Danny Welbeck also scored twice against San Marino and it will be interesting to see if Hodgson sticks with the Man Utd pairing up front, who have yet to score a domestic goal between them this season…
Poland has made more than a reasonable start to their Group H campaign under new boss, Waldemar Fornalik, They drew away at Montenegro 2-2 in September with goals from Jakub Blaszcykowski and Mierzejewski, before following that up with a 2-0 at home to Moldova with Blaszcykowski on the mark again along with Wawrzyniak.
Unfortunately for Fornalik, he will not have the services of Blaszcykowski against England after the Borussia Dortmund winger sustained an ankle injury. Nonetheless, it is expected that Poland will play with two strikers which means that Lewandowski, who also plays his club football for Borussia Dortmund could be joined by either Artur Sobiech, who also plays in the Bundesliga for Hannover or Arkadiusz Piech who has scored in his last four Polish Premier League games for his club, Gornik.
This should be a close game where England are likely to be seriously tested, however, back to almost full strength, it would be a surprise if they were unable to get the better of their hosts and it is a view shared by the bookmakers, who make England the even money favourites to pick up the three point.
However, this is England and nothing is straight forward. The team came under criticism for not being more clinical against a San Marino side that had only won one match in its 115 game history, who concede on average four goals each time they play. The time before that, Hodgson’s men failed to unlock the Ukraine at Wembley, drawing 0-0. Against much tougher opponents and in a partisan atmosphere, England will need to be much improved and whilst defensively the team looks ok, they could struggle to score more than the one goal needed to win a match like this and as such, the prediction is a 1-1 draw but it would be no surprise to see the worst case scenario unfold!