England v Moldova – live World Cup qualifier webchat

Dominic Fifield was online to answer your questions about the match at Wembley

Join us later for the MBM

Gregg Bakowski will be along from 7pm with a minute-by-minute of the England match and Paul Doyle will be running a clockwatch, covering the other international games.

If the internationals are not exciting you, we've just published a piece by When Saturday Comes on non-league football:

The snobbery and inverse snobbery of supporting a non-league club

Non-league football fans are both patronised and praised for following teams from outside the big leagues

Dominic Fifield has left the building

Guardian staff

Right you are... thanks all for the questions (even some of the more spurious ones, which generally made me chuckle). The M25 awaits en route to Wembley. Enjoy the game if you're watching, and your Friday nights if you're not.

jacodemon asks:
Right-back is a weakness for England at present. Do you think 24-year-old Sheffield United academy product and current Aston Villa right-back Matt Lowton will ever get a call-up? Lowton has quietly excelled in that position, attacking and defending, but remains overlooked in favour of the sheer pace and power of Kyle Walker. I suspect Lowton could be a better fit for England than either Walker or Glen Johnson.

Guardian staff

Fair point. I neglected to mention Lowton's credentials when someone asked about alternative right-backs above. I guess his second season in the Premier League will reveal a lot about his potential, with opponents more aware of his qualities and more clued up when it comes to by-passing him. If he impresses this season, he has to be in with a chance of making that step up to international level. Strange to see he was never capped at under-21 level... clearly slipped through the net.

randombloke asks:
We haven't won anything since the England band started playing at every single match. Coincidence?

Guardian staff

No. No coincidence at all. And there's only one way of addressing that...

Rothy1 asks:
Hi Dom. It is patently clear that Kyle Walker is a liability. If Glen Johnson were to get injured more seriously pre-Brazil, would you consider other options if you were Hodgson. I would. Cheers

Guardian staff

What are his other options to Walker? Chris Smalling has played there for England in the past. Phil Jones might have been considered for this game had he not been injured on Sunday in United's defeat at Liverpool. I guess, given Jones is playing at right-back for his club, he would be the natural alternative to Walker if Johnson is absent.

quality87 asks:
In your opinion, what happens to Hodgson if England fail to qualify (which may be likely based on previous performances/results against Ukraine)? Would there be patience or would he join the likes of Taylor and McClaren?

Guardian staff

I'd hope there'd be patience. Greg Dyke's comments this week indicated the issues that affect the national team, and the process of addressing those problems will take years before it yields proper results. A failure to reach Brazil would be desperately disappointing and would deservedly provoke fierce criticism given the standard of opposition in the group, but there has to be some kind of long-termism. I'm not sure the usual knee-jerk "sack the manager" policy would be beneficial.

(That'll clearly come back to haunt me now.)

thornybrown asks:
How would you rate Roy Hodgson's tenure as England manager so far? Not being English, I think it's been a wasted opportunity, there's been barely any progress to speak off, and nothing seems to have improved on the pitch. Do you think he should have been braver and looked beyond the usual suspects to try and construct a "team" that plays positive progressive football?

Guardian staff

I'd argue things have changed since his first few months in charge, when he inherited Fabio Capello's squad and was plunged straight into the European Championships and, inevitably, went for functionality over flair. Since then he has drip fed in younger talent - I think I'm right in saying he has selected well over 50 players since taking up the reins - so at least he is exploring the potential that is out there, whether that is limited potential or not. His team is evolving slowly, and you can point to some impressive performances, not least against Brazil in February, as indicators that there has been some level of progress. And yet the competitive fixtures have been less impressive and rather undermined his insistence that things are looking up. The next four games should prove more revealing.

Some of his selections have been relatively brave. He hasn't been afraid to offer the likes of Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck regular starts, or Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Zaha time with the squad (if not so much on the pitch, which might constitute a shame in friendlies). He's been frustrated, too, by the usual swathe of injuries that seem to afflict England squad selections over crammed Premier League campaigns. I suspect he might like to construct a team around Wilshere, but the youngster's ankle problems have restricted his opportunities at this level up to now. So he's juggling all these different issues and problems, along with the nation's understandable expectation that England reach the World Cup in Brazil, and had to mix pragmatism with some long-term vision. Signs of progress may be small, but I think they are there. (Okay, you may really have to want to see them... but they are there)

penayat asks:
Is Wayne Rooney still the saviour for England? What are the alternatives to reduce the reliance on him?

Guardian staff

I suppose we will naturally look to the next emerging talent, Jack Wilshere, to influence the contest but I'd argue that, in these qualifying fixtures, the more experienced players should stand up and be counted. Steven Gerrard needs to stamp authority on the Ukrainian midfield in Kiev. Frank Lampard could earn his 100th cap at the Olympic stadium and, in the absence of Rooney, should make his goalscoring threat from midfield tell. This is all new for Wilshere, crunch qualifying fixtures at the end of a two-year campaign. Gerrard and Lampard have been here before. They need to inspire those around them.

KarlKennedymademeill asks:

Do you think England will qualify? If Poland win tonight its affa close between them, Ukraine and Montenegro. Affa close.

Guardian staff

I think England will reach Brazil, but they're taken a fairly awkward route to get there. Overall, their performances in this section to date have underwhelmed. Poland away was particularly unimpressive, while the second half in Montenegro - having played well up to the break and deservedly led - felt like another wake-up call. There has to be a recognition that opportunities have been passed up to date, and a realisation that improvement is needed because the last three fixtures, as you say, could be very, very awkward. Should Poland win this evening against Montenegro (on the assumption Ukraine run up a cricket score against San Marino) then the group closes up at the top. Four nations will believe they have an opportunity.

The fact England haven't defeated anyone other than San Marino and Moldova so far hardly bodes well. But I still think there is enough pedigree in this squad, fitness permitting, to emerge from the crunch matches successfully. Sure, Hodgson will have to rediscover some of the grit of his early days in charge: there have been only two clean sheets in 10 matches, and both of those were against San Marino. And he'll need to find a way of eking more goals out at the other end (which is why losing Rooney and Daniel Sturridge for these fixtures feels like such a blow), but this is still in their hands. The fact that a number of the squad - Gerrard, Lampard, maybe Cole - will recognise Brazil 2014 as a last opportunity to grace a major tournament should spur the older heads on. They are the kind of players who should set England apart in this section. Now they have to go and prove they deserve to qualify.


Definatelynotashark asks:

Dom, how disappointed are you with Wayne Rooney? I mean, he will have no better chance to be England’s bleeder? When England has a bleeder they always do well. For me its treason.

Guardian staff

That kick came too early. I blame Phil Jones. Though I'm not sure any of England's historic "bleeders" have been injured by their team-mates.

(I don't actually blame Phil Jones. Clearly.)

U77777 asks:
Should this game be a dry-run for the Ukraine game or do you think its a good idea to select the appropriate players for each game (injuries aside obviously)? I ask because England look so disjointed at times I think it would be wise to see the team play twice in succession...

Guardian staff

I'd rather presumed Roy Hodgson would rest some key players this evening in anticipation of an "easier" occasion than that which awaits in Ukraine (though, in saying that, Moldova appear to have improved somewhat from the side England steamrollered in the opening group game at the start of last season). I thought Jack Wilshere might sit this one out, Ashley Cole as well given their respective fitness issues. I suppose there was also the fact that England will be expected to dismantle Moldova at Wembley, whereas in Kiev they will presumably have to weather a bit of a storm from Ukraine and might, therefore, seek to prosper on the break. Those two contrasting approaches might have warranted slightly different selections.

But, as Hodgson suggested yesterday, he's keen to build momentum ahead of Tuesday night and is anxious to see his players gel on the pitch. Working together - injuries permitting - with pretty much the same side in two fixtures should be a benefit in that respect. And this, of course, is the side's end-game: four fixtures that will determine whether or not they qualify as Group H winners, require a play-off or, dare I say it, miss out altogether. The manager argued this is therefore no time to experiment but, instead, to select the strongest possible side.

"I know there have been suggestions we should play one team in this game and another next week, but I don't subscribe to that theory," he said yesterday. "We have four games and we need results. We need wins. I'm not sure the best way to get wins is to play a team I believe could be weaker in the hope another one would be stronger. I hope it would be possible to play the same team, barring injury."

England have only beaten Moldova and San Marino in this section to date. At some stage over the next 39 days, that duck against the other sides has ot be broken. If the team that runs out tonight clicks, then they should be better placed to prosper in Kiev. That's the theory, anyway...

Definatelynotashark asks:

Dom, If you had two bullets and had Andy Townsend, Adrian Chiles and Gareth Southgate in a room, who would you shoot? I'd do Townsend twice...just to be sure.

Guardian staff

I've always been a big fan of Gareth Southgate, in all honesty. I'll leave it at that.

cantthinkofagoodname asks:

Do you have any tips on who I should put in my fantasy football team? Thanks

Guardian staff

As someone whose fantasy team has bombed already, I'm the last person you should ask. Get after Daniel Taylor on Twitter. He's the Guardian's expert on all things fantasy football. The man's obsessed.

RedandBlue5 asks:

How many times will we hear/read Rickie Lambert's name and "beetroot packer" in the same sentence tomorrow?

Guardian staff

So, basically, it took five minutes before I had to mention beetroot packers... I'm as guilty as any commentators on that front: I wrote about Rickie's call up ahead of the Scotland game and reverted to his rise over the last decade, and then mentioned it all again on the night after he scored that debut goal after 166 seconds on the pitch to win the game, so who am I to criticise?

The reality is he deserves this chance, not least for his performance against the Scots when he might have scored a hat-trick in that cameo on the turf. Roy Hodgson was very honest about the selection yesterday [http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/sep/05/england-moldova-rickie-lambert-world-cup-qualifier]. Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney would both probably have played had they been fit, with Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott the other members of the front-line. In their absence, the manager felt he had a straight choice between Lambert and Jermain Defoe, but the Spurs striker hasn't started a Premier League game yet this season - I think he's only played 37 minutes or so to date this season in the league, and all from the substitutes' bench - and arrived at St George's Park earlier this week carrying a small injury. In that context, Lambert was the obvious choice.

The other consideration, I guess, is that England should monopolise possession this evening and confront blanket defence. Defoe might be more of a threat on the counter-attack, while Lambert's more physical presence in the six-yard box, combined with the clever movement he has developed over time in those prolific spells in the lower leagues and now with Southampton, could prove more of an asset. We'll see. He's a great story, a player who has made his name in the lower reaches, so I hope he seizes this opportunity.


metalmicky asks
Is there too much pressure on Jack Wilshere to be England's saviour? Isn't he a bit overrated?

Guardian staff

I know what you mean in terms of the pressure, though I have to say I’ve never had the impression he struggles to deal with the expectation that is being placed on his shoulders at present. He spoke to the media ahead of the Scotland game last month and was refreshingly open about his ambitions and potential, even with his captain, Steven Gerrard, sitting at his side and following up the customary “don’t build him up too much” with simple, raw enthusiasm about just how good Wilshere could become. The reality is that England appear to click when the Arsenal midfielder is integrated into the side. He was excellent against Brazil back in February [http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/feb/06/england-brazil-rejoicing-reflection], his presence offering the team a hub around which other players could revolve. The 21-year-old is busy in possession, clever with the ball and has that burst of pace that takes him away from opponents – even Brazilian opponents that night – and injects momentum into England’s play.

Those qualities mean he is valued, and the fact he has had such a stop-start international (and club) career inevitably heaps even more expectation on him. People have seen glimpses of what he offers and crave more. The player himself has acknowledged he needs a run of games at this level to show what he can really do, but all the flashes we’ve seen so far have been tantalising. He’s a young, English talent with something a bit different, so I think we should be excited about him. That said, one area he clearly does need to improve if he is to become truly world-class is in front of goal. He has scored only once in the Premier League in 65 appearances for Arsenal and, for a midfielder with that burst of pace and capacity to charge from box to box, he needs to improve that tally dramatically. Hopefully, with games, he will become the kind of player who can contribute double figures every season, and register regularly for his country as well. That has to be the aspiration. But, for now, just seeing him regularly on the pitch represents progress. I wondered whether Roy Hodgson might have considered resting him this evening with Ukraine in mind, particularly after Arsene Wenger suggested the other week that Wilshere is still only “90% fit” and may potentially struggle with two games in four days [http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/aug/26/arsene-wenger-england-jack-wilshere], but there is value in fielding a strong midfield in anticipation of what awaits in Kiev. Hodgson clearly wants the Arsenal player to become this side’s new talisman. He can make a statement tonight.

Dominic is online answering questions

Guardian staff

Afternoon all. So it's England versus Moldova, the hors d'oeuvre to Tuesday's tricky trip to Kiev, and Rickie Lambert is leading the line with Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard back in midfield. I'll see how many of these I can get through without mentioning beetroot packing...

Good afternoon

Dominic Fifield will be online from 1.30pm to discuss England's World Cup qualifier against Moldova, which kicks of at 8pm tonight at Wembley.

After his goal against Scotland, Rickie Lambert has been rewarded with his first start for the national team, as Dominic reported in today's paper:

Roy Hodgson has urged Rickie Lambert to seize his unexpected opportunity after naming the Southampton striker in the lineup for Friday's World Cup qualifier against Moldova, with the England manager having admitted Daniel Sturridge may struggle to be available for next week's awkward trip to Ukraine.

While Sturridge returned to Liverpool on Thursday to receive further treatment on a thigh complaint, Lambert was digesting confirmation that he will make his first competitive start against the side ranked 123 in the world. Read more

For more team news, here is Danny Taylor's match preview:

The more pressing matter, of course, is not Greg Dyke saying England have no realistic chance of winning the World Cup but whether they actually get there. Steven Gerrard was curt, and to the point, when he was asked if he agreed with the Football Association chairman's comments – "No, I don't" – but, first things first, Roy Hodgson and his players still have to show they are good enough even to be part of the tournament.

A Wembley game against Moldova should be nothing more than a routine win and another chance to pep up the goal difference in Group H. Moldova are joint 123rd with Cyprus in the world rankings, tucked between Grenada and Turkmenistan, and it speaks for itself that Hodgson has already announced his team.

The last time he did this was before the friendly in Sweden in November but it is what comes next that sharpens the mind. Nobody should expect he will do the same when we get to the serious business of Tuesday's game against Ukraine in Kiev. Read more

Dominic will be online from 1.30pm. Enjoy the webchat


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