After a convincing victory against a Moldova team that resembled a League 2 side at best, England return to Wembley for a far greater challenge in their latest FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign against Ukraine tomorrow (8pm BST, Tuesday).
Roy Hodgson and the pundits gave England a thumbs-up for their 5-0 victory over Moldova, frequently using the phrase “you can only beat the side that are in front of you”.
However against a side that were ranked a massive 138 places below them, five goals was really a disappointment from an England side that somehow are number three in the world. Quite how the FIFA rankings works is a mystery, because England have not reached the last four of a major competition since 1996. At least it enables the team to receive a generous seeding for qualifying tournaments such as this.
England are in Group H, alongside Moldova, Poland, Montenegro, San Marino and Ukraine. This is one of the easiest groups and England will go along way to securing qualification for Brazil 2014 with a victory over Ukraine at Wembley on tomorrow.
Ukraine have only once qualified for a World Cup and that was in 2006, when they phenomenally went all the way to the quarter-finals, before losing to the eventual champions, Italy. Before this summer, that was actually their only appearance at any major championship, as their outing at Euro 2012, by virtue of being a co-host was their first European championship.
England played and beat Ukraine in the summer, in their final group game thanks to a scrappy Wayne Rooney goal. In that game England only needed a draw to guarantee their place in the quarter-finals, and they played accordingly, in what was a poor match.
Ukraine do have to their advantage that almost all of their squad are eight matches into their season. They should have pre-season and the summer well and truly out of their legs. This compared to the English players that have only played a maximum of three Premier League games after a long break.
Although Ukraine will realistically be fighting with Poland to finish second in the group and force their way into a play-off for the World Cup, this is the first time in over 17 years that they have had to cope without their inspirational skipper Andriy Shevchenko. Shevchenko, scored 48 goals for Ukraine and captained them on 56 occasions. His loss will be a great one for the team, and they will need Marko Devic, the Shakhtar Donetsk centre forward, to really attempt to fill his shoes.
For England, they are obviously without Wayne Rooney, but since Friday, Ashley Cole and John Terry have been ruled out through injury. Terry’s place in the starting line-up will either be taken by the returning Gary Cahill or Phil Jagielka. Cole’s position will be filled once again by Leighton Baines.
There are also concerns over Theo Walcott and Daniel Sturridge, who have both been ill over the weekend. As a result of that, Jake Livermore, Adam Lallana and 17-year-old Raheem Sterling of Liverpool have been called up. Neither of the three are likely to start, but a place on the bench is a personal boost.
England v Ukraine Betting Tips Conclusion
England last lost a competitive match at home in late 2007, to Croatia, and against a Shevchenko-less Ukraine side, they shouldn’t be tested too badly. England’s five-goal hit out against Moldova was the perfect warm-up for this game. Against their biggest rivals in Group H, Roy Hodgson’s side will no doubt raise their game. So we advise these bets: