Roy Hodgson was surprised to hear of criticism for his England side following a goalless draw in Kiev which keeps them on course for the World Cup Finals in Brazil.
The Three Lions faced arguably their most difficult match of qualifying Group H on Tuesday night, when they travelled to Ukraine to line-up against a side just a point below them in the standings. This task was made all the more difficult, as attacking duo Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge were absent due to injury, whilst Danny Welbeck was suspended.
With their final two matches at home to Montenegro and Poland, it was crucial that England avoided defeat to Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side. And a disciplined if unspectacular performance ensured they left the Olimpiyskiy Stadium on the back of a goalless draw, but this still drawn criticism from some quarters who felt Steven Gerrard and co could have picked up maximum points.
“Before the game, the feeling among a lot of people was that a draw would be a good result,” said Hodgson, who had handed Chelsea’s Frank Lampard a 100th cap. “I’m surprised to hear what I thought was a good performance and result might be being seen as an underwhelming performance.
“A draw maintains our place at the top of the group and makes sure that in our last two matches at home we have our fate in our own hands. It’s still very tight, but I’m more than happy that we go into those two games at Wembley at the top of our group and a point ahead of our two closest rivals. We have the chance to get those six points to make us clear automatic qualifiers.”
Although the odds are now stacked in England’s favour as they seek a place in Brazil, the worrying thing is that Hodgson’s side are yet to beat any team other than minnows Moldova and San Marino in their group. Winning the final two matches would make that particular statistic redundant, but even so, there is clearly a lot of hard work to focus on from now until next summer.