England v Poland – World Cup Final Qualifier
More of the same please! That’s what England fans will be expecting, demanding even, at Wembley tomorrow night when Roy Hodgson’s boys bid to do to Poland what they did to Montenegro last Friday and so book their ticket for the World Cup party in Brazil next summer.
England are 2/9 to secure qualification with a victory and in any other circumstances that would almost seem like buying money. All evidence suggests we are better than Poland, not least the Group H qualification table.
But these are no ordinary circumstances. Whatever the air of confidence displayed by Hodgson and his players after their (ultimately) convincing win over Montenegro, there will quite naturally be fears lurking somewhere in the back of the mind about the backlash if things don’t go to plan.
A good start will do wonders to steady the nerves and in the new strikeforce triumvirate of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck (ably assisted by Andros Townsend), England at last have the firepower in depth to give us all hope that the job can be put to bed sooner rather than later.
Rooney delivered again on Friday (his 37th international goal) and Coral rate him and Sturridge (who netted a late penalty) even money shots to be on the scoresheet again (4/1 to score first or last).
But all eyes will be on Townsend, following his man-of-the-match debut performance on Friday. His goal was the best of the four and if you think he can do it again, Coral are going 7/2 (10/1 that he nets first or last).
It’s 40 years ago almost to the day since Poland’s ‘clown’ goalkeeper, Jan Tomaszewski, virtually single-handedly denied England a place in the World Cup Finals, but only those old enough to remember the pain and embarrassment of that night will consider the anniversary at all relevant to what happens now.
A huge away fan presence shouldn’t matter either; the players should thrive in the atmosphere. But England are right to be concerned about Robert Lewandowski, a striker who scored four times against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final last spring.
Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill looked pretty solid at the back against Montenegro, but will need to be right on their game to keep this world class striker quiet. Lewandoski is 7/2 to score during the 90 minutes and you don’t need to be too much of a pessimist to see that happening.
Phil Jones or Chris Smalling are likely to replace the suspended Kyle Walker for the home side and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Jack Wilshire returned in midfield, possibly for Frank Lampard.
There has also been talk of Hodgson playing safer with James Milner instead of Townsend, but I don’t see that switch making sense. The requirements are the same: we need to win.
We should win. The heart says it should be quite comfortable, perhaps 3-1 (10/1) or a repeat of Friday’s scoreline, 4-1 (11/1).
But the head says 1-0 (11/2). And those expecting a long night might be interested in Coral’s 7/2 a draw at half time before England finally get over the line.