England Set Up World Cup Showdown After Montenegro Win
England overcame a stubborn Montenegro side on Friday to maintain their place on top of Group H of European World Cup qualifying after a 4-1 victory.
It took time for Roy Hodgson's team to break down a defensive-minded opponent, but the Three Lions now have their fate in their own hands—a win over Poland at Wembley in their last fixture will book a place at the World Cup in Brazil next summer.
Hodgson's team selection was a bold and brave one—and optimistic to see. It is clear that England have superior players compared to a depleted Montenegro and to field the attacking talent that he did, Hodgson showed the intent to go out and win the game.
The presence of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck was positive, and if these three can strike up an understanding, they have the ability to be a talented attacking trident.
However, it was Andros Townsend's selection on the right wing - ahead of James Milner that was the most bold choice, playing a key role in deciding the game in the home side's favour. Townsend wasn't picked on statistics - according to Sky Bet, Jonjo Shelvey, Ådam Lallana and Ross Barkley all are in better form - but for his fearlessness and direct approach, which helped England create more chances and ultimately win the game.
The inexperienced Tottenham winger was comfortable with his club team-mate at right-back beside him in the form of Kyle Walker and showed enthusiasm and direct play to take Montenegro on. He played a substantial role in some of England's goals, scoring the third himself, and should now be an automatic selection for the clash against the Poles.
Joe Hart also sent a message to his critics with a competent performance in a game that he was never going to be called into action for long periods of time. A top-drawer save with the game on a knife's edge showed that he still holds an important berth in the England side.
England must now go out and beat Poland on Tuesday to book their place in Brazil, but will have one eye on second-placed Ukraine's game against San Marino. With Ukraine likely to be too strong for the group's bottom side, England will need the three points at Wembley to avoid having to go through the stress of the play-offs.
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