Three Lions must attack Montenegro: Five things we learned from England's win over San Marino

Roy Hodgson's men overcame the international whipping boys with ease but face a much sterner test in a crucial game against the Group H leaders in Podgorica on Tuesday night
By Husmukh Kerai

Roy Hodgson's England team travelled to Serravalle knowing nothing more than a resounding win will be enough against the side ranked joint bottom of Fifa's world rankings.

The pre-match build-up was dominated by talk of a certain Manchester United defender's 'intricate pre-planned fitness programme' but England weren't ever going to be examined defensively against the microstate minnows.

Hodgson will have been relieved to negotiate the trip with relative ease, scoring eight goals, keeping a clean sheet and avoiding any new injury problems.

With this in mind, takes a look at five things we learned from the match in San Marino.


England's biggest test en route to Brazil 2014 will be Tuesday's clash with Group H leaders Montenegro in Podgorica.

While the Three Lions put eight past La Serrenisima, Mirko Vucinic scored late on for 10-man Montenegro to snatch a win against Moldova and stay two points ahead.

Roy Hodgson's comments post-match suggest he will turn back to his tried and tested formula, meaning recalls to the side for James Milner and Danny Welbeck.

He should, however, stick with a similar line-up and go for the jugular, hammering home England's superiority over their opponents. They go into the match two points behind their rivals and should therefore take the game to Montenegro to ensure they come out one point ahead.


Leighton Baines, for many, has been the outstanding left-back in the Premier League for a number of seasons now. Yet, the Everton defender has found it nigh on impossible to dislodge Ashley Cole from the England first-team.

Nevertheless, the time may have finally come where Roy Hodgson realises that the Chelsea veteran isn't getting any better and Baines can no longer be ignored.

The former Wigan left-back forced England's first goal in Serravalle with a typically penetrative run down the flank followed by a dangerous low cross which Della Valle turned into his own net.

While one performance against such international minnows isn't proof enough of Baines' ability, the fact that he has created more goalscoring chances (93) than any other player in Europe's top five leagues this season most certainly is.


The Manchester United defender, on current form, is arguably England's best option at centre-back but after hearing the fans' chants in San Marino, the 34-year-old might have played his last game for his country.

It all started when Hodgson initially snubbed the veteran defender for his Euro 2012 squad for "footballing reasons".

Hodgson called up the centre-back for the first time for this week's double header, only for Ferdinand to accept and then later decline the opportunity, citing a 'intricate pre-planned fitness plan' as his reason for doing so.

It got worse when it was revealed Ferdinand would be travelling to Doha to work on the game as a pundit instead, prompting the travelling 2,600 England fans to sings unsavoury songs about their former hero before, during and after the match.


The two outstanding performances on the night came from Ashley Young and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Both widemen have had disappointing seasons domestically through both injury and a lack of first-team opportunities, but both showed Hodgson that their abilities shouldn't be forgotten about.

Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott have both enjoyed markedly better campaigns in the Premier League, but in their absence both Young and Oxlade-Chamberlain did themselves no harm in getting on the scoresheet.

Both wingers combined well with the full-backs when drifting in-field with Oxlade-Chamberlain, in particular, working nice combinations with Wayne Rooney throughout the match.

Young, though, picked up the man of the match gong with a superbly struck goal and a pair of delightful assists.


Games of this nature are usually used by international managers to experiment with tactics and personnel, Hodgson wasn't having any of that though, naming a tried and tested Three Lions line-up.

Most regrettably, perhaps, was the England manager's decision to once again opt for Jermain Defoe as the side's main striker.

Everyone that has watched English football for the past decade knows exactly what Defoe has to offer on the pitch.

We shouldn't be kidded by his goals in Serravalle. Yes, he scored twice, he is a flat-track bully of the type that generally fill their boots against weaker opposition. The Spurs forward offers very little apart from that.

Daniel Sturridge did make a substitute appeareance later on alongside Defoe but Hodgson really should have taken the chance to explore his options better.

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