The recent draw in Poland will be reflected upon as a point gained rather than two lost, but England will need to improve post-Christmas if they are to avoid the ignominy of missing out on the 2014 World Cup (check out the latest odds from around the continent, including the Italian betting quote).
Roy Hodgson’s side have begun Group H with two comfortable victories and two unconvincing draws. An eight-point haul is a reasonable start to qualifying, but has left the England boss with more questions than answers.
The experienced coach was in philosophical mood following the 1-1 stalemate in Warsaw on October 17, a game which was postponed 24 hours because of a waterlogged pitch.
“Sometimes there are days when things don’t always go your way and it is important when they happen to come away with a result you can regard as a positive one,” the England manager said.
“A point in Poland is not to be looked down on and it will not be easy for any of our rivals coming here.”
England were well below-par and were lucky to escape with a point, despite taking the lead through Wayne Rooney’s first-half header.
Hodgson was keen to stress England suffered from the delay more than their hosts, with the sodden pitch another reason behind his team’s lacklustre display.
It would be fair to give a manager in the infancy of his reign the benefit of the doubt. It was certainly an unusual series of events.
Hodgson has not been afraid to blood youngsters and make difficult decisions – Rio Ferdinand’s omission from England’s Euro 2012 party is a case in point.
Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have already proved they have what it takes to perform at the highest level, while the likes of Raheem Sterling and Ryan Bertrand have gained invaluable experience.
Hodgson has made an encouraging start to life as England boss, with the tools at his disposal. The national team is entering a period of transition and Hodgson is approaching it in the right way. However, finishing anywhere but top of Group H would be viewed as a failure.
Barring a minor miracle in Podgorica on November 14, Montenegro will beat San Marino and assume pole position heading into the New Year, leaving England playing catch up.
Hodgson’s men will resume action with a double header on the road against San Marino and Montenegro in March. The latter fixture will be pivotal to England’s hopes of reaching Brazil.