It came as a surprise to many when the ever-cautious England boss Roy Hodgson threw Andros Townsend in at the deep end for his international debut on Friday evening. However, as gambles go, this was a very good one.
Hodgson’s Friday night flutter appears to have injected real impetus into the England ranks.
It has galvanised the team ahead of the most important England international of the qualifying campaign against Poland on Tuesday.
Townsend’s incisive attacking play was refreshing viewing for England fans, with the enormity of a potential banana skin fixture not fazing the Spurs winger.
Hodgson has come in for some criticism in previous games, accused of a defensive line up with a ‘don’t loose’ mentality rather than a winning one. But reserved Roy came out of his shell on Friday and picked a winning team and must get credit for that. His surprise trump card Andros Townsend bagging him a goal and an assist in a remarkably impressive debut performance.
Many in the footballing world were expecting Roy Hodgson to start Fridays clash against Montenegro with James Milner, always seen as the ‘safe’ option amongst the England midfield ranks. But Townsend’s man of the match performance more than justified his selection and has all but guaranteed his place for Tuesday’s crunch match with Poland.
Despite the convincing nature of the 4-1 victory over Montenegro, England cannot get carried away as the task is only half complete. England face Poland at Wembley tomorrow evening in the most important fixture of the qualifying campaign.
The Poles have a history of upsetting England at the final hurdle; they held England to a 1-1 draw in 1973, costing England a place at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.
Poland not only went on to qualify for the World Cup in 1974, they finished 3rd beating Brazil 1-0 in the third place play-off.
Although Poland cannot qualify for Brazil 2014, in Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski they boast some of the top talents in European football.
For all of Poland’s talent, they have nothing to play for.
However with 18,000 Polish fans expected at Wembley tomorrow they are likely to
rise to the challenge and certainly won’t roll over for Hodgson’s England.
It is win or bust for Hodgson’s men, a win guaranteeing their World Cup place in Brazil. Ukraine face the formality of a San Marino side with a minus 45 goal difference, so anything less than all three points will surely spell disaster for England.
The consequences of anything other than victory tomorrow night simply don’t bear thinking about.
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