It was a case of job done for England in their latest World Cup qualifying double-header but they did little to silence their critics.
Roy Hodgson’s side went into the games against Moldova and Ukraine with the voices of former players and experts ringing in their ears. The whole England set-up has been criticised and the players deemed not good enough to make an impact next summer in Brazil.
England took a step towards qualification with four points from the two games. However, their style of play and ball retention just gave more ammunition to those who believe drastic changes are needed.
The Three Lions were two points behind Group H leaders Montenegro with a game in hand before the Moldova match. They ended the night on top on goal difference courtesy of a 4-0 victory and a 1-1 draw between Poland and Montenegro.
The result was never in doubt and England just tried to get through the game unscathed ahead of the crunch clash in Kiev. It was not to be as two-goal Danny Welbeck picked up his second booking of the campaign.
Welbeck’s suspension further highlighted England’s lack of options up front. Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge were already ruled out through injury, leaving Rickie Lambert and Jermain Defoe as the only striking options. It is a far cry from the 1990s, when prolific goalscorers like Robbie Fowler and Andy Cole struggled for games.
England predictably lacked a cutting edge in a goalless stalemate with Ukraine. However, they defended resolutely and showed plenty of spirit and effort in picking up a vital point.
England have a one-point advantage over the rest with just two home games against Montenegro and Poland to come. Qualification is in their hands but they cannot afford a slip-up.
To progress, Hodgson’s men will need to do what they have failed to do so far and beat one of their rivals.
Odds of 1/3 with BetVictor for England to win Group H indicate they should do it. However, they will need more than simply spirit and effort in Brazil to challenge the big boys.