England’s qualification campaign for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil gets underway tomorrow evening with Roy Hodgson’s men facing their first group match away to Moldova
England will expect nothing less than a very comfortable three points against this team, who, along with San Marino, are expected to be cannon fodder for the other teams in the group. The Moldavians are ranked 85 in the world and must be easier prey than the Three Lions’ next opponents – Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine.
Moldova, on the other hand, will be looking to put up as much of a fight as they possibly can. The Eastern European nation do have a history of creating a few upsets though, the most notable being wins against Belarus and home draws against Scotland and Norway (in qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup).
Moldovan manager Ion Caras has pretty much a full squad to choose from. However, Caras was unhappy that Moldovan clubs Zimbru and Dacia refused their players permission to join up with the national team for friendlies against Venezuela and El Salvador in May, so has excluded players from those clubs from his squad.
Roy Hogdson has a depleted frontline to choose from, with both Wayne Rooney (leg) and Andy Carroll (hamstring) injured. Hodgson opted not to call up a replacement for the injured Carroll, so his options up front are limited to Danny Welbeck, Jermain Defoe and Daniel Sturridge.
In defense there are concerns over the fitness of John Terry, who missed Chelsea’s most recent match against Newcastle. If fit, Hodgson must decide whether to partner him alongside his European Championship partner Joleon Lescott, Chelsea teammate Gary Cahill, or the in-form Phil Jagielka.
Ashley Cole (ankle) has been ruled out, though could yet feature against Ukraine on Tuesday. Everton’s Leighton Baines is likely to deputize.
Hogdson may field Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard together for the first time in a competitive match since the 4-1 mauling at the hands of Germany in Bloemfontein.
Michael Carrick, who has not played a competitive match for England since making himself unavailable for selection last year, could also start. Meanwhile, the absence of Ashley Young (knee) and Adam Johnson (thigh) gives Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the opportunity to start on the left wing.
John Terry v Igor Picusceac
Picusceac is expected to lead the line for Moldova having started their last three friendly matches against Angola, El Salvador and Venezuela. Despite not scoring in any of these matches, coach Ion Caras looks set to stick with the frontman. He will face Terry at the heart of England’s defence – and the chances of the Moldovan breaking his goal drought look slim.
Steven Gerrard v Serghei Covalciuc
Named England captain by Roy Hodgson when he took over the national side, the influential Gerrard will come up against Covalciuc in the midfield battle. The Moldovan currently plays in Kazakhstan with FC Aktobe but spent six seasons at Russian side Spartak Moscow, helping them secure runners-up spot in the Premier League three times and a place in the Champions League.
Jermain Defoe v Petru Racu
England forward Defoe will be hoping to have a field day in front of the Moldova goal, but one man ready to stand in his way is imposing defender Racu. The 25-year-old has steadily converted from a striker, to a midfielder, and then to centre-back as he hopped across Scandinavia during spells with Norrkoping, MyPA and most recently Danish side Hjorring, but is now a free agent.
Likely England Line-up
Where to Watch Live
The match will be telecast live on iTV 1 and iTV 1 HD from 7.30 pm onwards. You can also catch live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, from 7.45 pm onwards.