England 2-0 Poland: Three Lions Pass Ultimate Test and Qualify for World Cup

England 2-0 PolandTuesday night saw thousands of England supporters tune in to one of the country’s most important international games of the year. After a convincing 4-1 win at Wembley against Montenegro, England received fair praise from plaudits and critics alike, however the job was far from completed. A win was a vital for the Three Lions, and it was going to come with exuberant hard work and determination from England’s part and of course Roy Hodgson, whose job was surely on the line after England’s qualification hopes were boiled down to the final game.

The out-of-form Hart maintained his place in the starting line-up, playing behind the center-back pairing of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka, sided by Leighton Baines and Chris Smalling, who replaced the suspended Kyle Walker. Carrick and Gerrard were played deep in midfield behind the attacking trio of Welbeck, Rooney and Townsend, and ahead of them the vastly in-form Daniel Sturridge was chosen, quite unsurprisingly.

Poland came out fighting fiercely during the opening stages, forcing a deep two line of four from England whenever the Poles possession progressed into the final third. England recuperated quickly after regaining possession and were quite effective in transitions, with Welbeck often drifting in centrally, pulling the right-backs out of position and occupying the central defenders. This saw space being vastly exploited on the left wing from Baines, who regularly pushed forward and hugged the touchline.

This trained and often repeated maneuver seen England take a deserved lead in the 42nd minute after Rooney sent in a glancing header from Baines’ beautifully weighted cross. He did so with his forehead unadorned by the headband accessory protecting his scar, having briefly discarded it. This was business time for England, and they rose to the occasion.

For a team that began the night fourth in a very average qualifying group, Poland moved the ball around with fantastic purpose. The prime example of this movement was on the 23′ when they broke the length of the pitch from an England corner, eventually playing Robert Lewandowski into that troublesome left channel where his left foot shot across Joe Hart was just wide of the goalkeeper’s far post.

England 2-0 PolandThese were tense times, indeed. In midfield, Michael Carrick, picked ahead of Frank Lampard, found himself closed down in those early stages, with Poland fielding a two man press and pushing England to the flanks by flooding midfield whenever the ball was lost with the thinking that England would be nowhere near as effective on the flanks. However, Carrick being Carrick, he can still pass the ball beautifully through the briefing shifting spaces of a modern game, but the United midfielder had to be at his pure best in order to do so.

After some worrying counterattacks that left England horribly exposed when committing players forward, Wayne Rooney’s goal was a huge morale boost to the side and fans alike, but at half time issues needed to be addressed by Hodgson. Baines’ aggressive movements down the left flank saw England be dangerously vulnerable to Poland counterattacks, as the lack of legs in midfield saw Lewandoski narrowly miss the post after escaping Smalling’s attempts to shackle the Dortmund strikers’ movements.

Townsend’s defensive contribution on the right was also admirable too, as often the Spurs man would be seen tracking back in defensive transitions and assist Smalling in 2v1 situations. He was also astoundingly effective going forward too, testing Szczęsny after a fantastic run saw him wrap his foot entirely around the ball, narrowly missing the top corner and ricocheting off the bar.

It was far from pretty during the second half, after Ukraine unsurprisingly clutching the victory leaving England with the task of a must-win situation, with 3 points against Poland being the only option to guarantee qualification. Poland played with sheer pride, even as if they had a World Cup place up for grabs, but a performance like that for a team ranked 65th in the world was remarkable. After the second half began, England began to sit far deeper than usual, neutralizing Poland’s counterattacking threat by switching to a 4-4-2 looking side whenever without possession, with Rooney dropping quite deep to keep tabs on the lively and vibrant Lewandoski, who was surprisingly missing a number of chances on the night.

Poland showed fear when England recycled possession at times, as they accumulated numbers on Polands right flank, which utilised Baines brilliantly to provide game-changing crosses into the box and cause sheer havoc among the Poles. Eventually Wilshere and Milner were brought on to suit the 4-4-2 when out of possession, with Milner providing much needed defensive aid for Smalling when Townsend lacked the stamina to do so in the late stages, and Wilshere’s active pressing provided much needed energy to the side in the late stages. With two minutes left in stoppage time, Gerrard stormed his way past the fatigued Poland defense, and with he ball set up for him, he stretched to poked it past Szczesny. The challenging task had been done completed, and a major test of character had been passed by Hodgson and his players.

Written by Sean McBride

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England Look Set to Complete Final Stretch of World Cup Qualifying in Style

England vs MontenegroEngland will be under the microscope for the next week, with Roy Hodgson’s squad set to be firmly tested as they look to secure their place in the World Cup finals in Brazil next year. Last time out they secured four points in two qualifying matches against Moldova and Ukraine. The 0-0 draw in Ukraine was scrutinized, most notably by former England striker Gary Lineker, who was highly critical of England’s defensive approach. The criticism was perhaps harsh as the importance of getting some sort of result far outweighed the need for a win. It was a game that England could not afford to lose.

In the next two qualifying games England have vowed to go all out attack folowing the news that Leighton Baines will replace regular left back Ashley Cole in the lineup due to a rib injury Cole picked up in Chelsea’s recent win at Norwich. Former England international, Luther Blissett,emphasized the need for England to go out on the attack, telling TalkSport:

“I think you go for it all guns blazing with players in form, players on top of their game at the moment and who look like they’re hungry for goals and are ready to score goals.”

The England camp is in a buoyant mood ahead of the qualifiers, with Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge confident he can replicate his club from for his country, saying: “I feel I’m in the form of my life and hope to give the England boss a selection problem.” The 24-year-old has scored seven goals in six games, and has recently rekindled his partnership with Luis Suarez. Last time, England missed Sturridge dearly, particularly in Ukraine where England were forced to play Rickie Lambert up front on his own. The return of Daniel Sturridge will obviously leave Roy Hodgson with more room to attack. The likeliness of a display similar to that of played in Ukraine is slim. England captain Steven Gerrard has acknowledged that the Poland and Montenegro games will be a challenge, but feels England will have enough to overcome them:

“Every opposition will have their tricky players and Montengero and Poland with have their match winners as well, but we will have the better match winners - I tell you that!”


Ukraine vs EnglandMontenegro will be without their big names for the game at Wembley; Mirko Vucinic of Juventus will be missing as well as goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic, defender Marko Basa, and midfielder Miodrag Pekoivc. Manchester City’s Stevan Jovetic is also a doubt for the game, but despite this, defender Miodrag Dzudovic believes his side can upset England: “The most important thing will be to keep a clean sheet and I am sure our forwards will find a way through. With the right attitude and enough self-belief, we can finish in the top two and reach the play-offs.”

Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic has again echoed the need for belief in the Montenegro camp: “We will certainly try to play the best we can but we have a belief in ourselves and a belief that we can do it.” A performance similar to that of their gutsy draw against England in Euro 2012 qualifying wouldn’t go amiss for the visitors on Friday evening.


Poland still have slim chance of qualifying for the World Cup, who will need to win in both Ukraine and England and then hope for results elsewhere. It may seem a long shot, but arguably it should be achievable. Their strike-force of Robert Lewandowski and Artur Sobiech have scored a combined eight Bundesliga goals thus far, with both enjoying decent starts at their respective clubs. Poland have not beaten England since 1973, when they knocked England out of qualifying for the 1974 World Cup. If Poland get a result next Tuesday, expect there to be rants harking back to the two qualifiers from 40 years ago.

Previous Qualifying Games

England 5-1 Croatia (World Cup 2010 Qualifying) - A double from both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard and a goal from Wayne Rooney, secured England’s place in South Africa after a near perfect qualifying campaign. Wayne Rooney described it as an ‘amazing feeling’ to qualify for another World Cup following the way he had left the 2006 World Cup in shame.

England 2-3 Croatia (Euro 2008 Qualifying) - No one will forget that faithful day on the rain-sodden pitch at Wembley when Scott Carson forgot the art of goalkeeping and spilled Portsmouth midfielder Niko Kranjcar’s strike into his own net. England did manage to pull themselves level from 2-0 down, but Mladen Petric broke England’s hearts with a late goal to win the game for Croatia.

England 2-2 Greece (World Cup 2002 Qualifying) -  With Steven Gerrard jokingly suggesting that Leighton Baines will step up if England have a free-kick, it had me thinking back to the 2-2 draw with Greece at Old Trafford that secured England’s place in the 2002 World Cup. With seconds left, the inspirational captain stepped up to curl the ball past a stationary Antonios Nikopolidis to send England to the World Cup automatically. England may need a hero like Beckham if the going gets tough next Tuesday.

San Marino 1-7 England (World Cup 1994 Qualifying) - England may have won 7-1, but it was San Marino’s goal and England’s failure to qualify that was most documented. Davide Gualtieri, who now works as a computer sales man, opened the scoring in the first minute to show England up for what they really were under Graham Taylor. Taylor has admitted in the light of the upcoming games that he will take England’s failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup to the grave with him.

England 1-1 Poland (World Cup 1974 Qualifying) - England were left frustrated by Jan Tomaszewski who denied them on several occasions to earn Poland a very creditable draw at Wembley. Poland went to reach the Semi Finals of the 1974 World Cup, with football writer Brian Glanville claiming it was no shame to be knocked out by the Poles: “In retrospect, to be eliminated by a side so fine a side as Poland seems no disgrace.”

England should scrape through now that they have some of their better players back such as Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney, which gives them an edge in an attacking sense. The challenges of Montenegro and Poland have simmered down to some degree, and the formerly injury-crippled England should have enough to overcome them. While Poland have never got going in the qualifying, a home win seems the only thing likely. The games won’t be easy, but England will get through them unscathed.

Written by Jimmy Cartwright