Coming into the World Cup Qualifier games against Montenegro and Poland, England sit 17th in the world rankings. 17th is where Sunderland finished last season. With such a ranking, it gives the English squad, or more importantly, the English press, about as much right to expect them to go on and win the Championship, as Niall Quinn has to expect his Black Cats to finish top of the league this season.
That is, assuming England qualify at all.
While this is not pleasant reading, there is at least some comfort in the fact that, their opponents sit lower down the aforementioned ranking system. Montenegro sit 27th, one place below fellow group members Ukraine, and Poland loiter much lower down, in 65th, 2 places below Scotland! The ranking system itself is at best a little suspect mind, placing teams such as Greece and Switzerland above England, although this could well change if two victories are accomplished on the Wembley turf. A glance at the current tables shows 19 and 18 points respectively for said teams, whereas England only sport 16 from the same 8 games.
Maybe not that suspect after all?
So make no mistake, these will not be easy games. However, tests such as these are what is required to put some perspective into the team, and the fans, and the press.Two 1-0 wins for Roy Hodgson's men might disappoint the fans who may well expect "a performance" on home ground, against perceived (and statistically) lesser opposition, but there is an old addage which fits nicely into the scenario building here. "You've got to be in it to win it." This is no lottery though, this is a test of skill, tactical nous, and if you offered Roy two 1-0's now he'd take it quicker than he'd take a naturalised Ozil in 5 years time!
Qualify first, play the pretty stuff later. And while it is true that, it is unrealistic to expect England to win the tournament, let's not forget, Wigan finished below Sunderland last year, and still walked away with the FA Cup, and in doing so, beat the No.1 ranked team from the season before in the final. Proof indeed that it is "a funny old game".