Roy Hodgson knows England’s expectations and is confident of delivery
Montenegro and Poland stand in way but victories will see progression to Brazil
England Manager Roy Hodgson has a fully fit squad to choose from for his team’s game in Montenegro. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA.
Roy Hodgson has issued his most rousing rallying cry since taking over as manager of the national team by insisting his England players “will deliver” qualification for the World Cup in Brazil over the next five days.
England know victories in their final two group games, against Montenegro and Poland, will secure Group H and automatic passage to next summer’s tournament after a qualifying campaign that has rather stuttered towards its conclusion.
Hodgson conceded his side have yet to produce an eye-catching result in the section, having failed to beat any side other than Moldova and San Marino, but he retains an unswerving faith in a near full-strength squad in the build-up to the two fixtures which may yet serve to define his tenure.
“Bring the game on,” said Hodgson. “Really, this game can’t come quickly enough. We’re ready for it. We believe in ourselves, we trust in each other. We have the right determination, the right motivation. We’re looking at one game. We’ll get out and win that. And when we’ve won that, we’ll look at the next one. And we’ll be equally determined to win that one, too. It’s Wembley, we are England, we have good players, and I believe the players will deliver.
“We haven’t had a marquee result. The one we did have was the friendly against Brazil at home [which was won 2-1 in February], or maybe the draw away [in June], but you can’t have a marquee result in a friendly. But if I compare how I feel about the team today compared to 18 months ago, just before the Euros, I think we’re a long way forward on that. There are so many exciting younger talents now who will stand us in good stead further on. These two games would be a perfect opportunity to prove that and maybe improve the mood somewhat.
“People do doubt sometimes, and can quote the statistics: you haven’t beaten the Ukraine, you only drew in Poland . . . This will give us an opportunity to put that right.
Expected to qualify
“I know the players are ready to do that. They’re determined to do that. We all realise that England expects. They expect us to play well in these two games, win them, and get to the World Cup. We are England, we are one of the big nations and we’re expected to qualify for World Cups and European Championships. The players will not shirk their responsibility. None of us will.”
Hodgson spoke of striking a “balance” in his selection for a game in which England will anticipate hogging possession against the former group leaders. Both the manager and his captain, Steven Gerrard, betrayed genuine excitement at the prospect of Wayne Rooney linking with Daniel Sturridge in attack.
James Milner is expected to play on the right, with Hodgson considering pairing Gerrard with Frank Lampard in central midfield – with Michael Carrick an alternative option – leaving Jack Wilshere most likely among the substitutes with Hodgson having admitted he may have to “break some hearts” when he informs those players who will not start at a team meeting this morning.