England vs. Ukraine: Draw Shows Resilience from English National Team
While scoreless draws are not always the most exciting things in the world, England's draw against Ukraine was exactly what they needed.
The squad entered Tuesday's match one point up on Ukraine and tied with Montenegro in Group H of UEFA World Cup qualifying. A loss would have given their opponent a two-point advantage with only two matches remaining.
Playing on the road against a quality opponent, a loss would not have been surprising. Ukraine had won their last two matches at home, and England's last road match ended in a disappointing draw against Montenegro.
At the start of the match, a Ukraine victory appeared to be an almost certainty, as the home squad dominated action for the first half. Yevhen Konoplyanka created a number of excellent opportunities both for himself and others.
Between this strong attack and a few of Joe Hart's questionable decisions in net, it seemed to be a miracle that no goals were scored on that end.
Still, the group stood together and did what it took to come away with a single point.
In a tough atmosphere against an aggressive opponent, the defense was outstanding to avoid mistakes and help get a second clean sheet in four days. Centre-backs Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka were especially impressive to keep the opposing squad out of the middle.
Cahill discussed what the performance meant going forward:
All of a sudden, England now control their own destiny for the remainder of qualifying. Although Montenegro and Poland can be tough battles, both matches will take place at Wembley, where the squad has seen a lot more success over the years.
Who will win Group H?
The team has not suffered a loss there since early 2012 in a friendly against Netherlands.
Still, the squad proved in this match that it has the mentality necessary to advance. In a bad situation, England were resilient in making sure they did not suffer what would have been a devastating loss.
Considering Ukraine still have a match against San Marino, falling behind them might have been impossible from which to recover.
Now, the squad must take that mental toughness and turn it into wins against quality opponents. There is plenty of experience between Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and others, but they simply need to find more success on the pitch.
Based on what we have already seen, that should not be an issue as England lock up a bid to the 2014 World Cup.
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