The fallout from England’s 0-0 draw with Ukraine in Kiev last night has brought many responses from fans, the media and those within the England set-up.
On the face of it, the result isn’t particularly a bad one, England still remain top of their group with two games to play – you wouldn’t that is a bad position to be in.
Yet only a point clear of Ukraine and Montenegro with two tricky games remaining is not a position England should be in, especially given they are the highest ranked team in the FIFA rankings. Ok, we know they can be a bit misleading at the best of times but the point still stands.
England are 14 places ahead of Ukraine in those rankings, yet for some reason playing for a draw in Kiev seems to be a great result. This portrayal of the Ukrainians as some kind of formidable force, with all due respect, is nonsense.
This is a group where really England should be a lot more comfortable than they are right now, but negative tactics, failure to keep hold of possession has thwarted what should have been a comprehensive qualification campaign.
Poland are only two points behind, yet are ranked 72nd. A ‘shock’ Poland win in October and a team ranked 48 places below them could finish ahead of England in the qualification campaign. The prospect of that is frankly, embarrassing.
When addressing journalists after the game he dubbed as a 'cup final' Hodgson said: “The feeling was, certainly amongst you people, that a draw would’ve been a good result.
“I thought we were always in control and could even have won it at the end.”
This phrase ‘always in control’ would include England’s lucky escape as early in the second minute when Joe Hart brought down Roman Zozulya only for the referee to award a corner and not a penalty. This would also include England’s inability to keep hold of possession for long periods of the match, in a game which frankly was crying out for Michael Carrick.
Though statistically, England had more shots than Ukraine and a little less possession. A bit more positive intent and England may be resting a little easier, but that could be said from the games in Montenegro and Poland as well.
Before the game, Hodgson compared the situation against Ukraine as similar to the one that faced England in Italy in the qualification for France 98. England got a 0-0 draw, but they got it against a side that is expected to qualify for major finals all of the time, and has a tremendous pedigree in both the World Cup and the European Championships.
Should England be in such a nervy situation going into the closing stages of this campaign? No, this group could have, and perhaps should have been sewn up over the course of these two matches, rather than trying to position themselves in the group.
image: © nicksarebi