England v Poland: Roy Hodgson targeting victory at Wembley and direct qualification for the 2014 World Cup
England are guaranteed to finish second if they falter against Poland
Monday 14 October 2013
Roy Hodgson has insisted England are still fully focused on victory against Poland and will not be relying on the safety net of the World Cup play-offs.
England's 4-1 victory over Montenegro on Friday guaranteed them at least second place in the group, which would mean a play-off berth should they fail to win at Wembley and Ukraine record an expected victory over San Marino.
But both Hodgson and his captain Steven Gerrard were adamant that would have no impact on their approach to the game.
"As far as I'm concerned I still feel the focus is on this as a game we want to win," Hodgson said.
"I'm not thinking of the play-offs.
"I don't think we shall be very satisfied if we don't win. We know we've got the play-offs but I don't think that will affect the attitude of the players. We're a good team, we're at home and we'll want to win."
Gerrard added: "We want to seize this opportunity. We want to win.
"We'll have 90,000, a full house at Wembley. It's a huge game on the back of a huge performance a couple of nights ago, and we're ready to go."
Poland's qualification hopes are over after a 1-0 loss to Ukraine on Friday night, but Gerrard expects them to give England a difficult night.
"I think Poland's tactics will be very similar to Montenegro," he said.
"They will want to defend well and make it difficult so we will have to show patience.
"But with the attacking players we've got it's only a matter of time before the breakthrough comes. We've got that confidence."
Much has been made of England's failure to beat Poland in a World Cup qualifier back in 1973, a game in which goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski frustrated Sir Alf Ramsey's side with an unorthodox performance at Wembley.
Neither that famous encounter nor the subsequent 14 meetings between the nations hold any meaning for Hodgson, though.
"History's important when it comes to not making political mistakes but I don't think it has any relevance in sport whatsoever," Hodgson said.
"Every game's a new game and each Poland team that's played England has been a very different team so as far as we're concerned we'll do our job against the Poland we will face."
Nor is the former Liverpool boss interested in statistics that suggest 96 per cent of England fans believe the team will beat Poland and qualify.
He added: "Unfortunately that doesn't win us the game either.
"It would be nice if we could win the game on polls but unfortunately whether it's 96 per cent, 100 per cent or two per cent who believe we're going to win, it'll be when the referee blows his whistle and when we cross the white line to play the game that counts.
"That's all that matters to us and it's the only thing that we're remotely focused on."
Hodgson kept his team selection to himself ahead of the crucial match.
His only real selection headache concerns the right-back position, which needs filling due to Kyle Walker's suspension.
"I think I'll keep the ideas about the team to myself for the moment, not least of all because the players haven't been informed," Hodgson added.
"I'm not certain they have a clear idea as there's been no functional work done (in training).
"I'm not even certain the players are certain who's going to play at right-back in place of the suspended Kyle Walker."
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