England travel to Chisinau tomorrow (7.45pm BST on ITV1) to face Moldova, as Roy Hodgson’s side look to get their qualification for Brazil 2014 off to the perfect start.
With that demoralising loss to Italy in the quarter-finals of the European Championships still in the minds of the nation, England will need to put in a far better performance to silence their critics. England travelled to the Euros in the summer with muted hope, but still managed to disappoint.
Failing to qualify for the World Cup is not an option for Roy Hodgson. Having been drawn in a group alongside Montenegro, Poland, Ukraine, San Marino and Moldova, he will fancy his chances of wrapping up automatic qualification as soon as mathematically possible.
The two other strongest teams in the group are Poland and Ukraine, two teams that England always seem to get drawn against, but at least there will be no surprises there. England should qualify comfortably as long as they don’t slip up in tricky away games in Kiev or Warsaw.
Roy Hodgson’s squad for the first two matches against Moldova and Ukraine contains few surprises but he does have a raft of key players missing through injuries. Wayne Rooney, Andy Carroll, Ashley Young and Ashley Cole are all out having picked up injuries in the opening weeks of the new Premiership season. There are recalls for John Terry, Michael Carrick and Frank Lampard, whilst youngsters Ryan Bertrand, Jack Butland and Kyle Walker have also been selected.
Without Carroll and Rooney, the likely starting pairing up front, injuries aside, means Jermain Defoe is likely to partner Danny Welbeck. Defoe has started the season well for Tottenham and has been the beneficiary of far more game time under new manager Andre Villas Boas. The same cannot be said for Welbeck though, as since the new arrival of Robin Van Persie at Old Trafford, Welbeck has been shunted down the pecking order, although Rooney’s month-long injury might give him a sustained run in the side.
The greatest surprise in the England squad is Michael Carrick, who has not featured for his country since he asked not to be selected in a bizarre turn of events last January. Perhaps Hodgson feels that having seen veteran Andrea Pirlo rip teams apart with passing accuracy, that he needs a player with similar qualities. Carrick is a good passer of the ball, make no mistake, but it seems like a step in the wrong direction. Hodgson is probably using Carrick to fill the void due to the lengthy injury of Jack Wilshere, who is hoping to return for Arsenal later this month.
Moldova are an unknown quantity, but having never qualified for a World Cup or European Championship, they are not to be feared. They are currently FIFA ranked 141 in the world while England are (can you believe it?) ranked No.3. Moldova can only boast a paltry 11 international goals from their current squad. In their qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup, Moldova failed to win a single match in their 10 group games. They have played four matches this year, drawing two and losing the other brace. Notably, in all four games they have failed to score. Even against England, it does not look good for the home side.
Moldova v England Betting Tips & Verdict
It is almost the perfect match to start England’s campaign, especially as they are without their two top strikers. As soon as the local crowd is silenced with an early goal, the game will surely be a formality for England.