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Job done in Ukraine for Roy Hodgson but England's campaign is far from over

12th September 2013

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England's performance on Tuesday night highlighted many technical shortcomings, but, by securing a point, they now sit at the top of Group H with their attempts to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil firmly in their hands.

Manager Roy Hodgson will be delighted with the result, knowing now that victory in their final two Wembley qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland in October will guarantee that England automatic qualification.

What may worry England supporters are the failings in midfield which was tremendously poor, lacking both pace and composure. Frustratingly England, comprised of both the experienced Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, alongside the talented Jack Wilshere, managed to continuously give the ball away to their opponents. The three were shadows compared to the players who represent their clubs in the Premier League.

As England continued to struggle with the pressure heaped upon them by a tenacious Ukraine midfield, Michael Carrick surprisingly remained sat on the bench. England’s one real accomplished holding midfielder looking on as the team anxiously held on.

Wilshere, unusually asked to play as England’s No 10, was especially disappointing. The Arsenal man was targeted all night by reckless tackles, predominantly from Oleg Gusev and occasionally Taras Stepanenko, which seemed to nullify Wilshere’s attacking threat and also reveal that perhaps he is still not fully match fit.

However, England can draw positives from Kiev. Their draw was secured due to a solid defensive performance exemplified by Chelsea defender Gary Cahill. England in the early stages of both halves were under prolonged pressure and it was Cahill who blocked shots, headed balls clear and was disciplined enough to position himself well throughout the game, particularly when he intervened exceptionally to cut out a ball destined for Roman Zozulya after some creative build up play from Yevhen Konoplianka.

Hodgson will ignore the criticism that followed on social media led by individuals such as former England international Gary Lineker. He will see his England team on top of Group H. It was job done in Kiev and they will now focus on their future games against Montenegro and Poland in which their attacking edge should be, for all Rickie Lamberts efforts, far sharper than it was on Tuesday night. Wayne Rooney should be available following the severe cut on his forehead. Daniel Sturridge should be fit after his thigh problem and Danny Welbeck free from suspension. Hodgson will feel his side really need these additions to look more composed in possession and, certainly, to be more adventurous.

A small worry will be that England have drawn with both sides they now face during this campaign and that they cannot afford to drop any more points. Ukraine, considered their main rivals for qualification, have an easier run in with Poland at home and then San Marino, notorious ‘whipping boys’ of Group H, away. It is vital to England hopes that their performances will have to drastically improve in order to secure automatic qualification for the tournament next year.

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