Vijay Shah (research, writing & editing)
Sunny Atwal (story contributor)
The England football team have made it to the FIFA World Cup next year after defeating Poland at Wembley Stadium this past Tuesday. Roy Hodgson‘s eleven are now qualified for the group draw which will be held on Friday 6th December 2013.
The decider against Poland for a place at the World Cup in Brazil saw thousands of fans, including an estimated 18,000 ticketholders who travelled in from Europe converge on one of England’s greatest shrines to the golden game.
Roy Hodgson’s side needed three points from their last qualifier to secure top spot in the Cup’s first Group H seedings after Ukraine’s 8-0 win in San Marino.
Two goals were sent crashing past the Polish goalkeeper, firstly by Wayne Rooney (at the 41st minute), followed by a late clincher from captain Steven Gerrard (88′) , who safely secured England’s place in what the Sydney Morning Herald described as “a raucous, draining and utterly magnificent night”. Rooney’s spectacular back-of-the-net against the goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – who plays for London side Arsenal – earned him the man of the match title, and a massive injection of hope for a side who had often struggled at previous World Cups since the Great Win of 1966, which ironically was also played out at Wembley. It was a beautiful performance from England, a departure from the less glowing, more cautious style of play seen in earlier qualifier matches, and a fresh hope to fire up England fans.
A standing tall performance from Joe Hart as well as good work on the flanks from Leighton Baines and Andros Townsend – two recent entrants in the national side – also deserve special mention for cementing England’s golden opportunity at one of the biggest international football tournaments going.
Poland were no walkover. At times their counterattack was strong and caused great uncertainty for Hodgson’s boys, especially when Borussia Dortmund’s star attacker Robert Lewandowski made assaults on the English net in the first half, ruffling the feathers of England’s sometimes derided defence. Amid a sea of Polish red and white, with chants of “Polska, Polska” (Poland, Poland) overwhelmingly ringing around the stadium, England were up against some odds. Hodgson however made good on his decision to blend the talent of England’s more established stalwarts, such as Rooney, with a healthy serving of young blood, which will give much lift to England’s chances of lifting the silverware for the first time in over forty years. It certainly has been a good night for Hodgson, who had once wanted to quit football management and start a travel agency. He will now be certain to enjoy packing his bags to visit the footballing carnivals of Brazil in 2014 – and bring back a souvenir far more memorable than a pair of maracas.
England’s qualifier is their thirteenth since the World Cup began last century. It will be eight months of training and preparation, before England will fly out to brand-new stadia in football-mad Rio de Janeiro. The English Football Association will give Hodgson’s boys a taste of Rio 2014 by sending Rooney and company up against Germany and minnows Australia as a distraction from the long international break as well as an opportunity for the manager to finalise his 23-man squad.
On the group seedings to be announced on the 17th October, there will be four pots, each consisting of eight teams. The first pot will feature Brazil, who as the tournament’s hosts will feature at the World Cup automatically. The boys in green and yellow will be joined by the top seven qualifiers from FIFA’s world rankings. England however will not feature in this pot, which will possibly ease off the pressure of facing some very invincible sides and giving England a greater chance to at least reach the quarter-finals.
Pots 2-4 will be sorted by geographic region. The main draw will take place in December in the city of Bahia and there are plans to screen it across the BBC in the United Kingdom.
World Cup organisers expect a total of 3.3 million tickets to be sold to fans and sponsor’s staff during the tournament, which opens in São Paulo on the 12th June. Already 96,780 requests for tickets have been made from England, while 70% of the total ticket sales are being carried by the home supporters in Brazil.
15 or 16 November Friendly v Chile, Colombia or Ecuador (Wembley)
19 November Friendly v Germany (Wembley)
5 March 2014 Friendly v Denmark (Wembley)
27 or 28 May ‘Send-off’ friendly (Wembley)
June Friendly v USA (East coast city) and Friendly v tbc (Miami). Fly to Rio de Janeiro. Based at Royal Tulip hotel. Training at Urca military base
12 June World Cup finals start
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