Roy Hodgson not concerned by losing top spot in World Cup qualifying group

 

England boss Roy Hodgson insists he has plenty of reasons to be cheerful even though his side enter their winter hibernation outside an automatic World Cup qualifying slot.

Montenegro's three-goal win over San Marino in Podgorica last night allowed Branko Brnovic's men to go back to the top of Group H with 10 points from their four games, two ahead of England.

It was hardly an unexpected result given San Marino's appalling record of just one win since they became a member of Fifa in 1990.

However, it does underline just what a big night it will be when England tackle Montenegro on March 26 in the first of two meetings which could well determine who makes it straight through to Brazil 2014, and who has to go through the hazardous play-off route.

Certainly as he left Stockholm last night, Hodgson did not give the impression of someone left devastated by his team being knocked off top spot.

He was far more interested in the many plusses he had spotted in last night's 4-2 defeat.

"We expected Montenegro to win," he said. "Quite frankly, it is not important who is top and who is second at this stage. It will be important in October next year.

"We still have six matches to play.

"This game gives me more cause for optimism than pessimism.

"We wanted to give ourselves a better idea of the players we can count on and the ones who can help us get there."

Of his six debutants, Hodgson had most reason to be pleased with Raheem Sterling and Steven Caulker.

Sterling is not the biggest and Sweden looked as though they were trying to intimate him with a couple of robust early challengers.

The 17-year-old showed impressive bravery to bounce back and courage to demand the ball on a regular basis, and ran at the home defence in the same refreshing manner he has done in the Premier League this term.

Caulker partnered Gary Cahill in what, until his exit 17 minutes from time, was a solid defensive display in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic was largely becalmed.

In addition, the Tottenham man became the first England player to score on his debut since David Nugent against Andorra in Barcelona over five years ago.

But perhaps most pleasing of all was the return of Jack Wilshere after a 17-month absence.

The 20-year-old is clearly still rusty.

However, just having him around the same squad as Steven Gerrard could be a massive bonus next year, when the pair are expected to become midfield partners in the drive towards Brazil 2014.

"If we are going to lose a game it is better to do it like this, with so many people gaining experience and feeling their way," said Hodgson.

"It is good to see Jack Wilshere looking very assured back in an England shirt and the biggest was to see Steven Gerrard in such magnificent form.

"Don't forget, this was Sweden's best team.

"For long periods we didn't just match them, we had the better of the game and I am pretty sure with the players we have at home, who will be coming back into the reckoning, we will be looking to qualify."

Of course, the major talking point was not Hodgson's optimism, nor indeed any concern about the form of keeper Joe Hart, who again was some way below his best.

All anyone leaving the Friends Arena around midnight really wanted to discuss was Ibrahimovic's overhead kick, the coup-de-grace on the first four-goal haul anyone has achieved against England.

"Joe was unlucky because the ball pitched up that meant he didn't get the purchase on his header," said Hodgson.

"But perhaps I shouldn't begrudge Ibrahimovic that fantastic goal. It was a work of art."

PA

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all