McClaren confident after lifeline


Steve McClaren is convinced England will not spurn the unexpected Euro 2008 lifeline thrown to them from Tel Aviv last night.

As it has transpired, a Russian victory over Israel would have left England requiring a minimum two-goal win against Croatia on Wednesday to reach next summer's European Championship finals.

Yet McClaren did not know that as he went through purgatory at England's team hotel in Watford watching events unfold at the Ramat Gan Stadium.

As far as McClaren was concerned, a Russian win would have sent England out and probably cost him his job. So it must have been with shredded fingernails that he watched Dmitri Sychev hit a post with a last-minute shot that would have put Russia in front before Israel broke down to the other end and bagged a winner through Dorel Golan.

The nerve-racking conclusion means England now only need a point on Wednesday, against a Croatia side already through despite their unexpected loss in Macedonia last night.

And while McClaren is refusing to take anything for granted, even without injured strikers Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney, plus skipper John Terry and central defensive colleague Rio Ferdinand, who is suspended, he feels sure England, on home soil, will get the draw they require.

"It will be difficult but I am convinced we will get the result we need and we will qualify for Austria and Switzerland," he said.

"I have said several times in the last few weeks, the campaign was not over until it was over. I always believed it would come down to the Croatia game and thankfully it has.

"I watched the match with my family at the team hotel in Watford. All the coaching staff were also in the hotel and, as you can imagine, we are all delighted qualification is back in our own hands.

"It is fantastic news for us all and I would like to pay tribute to Israel for the professional way they went about their job. They showed what a proud nation they are and they deserve a lot of praise for their efforts."