By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
England v Ukraine
Wembley – Tuesday 8pm ITV1
There will be eight competitive games and more than a year to go in the World Cup qualifying campaign by the time England finish their game with Ukraine. Countless clichés tell us that’s a long time in football, but if Roy Hodgson’s team can record a second win in five days, they’ll already be a spike in Lonely Planet Guide to Brazil sales.
England were excellent on Friday night in Moldova. What was a tricky game with the potential to puncture the gradually building optimism was handled with ease and authority. The capacity to shoot themselves in the foot seems to be diminishing and the future is looking bright.
Ukraine are a level or two above Moldova, but with home advantage the hosts should still have too much for them. The only nagging doubt is the vague benefit England get from playing at Wembley. The days of the boo-boys and love-hate relationship with the home support are over, but England have been sloppy on their own patch every now and then. The only major blips of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign came when Fabio Capello’s men were held at home to Montenegro and then Switzerland. Hogdson’s version of England appear to be better equipped to unlock well-organised defences so – like players staying on their feet after minimal contact – maybe that’s a thing of the past.
The retirement of Andriy Shevchenko is the major change for Ukraine since they hosted England at Euro 2012. The nation’s record goalscorer is swapping boots for ballots as he looks to get elected to the Ukrainian parliament and it leaves the squad low on star names and attacking threat. Even before his retirement, Ukraine finding the back of the net was already more difficult than finding an honest politician. Through a combination of some poor referee’s assistanting and a lack of creativity, they haven’t scored in three games and have only managed two in their last five. You can make the case that they were unlucky against England in Donetsk, but with home advantage and the buzz of hosting the European Championships, they should have achieved more than a hard luck story.
England have every right to expect another victory and at odds of 2/5 anything else would be a big shock. They won’t have it as easy as they did on Friday night, but they’re the better team.
The ‘I don’t like making predictions’ prediction: England to win to nil at 11/10