Ukraine v England: World Cup qualifier webchat with Daniel Taylor

Our football correspondent was online to answer your questions about the match in Kiev

England lose and nearly miss out on the World Cup...

Thanks for reading and commenting.

For more on England, here is a blog on the national team's near-failure to qualify for the 1982 World Cup. England went to Basel in 1981 amid a terrible rut, which only got worse for Ron Greenwood, his team and the England fans who greeted the team's 2-1 defeat with a riot. For the story, video and a fairly shocking picture, check out Steven Pye's blog:

How defeat to Switzerland nearly cost England a place at the 1982 World Cup
The World Cup glory of 1966 must have seemed like a distant memory come the early 1980s. Failure to qualify for the 1974 finals had cost Sir Alf Ramsey his job, with the 1978 qualification campaign thrown into turmoil as soon as Don Revie decided to quit and defect to the United Arab Emirates in 1977. Revie's replacement, Ron Greenwood, narrowly failed to get England to Argentina – kindly pointed out to us in the lyrics of Andy Cameron's Tartan Army ("England cannae dae it, cos they didnae qualify") – so by the time the draw was made for the 1982 qualification matches, England were desperate to get back to the top table of world football.

When the draw was made in Zurich on 14 October 1979, it appeared to be kind to Greenwood. Hungary, Romania, Switzerland and Norway was on paper a handy draw, especially as two teams from the group qualified automatically for the finals. "England have been handed a golden passport to the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain," wrote the Mirror's Nigel Clarke. David Miller of the Express added: "If England fail to qualify for the 1982 World Cup finals, they should be retired forever to a shelf in the British Museum". England expected, as usual.

Greenwood also admitted that it was a good group, naturally adding the standard caveat that "there are no easy internationals these days". For once though, this cliché proved accurate. Continue reading

bixentelizz asks:

What is the largest animal you think you could kill with your bare hands?

Danny replies:

A ladybird. But it would make me weep.

And on that note, thanks . . and apologies for those I didn't answer (my two-finger typing style isn't always conducive to web-chats).

Enjoy the game. Predictable prediction: Ukraine 1 England 1

123ABCDF678 asks:

Why isn't Michael Dawson ever called up?

Danny replies:

I like Michael Dawson. He started at my club and I've always rated him. In fact, I thought he would turn out better than he actually is because, as a teenager, he was really exceptional

However, he's always had one problem - the ball behind him, over the top, that makes him turn against faster opponent. He gets caught out too often, be it pace or anticipation or both. John Terry wasn't the quickest but he would see it coming in his best years. Dawson never did. But don't get me wrong: I like/rate him.

dontbewoollysheep asks:
Do you think Hodgson was to blame for England's stultifying performances in Euro 2012? Who would be your favourite to replace him if we don't qualify?

Danny replies:

No - I thought he made us play with structure and - no idea how - we were only a penalty kick away from the semis. However, let's not dress it up too much - it was fairly turgid stuff and I was pretty critical all the way through.

Who would replace him? That's difficult. The depressing thing is there isn't really an outstanding candidate if the FA decide to go for an English manager again.

But if it all goes belly-up and Hodgson goes, I also believe the whole FA regime that brought him in has to go, too. I'm not the kind of journalist who shouts for people's heads but there's a lot riding on it for Brooking/Bevington/Horne as well.

Sameoldcabbage asks:

Do you think there's any position in which the best England player is better than the equivalent player in, say, Germany, Spain or Brazil?

Danny replies:

For the most part, no.

But I think Ashley Cole would get into the Spain/Brazil teams

Rooney, with his right head on, might have a chance. Unfortunately we don't see enough of him with his right head on.

Haessler asks:

Do you think Lambert is international quality, based on the limited evidence (Scotland, Moldova) thus far, or do we simply have a poor set of striking options beyond the three missing tonight?

Danny replies:

I'm setting myself up for a fall here if he scores a last-minute winner...

But no, I don't. Or not at least at the higher end of international football. I love his story etc etc and I'm not being unkind at all but scoring against Scotland and Moldova (as 'fairytale' as it is) is a bit different to terrorising defences in the World Cup. For now though, good luck to him.

If England could ever get them fit, Rooney behind Sturridge would be a decent partnership, with Walcott one side and Welbeck the other. As I touched on earlier though, Hodgson loves a big man. And Lambert might just be the best bad idea England have.

Are you reading, AC Jimbo?

MaurizioGaudino asks:

I think you articles are excellent. Are you ever going to bring your well informed insight to the podcast?

Danny replies:

I'm never asked!

To be fair, I am usually out on the road somewhere.

landau asks:

Milner, Lambert, Walcott... wow. That's a strikingly poor looking front line. What three would you pick from available players?

Danny replies:

The worst thing about it is that, for Hodgson's system, this is about the only choice left.

Lambert, I reckon, would ordinarily be fifth choice striker if Rooney, Sturridge, Carroll and Welbeck were fit. Defoe would be sixth.

On the left, it's a straight choice between Milner and Young (I know there's Townsend as well but I just don't think there's a chance of that happening).

Walcott gets a lot of stick but he is probably the best England have in that right-sided position.

Herbert1313 asks:

In your opinion if England lose, and they make the play-offs, who would be their hardest opposition?

Danny replies:

As it stands, the second-placed teams in the other groups are: Croatia, Bulgaria, Sweden, Romania, Norway, Russia, Greece and France.

Obviously that can change, and then there is the seeding system to think about. So it's all a bit up in the air. But you wouldn't really want to be facing Russia or France, would you? Or even Croatia?

50Kaweeksub asks:

Do you think that the praise after Moldova was justified, particularly in the midfield area? We still managed to give the ball away regularly and can't see that changing any time soon. Also, linked to above, do you think it's time to blood somebody younger alongside Wiltshire as not sure that Lampard/Gerrard are key anymore?

Danny replies:

I don't think games like that are an accurate gauge about anything.

For example, could you watch that match and think 'ah, Joe Hart's over that confidence/form issue now'?

Not sure I agree about Gerrard and Lampard though. I think England will be grateful to have those kind of players on a night like this.

OverThereByTheDoor asks:

Much as I like Lambert, whatever happened to Jermaine Defoe?

Danny replies:

Hodgson loves a big man, doesn't he? It's his thing...

On Defoe, I'm not quite sure what's happening with him at the moment. He was being linked with QPR in the transfer window - yet he's far too good for the Championship.

Tottenham's system allows for only one striker and obviously they have Soldado now but I do rate Defoe. I remember standing behind the goal during a training session for England in Chicago a few years back and watching him, close-up, practising his finishing. It sticks in my mind because he was phenomenal, the power he got on his shots and the accuracy.

pabloelbrujo asks:

Who do you think is the greatest defender England has produced in the last 30 years? My vote goes for Des Walker.

Danny replies:

That's such a difficult question but, sod it, bias or not, I'd go for Des, yes

I used to watch him at Forest and he was absolutely supreme. His problem is that the one big mistake he made in his career was in an important England match. But it irritates me a bit that there will be some people who read that and think 'yeah' . .

Apparently he's driving a van these days somewhere in the East Mids

Otherwise, Rio Ferdinand at his peak was a great defender. He just never had to tackle - his reading of the game, speed, anticipation etc, was so good.

Ashley Cole, in the games that matter, always delivers. John Terry in his peak years, was brilliant, but there's plenty of others going further back too.

It's strange this has become something of a problem position for England after all those years of it being one of the great strengths.

handfullofdust asks:

Do you think a draw is enough? Given that England have a harder last two games than Ukraine, Ukraine can overturn an inferior goal difference with their game against San Marino and England's relatively poor home record? I can quite easily envisage England finishing third in this group and not even making the play-offs.

Danny replies:

If you were a journalist, you would have been pigeonholed as Friend of 'Arry for saying that . .

I certainly think people are forgetting the only teams we have beaten so far are Moldova and San Marino, which makes it strange for everyone to assume we will just automatically beat Montenegro and Poland in the last two fixtures.

So yes, there's definitely a risk that everyone is over-egging the importance of a draw. I think it would be a satisfactory result but nothing more than that and I'd be surprised if you then see any great form of celebration from England.

It would just give Montenegro encouragement for the next game at Wembley and, even if Poland are out of it, I still think they would be pretty motivated for the final match of the group. Ukraine also have Poland at home and then go to San Marino, having just put nine past them. It's all ifs and buts but I agree on the whole. A draw is OK in some ways, but I'd really like to see actually England doing everything they can to win this match.

Paul_89 asks:

Is Hodgson right to start with Lampard and Gerrard tonight? Is a more defensive-minded player in Michael Carrick a better option?

Danny replies:

I'm OK with him playing Lampard. Gerrard tends to play the deeper role these days and there's Jack Wilshere as well, so it's not as if we're short of numbers in there, especially with James Milner hardly being a classic left-winger.

I understand what you're saying in that Carrick, positionally, is the more disciplined player and doesn't wander off so much, but I also don't think we need to go totally overboard about setting up in a defensive fashion. If England win this game, it should be enough to see them win the the group so I'd quite like Hodgson to surprise us a little and see a team that plays with a bit of adventure.

A front three of Milner, Lambert and Walcott isn't particularly awe-inspiring – with all due respect to their individual qualities – and Lampard has a decent goals threat. One more goal and he's level with Nat Lofthouse, Tom Finney and Alan Shearer as sixth highest scorer in England's history (with 30).

Hello everyone from overcast Kiev. I'll get started...

ClaustrophobicPea asks:

Especially in light of Welbeck's suspension, and given his excellent start to the season, the fact that he plays on the left of a three and his boyband-booting ways, what exactly does Gabby Agbonlahor have to do to get a call up?

Danny replies:

There are some players Hodgson just doesn't seem interested in and he's one of them, I'm afraid.

The strange thing is that Rickie Lambert was another until the Scotland game (Hodgson has told us before he was too slow and basically gave the impression that he wasn't keen at all)

A personal view is Agbonlahor's too erratic but it does irritate me that he doesn't get a look-in whereas Ashley Young seems like a mandatory pick every time he's fit. Young, if you remember, had an abysmal Euro 2012. After a decent start, he's been poor for Manchester United for some time now. But you just know he will be in the squad every time. There are merits, I suppose, of having a settled squad but some of it still doesn't add up.

Good afternoon

Daniel Taylor will be online from 1pm to answer questions about England's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine tonight.

In the meantime, here is his match preview:

Roy Hodgson feels the fear before England's moment of truth

The last time England were here it ended with Andrea Pirlo chipping a delicate little panenka into their net as Joe Hart stuck out his tongue, bounced and hopped, gurned and yelled and, without maybe knowing it at the time, produced one of the moments that seemed to symbolise the lack of clear thinking among Roy Hodgson's squad.

Presumably England can expect to have a bit more of the ball against Ukraine than they did in that quarter-final against Italy in Euro 2012, when they managed only 25% of possession during extra-time and it was still not the most embarrassing statistic of the night. Take your pick from the fact that James Milner managed only 13 passes throughout the entire match or that England's best passing combination was the long kick from Hart to the second-half substitute Andy Carroll, successful 15 times.

The Olympic Stadium, in other words, does not hold particularly fond memories for Hodgson, even if it is also the place where England ended their undistinguished run of results against Sweden in the group stage. Hodgson, tangling himself in his own words, even conjured up the worst-case scenario for their latest assignment whereby "from the very first kick of the game Joe Hart lets the ball through his legs". Thankfully for England, it is unlikely, no matter how wobbly their goalkeeper has been this last year. Continue reading

Daniel Taylor will be online from 1pm. Enjoy the webchat


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