Hodgson will again look to Townsend to fire England to Brazil
With a convincing 4-1 win over Montenegro on Friday, England not only ensured that World Cup qualification remains firmly in their hands, but the impressive performance also allowed Roy Hodgson to get one up on his numerous critics who insist that his default setting is safety-first.
Despite overseeing a qualifying campaign that will see England through to Brazil with a win over Poland on Tuesday, Hodgson has been forced to deal with a fair amount of criticism regarding his perceived conservative managerial approach.
But in naming such an offensive-looking line-up on Friday, Hodgson threw caution to the wind and the bold selection eventually paid dividend, with Wayne Rooney’s 49th minute opener calming nerves before Andros Townsend, a Branko Boskovic own goal and a Daniel Sturridge penalty saw England finish with a flourish.
The surprise selection of Townsend was symbolic of Hodgson’s new mindset, and his performance duly rewarded his manager’s faith, creating the first, scoring the second and looking lively throughout before the debutant was substituted with ten minutes to go.
With James Milner, Jack Wilshere and indeed Michael Carrick all possible options, few would have predicted that the England boss would select Townsend in a side that already boasted attacking talent in the shape of Rooney, Sturridge and Danny Welbeck.
And given the importance of Tuesday’s visit of Poland, with Ukraine playing in San Marino meaning that England know that only a win will do to secure automatic qualification, Wilshere and co. will still fancy their chances of a recall should Hodgson revert to type and opt for a bit more solidity in the midfield.
But with Ashley Cole missing, question marks still hanging over keeper Joe Hart’s form and Kyle Walker suspended, Hodgson’s attack-first approach might also be down to some slight misgivings about his side’s ability to keep a clean sheet. England have kept only three blanks in their last ten games, with two of those coming against San Marino and Moldova.
With Poland not able to qualify and captain Jakub Blaszczykowski insisting that his team were coming to Wembley to give it a real go and striker Robert Lewandowski promising Polish fans “some fun”, England will fancy their chances of really getting at an uninhibited visiting side, while also being open and undaunted at the likelihood of conceding a goal or two in the process.
A brimming Townsend should be rewarded with a second start, and with the 22-year-old never shot-shy, he looks a good shout to add to his international goal tally at 8/1 to score first. Elsewhere, Frank Lampard at 7/1 is always a tempting pick given that he’s on penalties, while in-form Daniel Sturridge is 6/5 to score at any time.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.