Qualification still in England’s hands despite Podgorica slip

Whilst disappointing, England’s draw in Montenegro could yet prove vital.

As is often the case in football, the devil can be in the detail. In this instance, for example, there would have been more than a few England fans who would have taken a point in Podgorica had it been offered on the morning of the game; although this would have maintained the two point lead Branko Brnovic’s side currently boast in Group H, it would still ensure that ultimately, qualification for the World Cup Finals is in the hands of Roy Hodgson’s side.

A defeat would have been a huge blow, as it would have put Montenegro five points clear. And unlike England, they play in June, so this lead could have been stretched to eight by the time Wayne Rooney and co take on Moldova in September. So a draw is at least keeps them within striking distance, and as they still have to travel to Wembley for what will almost certainly be the deciding match, the celebrations amongst the home fans on Tuesday could yet return to haunt them.

But – the devil is in the detail.

At half-time it looked as though there would only be one winner. Rooney scored after just six minutes, which was shortly after he struck a post, and the visitors had largely controlled the opening 45 minutes. It was a different story after the break, though, as Montenegro suddenly found their rhythm, and when they eventually equalised with 15 left on the clock, it looked as though if anyone was to grab a winner, it would be them.

Due to the dominance of England in the first half, it seems as though two points have been dropped. A mini inquest has been held in the tabloids, on radio phone-in shows, and on various internet message boards, most of which asks the question of why Hodgson didn’t make better use of his substitutes. Only Ashley Young left the bench, to replace his Manchester United mate Tom Cleverley, whilst Frank Lampard and Scott Parker, who could have been brought on as soon as the midfield battle swung in the way of the Montenegrins, were unused.

But despite the late leveller, there is still enough reason to believe England can qualify for Brazil without the need of a playoff. Three of the last four matches are at home, even though the one away game could be a potential banana skin in Ukraine.

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