FIFA’s Dubious World Ranking: 3
World Cup Appearances: 13
Last appearance: 2010
Best performance: Winners (1966 – 46 years of hurt and Skinner and Baddiel songs)
Moldova v England
Friday, 7.45pm Chişinău, ITV1
England fell into the barrel of World Cup qualification teams and came out sucking the juicy big nipple of good fortune, but it’s a campaign that will build up the air-miles. First up, it’s the trip to Moldova and that’s not as bad as our preconceptions of post-soviet nations might suggest.
There was a time when Moldova were considered a stereotypically tricky Eastern European banana skin, but that’s not now. Having once been as high as 37th in the world, they’re down to 141st which makes them worse than Grenada – a nation with a population comparable with Exeter. The last time they scored a goal against a team that wasn’t San Marino was seven games and almost exactly a year ago. The good news is it’s not as if they’ve got a water-tight defence to make up for all their missing water from a boat.
England’s Euro 2012 campaign finished in familiar penalty shoot-out disappointment, but it was a kind of acceptable disappointment and not the ‘let’s string up the foreign manager with one of his fashionable skinny ties’ furious disappointment often experienced in the last decade or so. Roy Hodgson had a free pass for that one, but that patience will evaporate the moment his team struggle to beat a team that the media have decided should be easily beaten, regardless of that team’s actual ability.
It should be a straight-forward win for England, but the addition of some fresher faces to the more experienced makes it slightly less certain. That’s not to say these fresher faces are bad players, just they’re less accustomed to performing in front of angry foreigners. If there are some jitters from the team, it could well be a tough evening that ends up in a narrow win. But if everyone is on form, it’s likely to be a more comfortable evening that ends up in a narrow win.
The ‘I don’t like giving predictions’ prediction: England 1-0 at 9/2
Odds of needing to book a flight to Brazil: 1/10
Você pode também embalar o livro de frases agora, te foi dado um grupo fácil
That’s Portuguese for ‘you may as well start packing the phrase book now, you’ve been handed an easy group’