(Originally posted October 15th 2013)
England secured qualification to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a convincing 2-0 win over Poland at Wembley. Hodgson made two changes to his side that beat Montenegro 4-1 on Friday with Smalling in for suspended Walker at Right Back and Carrick in for Lampard in the Heart of the Midfield.
The early stages in London were a tense and tight affair with fans having to wait 9 minutes for the first chance of the match and it was travelling Poland who created it. A break-away from an England corner found its way to danger man Robert Lewandowski who ran with the ball before hitting a timid shot at Joe Hart from 25 yards. England didn’t have to wait long for their first chance however with man of the moment Andros Townsend having a turn and shot from 25 yards that was parried by Polish ‘keeper for the night, Wojciech Szczęsny of Arsenal stepping in for usual Poland stopper Artur Boruc. The ball looked to be dropping to Welbeck, however a Polish defender put off the Manchester United striker and a Goal Kick was the outcome.
Already eliminated Poland had a Golden opportunity to dent England hopes when Mierzejewski played in Sobota who drilled a low shot into the side netting when he should’ve done better as the England marking was lacklustre, most notably from stand in Smalling.
Poland’s best chance came in the 22nd Minute when another counter attack from a Corner found its way to Lewandowski after another through ball from Mierzejewski was dummied and Lewandowski should score but he screws his shot wide.
England came closest in the first period when Andros Townsend had a decent curling effort from 20 yards out which smacked the bar leaving Szczęsny grasping at thin air in the Poland Goal. Sturridge managed to get to the rebound but by that stage Szczęsny had rediscovered his boundaries and parried the shot away from danger.
England really should’ve taken the lead on the 31 Minute mark when a Gerrard Corner found itself at the feet of a below par Welbeck who somehow fired way wide from about 4 yards. This led to two more chances, first, a Sturridge shot that sailed harmlessly wide from outside the Box and then a Rooney shot that was pushed out and away by Szczęsny.
England finally got their vital goal when Carrick fed the ball to Baines in acres of space on the Left who put in a Peach of a cross onto the head of Rooney who planted it right in the bottom corner out of Szczęsny’s reach from about 8 yards out. Relief in Wembley.
The half ended with a lacklustre Sturridge header from a Gerrard Corner when he really should’ve done better and a disallowed Poland goal for a narrow Offiside call, correct decision but that didn’t stop Polish appeals.
HT: England 1-0 Poland
The Second half was a largely drab affair with England more than happy to secure a one goal lead and the wind well out of Poland’s sails who had nothing but pride to play for, and they didn’t even salvage that on Tuesday night. Poland did create an early Second half chance though when just a Minute into the second 45, when a Mateusz Klich right footed shot from the centre of the box was blocked by Gary Cahill. Klich threatened again from the following Corner when he blazed over high and wide of Hart’s Goalmouth.
England came relatively close three minutes later when a chipped ball in by Rooney from the edge of the box was turned goalwards by a Sturridge sliding shot tackle, this was cleared over the bar by Jedrzejczyk however. The Corner led to a header from Gary Cahill that Szczęsny was yet again equal to and England were denied for an Umpteenth time by the Arsenal Number 1 whose performance was starting to resemble that of Tomaszewski in 1973.
England’s more ambitious chances in the half included a trademark Gerrard strike that didn’t quite go to plan, just going wide of the post on this occasion and a Townsend shot that was easily smothered. Poland managed to force one more effort on goal in the hour mark when Lewandowski, who claimed he only needed 1 chance to sink England pre match, failed to live up to his own hype when his attempted dink over Hart was easily foiled.
A tense closing period with England securing the points and a place in Brazil when substitute James Milner found Gerrard with a nice through ball which the England and Liverpool Skipper ran with before turning Krychowiak inside out and then chipping the Goalkeeper into the bottom right corner of the Goal.
England will be one of the 32 teams in Brazil next Summer, not as convincing in Qualifying as it looked on paper but Manager Roy Hodgson has a solid base and time on his side to prepare, 8 Months this time around, 7 more than he had ahead of Euro 2012.