Going into Tuesday’s game in Kiev England will be billed as slight favourites, with us at 8/5 for the victory with SkyBet, even though the squad we have for the contest is the weakest that I can remember for a competitive international. Injuries and suspensions are the obvious culprits to blame for this. This really does speak about the calibre of our opposition on their own turf. I felt the reverse fixture at Wembley we were unlucky not to take all three points especially with Jermaine Defoe’s wrongly disallowed goal but just didn’t have enough cutting edge or real top draw class to open them up at the back.
Although there is little strength in depth in the squad for the game there should be enough international experience at least in the starting eleven to see us through the game and to come away with at least a point which I’m fairly sure Roy would take now with the dynamics of the group. I’m happy with his decision which increasingly looks like giving Rickie Lambert the chance to lead the line; he hasn’t put a foot wrong yet and I have the feeling he can rise to the occasion of performing in a hostile Ukraine on Tuesday night.
Let’s be honest Ukraine are hardly the cream of the crop when it comes to football nations although they do have a few decent players such as Andriy Yarmolenko and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk to name a couple. Never the less this will be a real test for a rather mismatched England team that could prove their worth with a few names playing to stake a claim for a seat on the plane to Brazil (if we don’t mess up these last three games).
The fact is we haven’t set the world alight with our football this qualifying campaign but I do feel there has been a better consistency in our performances which has shone through in some steady results. One huge improvement I have noticed in the side since Hodgson’s appointment is we look a much better team rather than a set of individuals, something we’ve lacked in previous years but that will only get you so far in competitions. To compete at the top level we need match winners which a fully fit England squad does indeed have.
Putting that aside you have to beat what is put in front of you and so far done that against the group minnows and come close on a couple of occasions against the more established nations in our group in rather tight scrappy meetings. We are certainly capable of winning all our remaining games whether we will I’m not too sure but what I am sure of is that will top our group and be jetting off to Brazil next summer.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar result and performance to the last time the two teams met in Kiev with a close cagey encounter on the cards.