10th September 2012
England got off to a flying start of their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, recording a 5-0 win over Moldova, but the Three Lions could be in for a much tougher task at home to Ukraine. The former Soviet republic have shown a great deal of potential at the Euro 2012 and they now aim to get revenge on England for the 1-0 defeat at the tournament finals.
Even if many people were skeptical when Roy Hodgson was appointed England manager, there is no denying that the former Liverpool boss has done really well at the start of his career in the national team. The Three Lions looked really respectable at the European Championship and achieved their main objective by reaching the quarter-finals, while they have now continued in the same manner. In all fairness, the 5-0 win over Moldova cannot be considered as such a major achievement, but it will certainly serve as a major confidence boost at the start of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. Five clean sheets in eight games under Roy Hodgson clearly show that the new manager has really sorted out the back line, but Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll are going to be sorely missed against rock-solid Ukraine. With Theo Walcott definitely out and Daniel Sturridge doubtful, Jermain Defoe and Danny Welbeck are the only real forwards in the squad, so it appears that the hosts will again need goals from midfield if they are going to win this game. John Terry was also ruled out, with Gary Cahill likely to start in his place.
Ukraine had more than enough time to prepare for the Euro 2012, the tournament they co-hosted together with Poland, and despite showing some potential at the tournament finals, Oleg Blokhin’s side lacked the extra edge to capitalize on the good performances. Given that veteran Andriy Shevchenko, who later retired from international football, was their only scorer at the tournament, nobody was surprised to see Ukraine play out a goalless draw with Czech Republic in their final warm-up game for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Oleg Blokhin’s side have now failed to score in four of their last five games, meaning they will probably need to keep a clean sheet in order to get something from this game. With Andriy Voronin also retired from international football, Marko Devic and Roman Zozulya are expected to form an attacking partnership, but the problem is the two strikers has just three international goals between them.
England are still struggling in their build-up play, especially against defence-minded sides such as Ukraine, so there is every chance we will see a low-scoring game at Wembley. Neither side will be prepared to risk too much in such an important clash, which is why under 2.5 goals looks a good bet here.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 19/20
Bookmaker: Stan James