So the Moldovans mashed (well sort of) – job done anyways. Now England travel to Ukraine for a massive world cup qualifier with the victor being in pole position to top World Cup qualifying group H and a trip to Brazil.
So where are England. Well they have a bit of a striker crisis, no Rooney through injury, no Sturridge through injury and no Danny Welbeck thanks to a ridiculous decision to give him his second yellow of the campaign for kicking the ball away (the first for diving in the Montenegro game was ridiculous too) – the utter clueless referees join #whatacuneyt in uefa’s vendetta against the English – their names – Ivan Kruzliak of Slovakia and Jonas Eriksson of Sweden. It looks like Rickie Lambert has now become the most crucial forward player for England and with 2 in 2 justifiably so. Obviously the usual suspects are still available, captain Gerrard, Super Frank, Theo Walcott, even Ashley Cole (though I suspect Leighton Baines is thinking what does he have to do to become first choice left back for England). In the group England have dealt with the minnows (San Marino and Moldova) easily enough but when they have come up against the better teams (Montenegro, Ukraine and Poland) – their win record is o from 3 – though the lose record is the same. The worrying thing in those draws is that they have not deserved to win and that must be a concern come next Tuesday against an improving Ukrainian side who will be looking for revenge after England beat them in Euro 2012 especially as they had an equalizer wrongly ruled out after the ball did cross the line.
So where are Ukraine at the moment. I’ll tell you where – right at the ‘top of their game’. After their encouraging draw at Wembley they then drew with Moldova and followed this with a defeat to Montenegro at home, leaving them with only 2 points after three games and the thought was that their chances of qualifying for Brazil 2014 were over. However a fantastic win in Poland in March kick started their campaign and three more victories have followed including a crucial 0-4 win in Podgorica against the Montenegrins. Add to this that they are unbeaten in eight games and they are full of confidence for the visit of the English. Key player? Well for me there are two and it has to be their two 23 year old wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyyanka. The former a flying winger from Dinamo Kiev who will be looking to wow the Ukrainian crowd on his home pitch and the latter scored a beauty at Wembley and was a menace throughout the whole game. England’s full backs will need to be on their mettle to thwart the twin threats from these young flyers.
Ok so a tough journey ahead for England. My prediction, well I’m fence sitting on this one, I’ll go for the draw – maybes 1-1. Roy Hodgson is a cautious manager by nature but he must not get sucked into going for a draw in my opinion, but England need to go looking for the victory, especially as their next two games, Montenegro and Poland at home, are no gimme’s. Its simple for Ukraine – they have to win (no other result will really do) and with a home match versus Poland and the walkover that will be San Marino away in their final two games, they will be thinking beat England for only the second time in their history and a place in Brazil 2014 is theirs for the taking. Ok peeps I’ve now come off the fence – a bit of patriotic punting – 0-2 to England – hmmm ;-s. Let me know what you think.
ps the referree – Pedro Proenca from Portugal – here’s hoping he has a controversial free game (fingers crossed!!!!!!!)