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."


Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album