Home > Sport > Football
Wednesday September 4, 2013 MYT 11:02:02 PM
Wednesday September 4, 2013 MYT 11:02:13 PM
by mike collett
England's Wayne Rooney reacts before being substituted by teammate Rickie Lambert (not pictured) during their international friendly soccer match against Scotland at Wembley Stadium in London, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
LONDON (Reuters) - England will be without striker Wayne Rooney and defenders Phil Jones and Glen Johnson for Friday's World Cup qualifier against Moldova at Wembley but should still easily pick up another three points on the road to Brazil.
More worrying for coach Roy Hodgson is that Rooney, who faces three weeks out after suffering a nasty head wound in training last week, and the two defenders will also miss the far more difficult Group H qualifier against Ukraine in Kiev next Tuesday.
England began their campaign with a convincing 5-0 win over Moldova in Chisinau a year ago but since then it has turned into a tense affair with three wins and three draws from their six matches.
Montenegro top the standings with 14 points from seven games but blew a great chance to establish a five-point lead when they were beaten 4-0 at home by Ukraine in June.
Ukraine are third, one point behind England, and are virtually guaranteed three points when they face minnows San Marino on Friday while Poland, who are fourth on nine points, will keep the pressure on the top trio if they beat Montenegro in Warsaw.
If England are to qualify directly for the finals they have to win both matches. A draw in Ukraine would mean no margin for error in their final two home qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland.
Hodgson will also be without Andy Carroll, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and goalkeeper Ben Foster, leaving him with a young and relatively inexperienced squad with 11 of the 25 players having fewer than 10 caps.
Moldova, who have five points from their seven matches and no chance of qualifying for the finals, never recovered after conceding a third-minute Frank Lampard penalty in the opening qualifier before Lampard, Jermain Defoe, James Milner and Leighton Baines added more goals.
Nevertheless, Moldova coach Ion Caras was optimistic his side would produce a "solid performance" against England and said playing at Wembley would inspire his team.
"The mood of my players is good. To play at Wembley just once is something many footballers dream about. There is a saying: ‘If you played and triumphed in a lot of matches but did not play once at Wembley then you never got to the top'.
"Given that the group situation is a difficult one, England will strive to beat us and they have super-class players to do this."
In a show of loyalty to Moldova's neighbours, he said he thought Ukraine would finish top of the group, with England in second place.
(Additiional reporting by Alexander Tanas in Chisinau; Editing by Clare Fallon)
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)