What: 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Group H
Who: England vs Ukraine
When: Tuesday 11th September, 2012, at 20:00 UK time
Where: Wembley Stadium, London, England
Start of Something New
England started their road to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in the best possible way, easing to victory against Moldova. However, anything other than three points would have been a disappointment given the nature of the opposition and Ukraine will present a much tougher test for Roy Hodgson’s men.
Without Wayne Rooney, England counted on Jermain Defoe to lead the line and the Tottenham Hotspur striker scored a moral-boosting goal against Moldova. Behind him was an advanced midfield which included Tom Cleverley. The Manchester United man was particularly impressive and earned praise from Hodgson post-match. With Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the middle of the pitch though, England still have a familiar feel, though they may need the pace of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and his Arsenal team-mate Theo Walcott on the flanks to stretch a deep-defending Ukraine.
Of course, at Euro 2012, England beat Ukraine, but the scoreline was just 1-0 and a Rooney goal was needed. That game serves to underline the challenge facing England here, with Ukraine the team tipped to cause the Three Lions the most trouble in Group H.
The match at Wembley represents Ukraine’s opening game of their 2014 World Cup qualification bid and so avoiding defeat at Wembley will be coach Oleh Blohin’s primary concern. And the 59-year-old will take heart from the way his side competed with England at Euro 2012, only losing by a slender margin and proving well able to live with Hodgson’s team. However, now the post-Andriy Shevchenko era has begun and all but two of Ukraine’s squad to play England play their football outside Ukraine.
Blohin’s side have played just one match since Euro 2012, a friendly against the Czech Republic, which resulted in a 0-0 draw. The Ukrainian would take the same result again at Wembley with relish, as he will be confident that in Kyiv next summer, his team can cause England problems. It is a view backed up by forward Marko Devic, who believes that even without Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole, England can be dangerous and a point would represent a good showing.
"There is no Rooney, but the coach will replace this player – it is not difficult. The English have a lot of players who are strong at tournaments and are in good shape, so they may not feel the loss of Rooney", said Devic. "I think if we draw at Wembley, there will be no reason for us to have any regrets."
England 0-0 Italy [2-4 pens] (24/06; Euro 2012)
England 2-1 Italy (15/08; Friendly)
Moldova 0-5 England (07/09; World Cup Qualifying)
Ukraine 0-2 France (15/06; Euro 2012)
Ukraine 0-1 England (19/06; Euro 2012)
Ukraine 0-0 Czech Republic (15/08; Friendly)
Players to watch
England – Tom Cleverley: The Manchester United midfielder slotted into the international scene with ease against Moldova and looked dangerous throughout. Able to get forward, Cleverley could cause the Ukrainians real damage with late runs and his lively, determined play.
Ukraine – Marko Devic: Ukraine may struggle to keep England out for the full 90 minutes, particularly at Wembley, and so Devic could have to supply a cutting edge to his side’s attack. With just two goals in 25 internationals so far, the Shakhtar Donestk forward needs to improve his goal threat if Ukraine are to reach Brazil.
England warmed up nicely for this match by hitting five past Moldova, ensuring that confidence will be sky high for the visit of Ukraine. However, if Blohin’s men can keep things tight and reach the 60 minute mark all square, England may begin to become frustrated and Ukraine will look to grab a goal on the counter attack. Unfortunately for Ukraine, their defence will have a tough time keeping the Three Lions at bay. England 3-0 Ukraine.
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