Roy Hodgson claimed tonight that England had performed well in their turgid 0-0 draw with Ukraine, rejecting a storm of criticism of the team from back home, including former captain and current BBC pundit, Gary Lineker.
Hodgson's team held on for a draw that leaves them top of Group H by a point with two games to play, both at Wembley against Montenegro and Poland next month. Win them both and they will take the automatic qualifying place at the top of the group but Ukraine are just a point behind them in second and have Poland at home and then San Marino away in their final two matches.
During the course of the game, Lineker, who has been highly critical of Hodgson's England in the past, tweeted: “Awful. What happens to some of these players when they pull on an England shirt?” He later deleted the tweet but went on to criticise the side's passing and Hodgson's failure to select Michael Carrick in midfield.
Lineker tweeted: “When you see England pass it like they've never been introduced to each other, it does make you wonder why Carrick doesn't feature.” At the end of the game he tweeted, with more than just a trace of irony, “Good result for England....Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina et al, you're in big trouble!”
When it was put to Hodgson after the match that the reaction in England had been negative, he said it was not “fair comment” on the performance.
Hodgson said: “I don't think that is a fair comment on our performance. If the expectations upon us are so great we come to places like Ukraine and are expected to roll teams over, it will be difficult for us to ever get a good result.
“I will stick to my ignore-ance. I think it is a good result. I am surprised that has not been the reaction back at home. Who are we talking about? There are 60m people back there. I find it a difficult one to answer. Before coming here, the feeling amongst you people that a draw would have been a good result. I am surprised to hear people say - what I thought was a good performance - has become yet again underwhelming.”
Earlier, Hodgson had argued that the match, in which England scarcely had an attempt on goal worthy of the name, had been of a “good quality”. He said: “Neither team will think they have lost points. It was a good quality game, both teams will believe they have the quality to get to Brazil. We were aware of their strength and they can score goals, but we dealt with that very well. Joe Hart didn't have many shots to save.”