Friday Football Feature: Hodgson’s England optimistic ahead of World Cup qualifying kick-off


England kick off their World Cup qualifying campaign against Moldova tonight.


By Luke Gardener

England kick off their World Cup qualifying campaign against Moldova tonight and there is a sense of real optimism around the England team.

New manager Roy Hodgson has breathed new life into the players who survived the Capello era, while vital young blood has been introduced to keep the veterans on their toes.

Winning the World Cup in 2014 may be an unrealistic aim, but dominating a qualifying group which includes Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, San Marino, and the Ukraine must be the minimum goal for the national side.

With that target in mind, it will be fascinating to see Hodgson’s first team selection in Moldova tonight. It is about time certain players were trusted with an England shirt and Hodgson is the man to put that faith in them.

For young, fearless players such as Tom Cleverley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Danny Welbeck playing for England is an adventure rather than a burden and an opportunity they will relish. The youngsters have already proved their worth in the recent 2-1 friendly win over Italy and throughout EURO 2012.

The new additions to the squad combined with the consistency of the stalwarts have given the three lions a unique blend of valuable experience and raw talent. This must excite the unyielding supporters of England who have been traumatised for so many years.

We have to recognise the impact of new manager Roy Hodgson in this transition. Andrea Pirlo may have dominated the EURO 2012 quarter final between England and Italy, but in truth Hodgson had little time to stamp his mark on the team following the abrupt departure of the unpopular Fabio Capello.

When players left their clubs for international duty under Capello the regime was militaristic and the atmosphere was one of tension. With Hodgson at the helm it is more relaxed and many of the players have expressed that having an English manager has been a major positive for the team.

As buoyant as everyone is about the chances of England during the World Cup qualifying campaign, optimism will immediately turn to disappointment should England somehow fail to defeat Moldova this evening.

The team ranked 141st in the world will rely on midfielder Stanislav Ivanov to create from midfield and their strikers will have to be clinical in front of goal if any chances present themselves.

However, Moldova manager, Ion Caras insists that his team have a great chance of shocking the footballing world thanks to the absence of Wayne Rooney through injury.

Whatever happens inside the Zimbru Stadium in Moldova, they will face a much tougher challenge at Wembley against Ukraine on Tuesday. By 9:30 tonight England will have either achieved a dominant victory or stumbled at the first opportunity.

As much optimism as there is, would it surprise anyone if they came home defeated?

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