Friday Football Feature: England look to bolster World Cup qualification hopes


England will look to gain a huge six points from their next two World Cup qualifying matches in the coming days.


By Luke Gardener

England will look to gain a huge six points from their next two World Cup qualifying matches in the coming days.

They face San Marino at Wembley, before travelling to Warsaw to take on a tough Poland team. That fixture could well tell us a lot about the development of England under the guidance of Roy Hodgson.

FIFA rank San Marino 207th in their rankings, joint last. They have only ever been victorious once, that was against Liechtenstein in 2004, but the memory most England fans will have of the minnows is the last match of Graham Taylor’s managerial reign.

After just 8.3 seconds, Davide Gualtieri gave San Marino the lead in November 2003. England did go on to win the match 7-1 but they failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup because of other results. The goal remains the quickest ever scored in World Cup history.

England will want to put a marker down against them with Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe looking to fill their boots. They will have countless opportunities against a nation who have conceded 463 goals since their 1990 qualifying campaign.

Bookmakers have England as 1-100 and Wembley is sold out on what should be a comfortable evening for the new look team.

The team selection will no doubt have Tuesday’s match against Poland in mind and we are likely to see some players rested because of this.

Steven Gerrard is suspended so Wayne Rooney will be captain in his place. Joe Hart very nearly grabbed the armband from under his Manchester rival’s nose.

Currently on four points from two games along with Montenegro and Poland following a 1-1 draw with Ukraine last month, England would love to get the maximum six points from these two games before facing San Marino and Montenegro away in March next year.

It seems international football is becoming more popular once again. This is no surprise following the appointment of an English manager to run the team. He has placed trust in young, raw talents and I have no doubt this will be the correct decision in the long run. However, the England project cannot be completed overnight.

Expect England to dominate against San Marino at Wembley but the real challenge is facing a Poland side on their own patch in Warsaw on Tuesday. Jermain Defoe, who made his first international start against them, will certainly be looking to retain his place and add to his impressive start to the season.

Players such as Tom Cleverley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be properly tested for the first time against a serious international opponent and Hodgson will learn a lot about his young crop of stars.

Despite much of the focus being on the Poland match in Warsaw, England must not disrespect their first opponents and give San Marino the sporting respect they deserve. In truth, it should be a score more reminiscent of tennis than football and once again England are expecting their football team to dominate.

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