Assured England will avoid repeat of 1973 Wembley World Cup choke
When England line up against Poland on Tuesday needing a win to secure their place at the World Cup in Brazil, it’ll be almost forty years to the day that a near identical scenario was in play at Wembley.
But unlike back then, Poland this time have no chance of qualifying at the expense of England, nor are any pundits likely to be as cavalier as Brian Clough in describing the opposition goalkeeper as “a clown”. Particularly as it will be Southampton’s in-form stopper Artur Boruc in net for the visitors.
On October 17th 1973, the Poles denied England’s passage to Germany with a 1-1 draw at Wembley, following an inevitable man-of-the-match performance from the man Clough had prematurely dismissed, Jan Tomaszewski.
Although no English player taking the field on Tuesday was born to witness it, expect plenty of haunting comparisons to that fateful night to be made before kick-off.
And with Ukraine playing a gimme against San Marino, England know that it’ll be three points or bust against the handy Polish side, with the scenario of a World Cup play-off a lottery that all fans and players will wish to avoid.
It’ll no doubt be a nervy affair, with most players more likely to remember the events of 2007 than 1973, when England lost to Croatia in a result that cost the home side a place at Euro 2008, not to mention manager Steve McClaren’s job.
But having won 10 of their 18 meetings with Poland and lost just once, England of course go into the game firm favourites at 2/9, particularly after such a convincing 4-1 victory over a tricky Montenegran side on Friday evening.
Andros Townsend rewarded his manager’s bold decision to start the 22-year-old winger with a goal and an assist, and the Spurs man will surely have done enough to ensure he starts again on Tuesday.
He provided the necessary thrust after a nervy opening half, setting up Wayne Rooney for the 49th minute opener before calming the nerves once again with a well-struck third in the 77th minute after the visitors had pulled one back to make it 2-1.
After their loss to Ukraine, Poland have nothing to play for bar the possibility of ruining England’s party. But given that Croatia had already been assured of qualification in 2007, Wembley is already witness to this being more than enough inspiration for visiting teams, with the draw available at 9/2, while Poland can be backed at 10/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.