After victory over Montenegro on Friday, England can confirm their place at the 2014 World Cup by defeating Poland at Wembley on Tuesday (20:00 BST, live on ITV 1).
Friday’s win guaranteed England of at least a playoff place, taking the Group H leaders to 19 points, four more than current third place occupants Montenegro. With just one round of matches left to play, they cannot finish lower than second in the group.
The ideal result would, of course, be to qualify automatically by winning the group. With second-placed Ukraine facing an easy home fixture against San Marino, to do so England will have to beat Poland on Tuesday.
Roy Hodgson surprised many by picking Andros Townsend to start against Montenegro and was rewarded with an excellent performance from the Tottenham Hotspur winger. He created the first goal and then scored the third himself with a crisply struck effort from outside the area.
Townsend was one of four primarily attacking players selected by Hodgson in a bold attempt to break down what was always going to be a well-organised and stubborn Montenegrin defence. The away side held out until half time, but England’s greater quality told in the second half as they scored four times to run out 4-1 winners.
Wayne Rooney continued his impressive goal scoring run for the national team with his eighth goal in his last nine appearances, while his fellow striker Daniel Sturridge marked his first competitive start with a late strike from the penalty spot. Despite their goals, they did not link up as well as hoped and will need to dovetail better on Tuesday.
The victory saw England maintain their unbeaten record in the group, with five wins and four draws, and also continued their undefeated 2013, during which, likewise, they have won five and drawn four. Performances have frequently been far from scintillating, but Hodgson’s men have managed to get the job done more often than not.
Hodgson will be forced into at least one change from Friday, with right-back Kyle Walker suspended after picking up a yellow card in that match. With Glen Johnson injured, Phil Jones or Chris Smalling will deputise. Outside the starting 11, Raheem Sterling has come into the squad to replace the injured Tom Cleverley.
Poland’s hopes of reaching next year’s World Cup were ended by a tightly contested 1-0 defeat away to Ukraine on Friday. Needing a win to keep themselves in contention, they had the better of the first half, with Robert Lewandowski and Waldemar Sobota going close, but fared less well in the second, going down to a 64th minute strike from Andriy Yarmolenko.
It was a regrettable end to a campaign that had started promisingly, with a draw away to Montenegro, victory at home to Moldova and a home draw with England. It faltered thereafter, with a home defeat to Ukraine and draws away to Moldova and at home to Montenegro seeing them fall away from the leading pack.
Head coach Waldemar Fornalik took charge following Poland’s group stage elimination at Euro 2012, but has failed to produce results any better than those of his predecessor Franciszek Smuda. With his contract due to expire at the end of the year and regular rumours of unrest within the squad, a new man will lead Poland into the Euro 2016 qualifiers.
Despite their disappointing campaign, Poland do possess some quality, including Borussia Dortmund regulars Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski, and goalkeeper Artur Boruc, who has been in excellent form for Southampton in the Premier League this season, conceding just two goals in seven matches.
Fornalik has been unable to call on energetic Dortmund right-back Lukasz Piszczek, who will be out of action until February 2014 with a hip injury, but otherwise has a full strength squad to pick from for what will be his last match in charge of the national team.
England vs Poland Betting Tips Verdict
These two sides drew 1-1 when they met in Warsaw earlier in the qualifying campaign, with a 70th minute strike from Kamil Gilk cancelling out Rooney’s first half opener. That was the first time they had met since the qualifying process for the 2006 World Cup, during which England won both home and away.
England eventually displayed sufficient firepower to break down Montenegro on Friday and should have few problems repeating the trick against Poland. Their opponents carry a good offensive threat, but with no chance of qualifying are unlikely to show the same determination as Montenegro. With this in mind, England should be fairly comfortable victors.
- Back England -1.5 on an Asian Handicap @ 27/40 with Bet365.
- Rooney continued his scoring streak on Friday (as predicted in our preview) and is again the most likely of England’s forwards to get on the scoresheet on Tuesday. Back Wayne Rooney to score at anytime @ best odds of 5/4 with Bet365.