Sport | Win or bust for England despite Townsend show at Wembley

It’s mission almost accomplished for Roy Hodgson’s men ahead of a crucial match for England against Poland on Tuesday night.

Friday’s 4-1 win over Montenegro came as a surprise to many England fans. Hodgson is famed for his safe but boring team selections – so for him to name a team with Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge and Andros Townsend all starting was exciting, shocking and ultimately successful.

The first half was a typical England performance. The forwards, despite their quality, were unable to take their chances – many of their efforts wouldn’t have looked out of place at Twickenham – and the side were unable to take control of possession.

That all changed when Rooney opened the scoring soon after the restart with a tap in, but it was Townsend who made the goal with a surging run down the right – his cross finding Welbeck, whose parried shot fell to Rooney.

One goal became two soon after, when Montenegro defender Boskovic meeting Welbeck’s pass to hit a sweet strike past his own goalkeeper.

The away side were missing key man Mirko Vucinic of Juventus through injury, but still had a potent strike force with Manchester City’s Stevan Jovetic and FC Seoul’s Dejan Damjanovic and the latter pulled one back through a simple finish with twenty minutes remaining.

Montenegro were desperate for the win, but it was a task too far to come back, as the Three Lions exploited the space perfectly. Townsend used his strength and pace to shrug off the Montenegro defence and hit 25-yard screamer with his weaker right foot, a deserved goal for the debutant who was the stand out performer on the night.

England’s fourth goal came in injury time, as Sturridge was bundled over in the box by Kecojevic. The Liverpool striker took the penalty and slotted home past the keeper. The game ended 4-1 to England, with some very encouraging signs as their potent attackers gelled in the second half, Leighton Baines shone in Ashley Cole’s absence and Joe Hart put in a steady performance.

Hodgson knows his side must win on Tuesday, with Ukraine’s away fixture at San Marino effectively three points guaranteed for England’s challengers for top spot in Group H. Poland will be tough opposition, with Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski and Kuba Blacszykowski, as well as Bordeaux’s Ludovic Obraniak providing attacking flair.

But if England want to make it to Brazil and next year’s World Cup, then they must better Ukraine’s result (realistically meaning win or bust) or face the wrath of the play offs. Tom Cleverley will miss out through injury, and Raheem Sterling has been called up as a replacement, whilst Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will battle it out for the right back slot with Kyle Walker suspended and Glen Johnson injured.

Hodgson has two options now to ponder – does he play it safe against Poland to avoid defeat as he has done so previously, or does he go for the win like he did on Friday night, naming an exciting and attacking team capable of goals? Here’s to hoping he opts for the latter.

Ste Topping

Courtesy of the FA

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