Montenegro vs. England: Biggest Remaining Questions from World Cup Qualifier
With the top spot in their World Cup qualifying group on the line, England travelled to Montenegro desperate to take full advantage of their chances.
And after netting in the opening 10 minutes through Wayne Rooney, it appeared the Three Lions were well on their way to victory and the top spot as a result, before Montenegro came roaring back in the second half and eventually drew level on 77 minutes.
The match would finish as a 1-1 draw, which is both a good and bad result in some regards for both teams here. However, the draw does preserve Montenegro's lead on top of Group H, with England holding down the second position, trailing the top spot by two points.
Much was learned from this World Cup qualifier about the players, the teams and what we can expect to see at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
However, there were still several big questions that went unanswered from this game. Read on to see what big questions still remain.
Is England's Squad Good Enough to Win the World Cup?
England manager Roy Hodgson has come under a stack of criticism for his poor management in the second half, which saw Ashley Young substituted one minute after the equalizing goal was scored.
And whilst we're going to leave that one alone for now, the biggest question that came out of it was the comments that Hodgson used to defend himself. Here's what the England manager said about the substitution decision (per BBC Sport):
There was no obvious change that would have made a vast difference to the match. If we had been complete in our lineup [i.e. had a full squad] we would have been even more successful [against Montenegro]...
Complete squad? How much more complete does it need to be?
England had the likes of Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverley, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Young and Michael Carrick on hand. They had Leighton Baines, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Frank Lampard on the bench, amongst a host of other players on the night.
Including Jack Wilshere, this is the team that England will likely be taking to the World Cup, but Hodgson doesn't feel that it's strong enough?
Is England's squad good enough, therefore, to win the World Cup? Are the players that exist in this team capable of triumphing over Spain, Germany or Italy, or will they succumb in their usual knockout game because they're not capable of taking that next step?
Big questions remain for the England team after this one.
What Are We to Make of Montenegro?
Frustratingly, we're still no closer to understanding Montenegro after this game, either, with the hosts showing two very different halves of football.
They were largely ineffective against the Three Lions in the opening 45 minutes but were much stronger in the second half. Their attack was more complete and their defense applied better pressure in the second 45 minutes, showing that they can be a genuine contender in the World Cup.
Or so we think, anyway.
After six qualifying games, Montenegro currently sit on top of Group H by two points. They've beaten Ukraine away from home (a tough fixture) but haven't yet got past Poland and England, despite having home-field advantage in both of those games.
It seems that their upcoming qualifiers later in the year when they play those two teams away from home will give us a better idea of where this team is at. Branko Brnovic is a tactical genius and knows how to get the best from his side—something that will be very interesting to watch throughout the rest of the qualifiers and, most likely, in the World Cup as well.
Who Will Emerge on Top of Group H?
The biggest storyline coming into this game was the impact it could have on Group H. A Montenegro win would send them five points clear of England; an England win would take them to the top of the group and would put the Brave Falcons in a difficult spot to qualify.
And yet, after all was said done, everything remained the same.
Montenegro preserved their lead on top of the group, England remained close behind and we all remained clueless as to who will win this group.
With only the group winner guaranteed an automatic qualification, the pressure will be on both England and Montenegro when they resume their qualifiers later in the year. The Three Lions probably have a slight advantage in terms of schedule, but it will definitely be a close battle.
Either England or Montenegro could win this group.
What are your biggest questions from England's 1-1 draw with Montenegro?
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