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FIFA World Cup Qualifying Preview: Ukraine v England

By Football News



Group H leaders England can take a huge step towards FIFA World Cup qualification if they can see off the threat of Ukraine on Tuesday.

Roy Hodgson's side, who are level with Montenegro on 15 points but ahead on goal difference, ran out 4-0 winners against Moldova on Friday and they remain the only unbeaten side in the Group H.

But Ukraine, who hammered San Marino 9-0, are only a point behind and they will sense an opportunity to overhaul their visitors in Kiev.

England have problems up front, too, with Wayne Rooney (head), Daniel Sturridge (thigh) and Danny Welbeck (suspended) all consigned to a watching brief.

That leaves Southampton's Rickie Lambert as their main threat and his international career has got off to a flying start, with two goals in as many games.

Hodgson has experience to call on in other areas of the pitch, though, and he has cited Manchester City midfielder James Milner as a key player for the tricky trip to eastern Europe.

"We know what James will do," Hodgson said. "He isn't, and doesn't pretend to be, as exciting as some of the wingers we sometimes use these days.

"After a long period of time where I've not seen many wingers in the country, I'm now seeing lots of them. But we are going to need experience in Kiev. Milner is not a winger, but the qualities he brings could be very useful."

England will need to break a pattern that has emerged during their qualifying campaign if they are to earn some breathing space at the top of the group. On each of the previous three occasions that they have won, they have followed it up with a draw.

They are, however, the group's top scorers, with a commanding 25-goal tally from their seven games, with Ukraine's 19-goal haul the next-best total.

Ukraine are enjoying an excellent run of form, with 15 goals and four clean sheets from their last four matches.

Mykhaylo Fomenko's men were impressive against England at Wembley last September, when it took Frank Lampard's late penalty to deny them all three points following Yevhen Konoplyanka's first-half opener.

They will be eager to lay to rest bitter memories of their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, which ended in disappointment after they finished runners-up to England.

Despite qualifying for the play-offs, they were beaten 1-0 on aggregate by Greece, denying them the chance to try to better their performance at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, when they reached the quarter-finals.