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Fans and pundits alike have been calling for improved, attacking performances for months, but few will care how the Three Lions play as long as they qualify for the World Cup

By Sam Lee

Despite a less than convincing qualifying campaign and continued questions over the side's playing style - or lack thereof, England know that just one victory - any victory - will seal their place at next summer's World Cup in Brazil.

It has been a long and often arduous road for the Three Lions and their supporters, with Roy Hodgson's side taking until the ninth of 10 qualifiers to beat a nation of any footballing repute.

ROAD TO BRAZIL
England's qualifying results
WON
0-5 v Moldova (a)
DREW
1-1 v Ukraine (h)
WON
5-0 v San Marino (h)
DREW
1-1 v Poland (a)
WON 0-8 v San Marino (a)
DREW 1-1 v Montenegro (a)
WON 4-0 v Moldova (h)
DREW 0-0 v Ukraine (a)
WON 4-1 v Montenegro
Minnows Moldova and San Marino have been swept aside along the way, but before Friday England had only recorded draws against Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro.

The eventually impressive 4-1 rout of Montenegro four days ago gave England full control of their destiny, but they will have to beat the Poles, backed by nearly 20,000 supporters, to avoid a place in the play-offs given that Ukraine will play, and almost certainly beat, San Marino.

Spirits are high in the England camp and Hodgson has been at pains to point out to his players that Friday's resounding victory is only half the battle, if that. Complacency should not be an issue, though the omens are not ideal.

Superstitious England fans may be a little apprehensive heading into the clash; with nine games played, results have alternated between wins and draws. Should that run continue then England are due another tie on Tuesday, which would see them put into the qualifiers alongside France and Portugal, among others.

Such a result could be disastrous for Hodgson. As former England boss Graham Taylor pointed out recently: "If England win it's thanks to the players, if they don't it's the manager's fault".

The fall-out to England's dour 0-0 draw in Ukraine in September has shown the former West Brom manager that his honeymoon period is long since over, and he will know that the result against Poland will put his 17-month reign into context.

Win and he will be given space - as much as possible for an England manager, anyway - to prepare his team for the World Cup. Lose or draw, though, and he could well be out of a job. The meek elimination at the hands of Italy at the European Championship will be dragged up, alongside that dourest of stalements in Ukraine and below-par showings in Poland and Montenegro.

Hodgson's approach has avoided scrutiny over the past few days - the wonders of a victory - and instead the build-up to Tuesday's match has been dominated by memories of 1973 and the heroic performance of a man labelled a clown by Brian Clough, Jan Tomaszewski, which denied Alf Ramsey's men a place in the World Cup the following year.

These days, Poland have some keepers capable of mixing the sublime with the ridiculous - Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Artur Boruc are all in the squad, after all.

But while superstition and little quirks of history may be against his side, Hodgson should not be fearful.

England's ability to handle pressure will certainly be under the microscope, but the fearless debut display of Andros Townsend, hints that, finally, the Three Lions are playing with the handbrake off. It is somewhat ironic; after months of calling for sexier football, a nation will be content with just three points, no matter how they come.

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