World Cup qualification: what can England get away with?
Why Ukraine v Poland tonight could be almost as important as England’s game against Montenegro
ENGLAND enter the home straight in the race for World Cup qualification tonight, with manager Roy Hodgson promising that his much-maligned team "will deliver" when it matters against Montenegro, and then Poland on Tuesday next week.
England are top of Group H, but there are four nations in with a chance of qualification and England face two of them in their final games. Both matches are at Wembley, which theoretically tips the balance in England's favour, but it will still be nerve-wracking.
Tonight's game is against third-placed Montenegro, while Tuesday's showdown is with Poland, who lie in fourth place in the group, but are only three points off the top.
If England win both games they will be on the plane to Rio. If not then other results will come into play. Here's how things could unfold:
Scenario 1 - England win both games. The Three Lions are home and hosed. Simple.
Scenario 2 - Beat Montenegro, draw against Poland. What happens here will depend on the result of tonight's game between Ukraine (in second) and Poland (in fourth). If Poland win that game or it ends in a draw, then all England would need to do is avoid defeat at Wembley to top the group.
But if Ukraine beat Poland tonight then everything changes. Ukraine would go into the final match one point behind England so a draw against Poland at Wembley would no longer be enough for Hodgson's team, who would finish in second. This is because Ukraine's final game is against San Marino, and they will win it.
Scenario 3 - Draw with Montenegro, beat Poland. Again the result of Ukraine v Poland holds the key. In this scenario, once again, only Ukraine can finish above England, and only if they beat Poland. But if Ukraine win tonight and England draw the Eastern European side would go into the final game top of the group and England would be doomed to finish second.
Scenario 4 - Beat Montenegro, lose to Poland It would still be possible to top the group if this happened but, once again, it would all hinge on Poland v Ukraine tonight. If Poland beat Ukraine and then England and don't score too many goals in the process then England (with 19 points) would finish above the Poles on goal difference. If not then it’s second place for Hodgson.
Scenario 5 - Lose to Montengro, beat Poland The only way England could win the group if they lose tonight would be if Montenegro followed up their triumph at Wembley by dropping points to lowly Moldova on Tuesday and, of course, Ukraine slip up badly. That's an unlikely scenario and, to make matters worse, two wins for Ukraine would leave England in third and out of contention for a place in the play-offs.
Scenario 6 - Two draws England could still scrape second place and a shot at the play-offs, but only on goal difference, and provided Poland beat Ukraine.
Scenario 7 - Two defeats Pick another team to support next summer. ·