Oct 18 2012
Roy Hodgson has no intention of ripping up his World Cup blueprint even though his England team will head into international hibernation with work to do in the bid to reach Brazil.
The draw in Poland on Wednesday might have allowed England to keep their place at the head of Group H. However, by the time November's internationals are over, the Three Lions will have been shoved into second spot, with Montenegro almost certain to sweep aside San Marino while England play Sweden in a friendly.
"We know there is work to be done," he said. "I'm not prepared now, because we didn't do quite so well against Poland, to suddenly start saying 'we need radical improvements'."
He went on: "We need to keep working on our game and make sure we don't lose some of these quite important qualities which saw us get out of the group in the Euros without playing brilliantly well and which have seen us take a good point against a strong-ish Polish side."
As England's next game is also against San Marino, when Montenegro are in action against Moldova, the next true test comes in Podgorica on March 26.
Win and England are back in charge of their own destiny. Draw - which they did twice with Montenegro in the Euro 2012 qualification campaign - and nothing much changes. Lose and it starts to look very difficult to claim an automatic place in Brazil.
Jack Wilshere, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones should all be back to provide competition by then.
The former is the more eye-catching, the latter two arguably required to a greater degree in this John Terry-less era.
"It is going to be a tight group," said Hodgson. "The fact is we know all matches in this group are going to be tough ones. Montenegro have already shown that because they weren't being touted as favourites beforehand.
"Ideally we would be sitting here with 12 points but under the circumstances, eight is probably a fair reflection of what we have been able to do so far."