Oct 18 2012
Roy Hodgson is not concerned about his England team finding themselves in a World Cup qualification dogfight.
Wednesday night's draw in Poland means the Three Lions will lose their narrow advantage in Group H should Montenegro, as expected, win their game in hand against San Marino in November. Having already dropped two points against Ukraine at Wembley last month, few now believe England will be able to simply cruise towards the finals in Brazil in 2014.
However, Hodgson is confident his players have the character to meet such challenges - and may even be better for it. "If it's a dogfight, it's a dogfight. There's nothing wrong with that," he said. "The good thing is we know we can stay and take part in a dogfight."
Should they lose to Montenegro on March 26 in their only meaningful qualifier before next autumn, there will be a huge question mark over England's presence in South America.
But Hodgson added: "We took part in a few dogfights during the Euros and we certainly dug in against Poland and showed the right sort of character and determination. And if sometimes you've got to fight your way for something, rather than just sail through, that can help."
Cohesion must be an issue when you have used 34 players in the space of five months, 25 of them more than once. "It is a lot," said Hodgson. "But it wouldn't be a fair criticism to say we've chopped and changed around.
"It's more a case of looking at several players to see if they can start to worry some of those who are up in 80 or 90 caps. And I think we are quite close to bedding a team down."
Meanwhile, impending returns from injury for Jack Wilshere, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are awaited with anticipation. On top form, all three would be very useful additions. As it presently stands though, their ability has to be taken on trust and in Wilshere's case in particular, after 16 months out, he has to prove himself all over again.
There is time though, before that trip to Podgorica, where England lost a two-goal lead and Wayne Rooney lost his head 12 months ago, and Hodgson needs to use it wisely.
Hodgson said: "It would have been lovely to have got off to a flyer and be sitting here with 12 points. But you don't get what you want by asking for it. You get what you want by playing for it."