It’s all coming down to crunch final match

Trevor Steven
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YOU can see what’s going to happen with England’s World Cup qualifying campaign from a mile off. Everything will go down to the last game, at home to Poland. Imagine the pressure that will build before that match, which will effectively be a cup final. It’s coming to the crunch.

England are in a very serious position because they failed to win games that were there for the taking. They drew at home to Ukraine and threw away leads in Poland and Montenegro. Roy Hodgson’s team should have at least five victories; they should be topping that group.

I was worried about the trip to Podgorica long before Tuesday because they have not looked a 90-minute team. They seem vulnerable in games and Montenegro are a good side. It was almost predictable that England would have a great spell and a dreadful one too.

They might not be a brilliant footballing team but they ought to be able to close down a game when they have a lead. It smacks of a team that wants to please and does not tally with a winning mentality. Playing like that when Montenegro and Poland visit in October won’t be enough for the wins they need.

Hodgson has to take some of the blame. I find him guilty of not having England ready for the inevitable onslaught in the second half. This was the time when they had to know what was coming, compose themselves and batten down the hatches for 20 minutes.

The manager should have made changes earlier too. There was experience on the bench in Frank Lampard, while Leon Osman is a mature Premier League player – far more so than Tom Cleverley – and could have helped control a game that ran away from them.

Currently England could be described as OK. They’re not great or exciting; they don’t inspire. Sometimes very good; other times very bad. Nobody fears them and they’re going round in circles.

It must be a worry for Hodgson. A team who are nothing special are about to experience huge pressure just to reach the tournament in Brazil. And with no competitive matches until September, they will be stewing for months.

Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played at two World Cups and two European Championships.