WEMBLEY, LONDON—Roy Hodgson expects England to complete the job against Poland on Tuesday, after a 4-1 victory over Montenegro on Friday put the Three Lions just one win away from qualifying for next summer’s World Cup.
Goals from Wayne Rooney, Andros Townsend and Daniel Sturridge—coupled with Branko Boskovic’s own goal—ensured England grabbed the three points they needed at Wembley, although anything less than a win against Poland is likely to see them forced into a two-legged play-off for the right to play in Brazil.
“The job is half-done,” Hodgson said in his post-match press conference. “If we want to qualify direct [for the World Cup] we have to win against Poland on Tuesday night. That won’t be easy. That will be very tough.
“I always back the players. I trust the players. Nine games now we're still unbeaten in this group. I think we’re quite capable of going unbeaten through the 10th.”
Hodgson paid tribute to Townsend, who was man of the match on his international debut after firing in the all-important third goal.
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That was important because it restored our two-goal margin.
They had wind in their sails. Andros’ goal took the wind out of their sails.
He made a big impact. It can’t be easy making his debut in a game of that nature, but he deserves all the credit which I am sure he will get because he played well.
He played with a calmness and a composure that I’ve seen him play with at Queens Park Rangers and more recently Tottenham, and I’m fortunate he was able to reproduce that tonight.
The head coach was willing to admit that opting to play Townsend had not been an easy decision, with James Milner, Jack Wilshere and Michael Carrick among the players he considered playing instead.
6 - Wayne Rooney has netted six goals in his last five World Cup qualifiers. Update.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 11, 2013
He also reiterated his faith in Joe Hart, who put in a competent performance without being able to do anything about Dejan Damjanovic’s close-range strike for the visitors.
“I believe he deserves to be our No. 1,” Hodgson said of Hart. “I picked him to play, and his performance tonight will give him confidence. He made one or two quite good saves.”
Montenegro’s own World Cup ambitions were ended by the defeat, with Hodgson’s opposite number, Branko Brnovic, admitting that the result was disappointing but not undeserved.
“Maybe 4-1, the final result, is too harsh,” Brnovic noted. “After 2-0 we were not out our best, but we were fortunate to get the goal.
“Of course I am disappointed, I am sad about the result. But this a huge result for our young team. England was the better team today, I cannot say anything more.”
On England’s chances of beating Poland—whose own qualification hopes were also ended after losing to Ukraine—Brnovic added: “England definitely have a very good, a great team.
“I don’t know if the Polish team will be motivated for the England match, and I think they will win the group.”
England currently sit one point above Ukraine in Group H, but the Eastern European nation face San Marino, who have yet to accrue a single point, in their final group game.
England need to match Ukraine’s result in order to qualify automatically for the World Cup. Anything less and they will be consigned to the play-offs.