England are 28/1 to lift the World Cup next summer and after the 0-0 draw in Kiev left them two home wins from automatic qualification, here are three reasons to be hopeful Roy Hodgson’s side can be a force in Brazil.
Gary Cahill showed he can be a leader
Taking away Ashley Cole’s 104 previous shifts in an England shirt, the rest of the defence had less than 50 caps between them going into last night’s game and it showed at times, with Kyle Walker looking unable to cope with tricky winger Yevhen Konoplyanka in the early stages.
Cahill, however, emerged as the leader of the back-line, settling England’s nerves with two excellent clearances within the first 15 minutes as the away side weathered the quick-starting Ukrainian storm.
England’s centre-back pairing of Cahill and Phil Jagielka is not a patch on previous partnerships, but they are the best available right now and Hodgson’s side have yet to concede a goal in the three group H games they have started together.
Roy Hodgson got a result in the middle of an injury crisis
Rickie Lambert has performed manfully for his country, but he is England’s fourth-choice striker at best and the three ahead of him are faster, sharper and have played at a higher level for longer.
As well as Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney, Glen Johnson and Phil Jones would have expected to have got on the pitch last night if they were fit.
It is a credit to stand-ins Lambert, Walker and James Milner that England took a point away from the near 70,000-filled Olympic Stadium against a team now just a single point behind them in second place.
England top the group with two home matches to go
If England take six points from the games against Montenegro and Poland at Wembley they will top the group and be through to the World Cup finals.
They could even afford to draw one of those matches if Ukraine slip up against Poland, but each of the missing players mentioned are expected to be back and England have got into the habit of winning at home under Hodgson.
The former West Brom boss has overseen five victories and two draws at Wembley in his seven home ties and his team will be warm favourites to win their last two games.