England looks too strong for Moldova

England looks too strong for Moldova

LONDON - Reuters
England looks too strong for Moldova

AP photo

England, hit by injuries to key players, is still the favorite to start its World Cup qualifying campaign with a win against Moldova in Chisinau tonight.

Defender Ashley Cole, who would have won his 99th England cap tonight, and striker Andy Carroll were the latest players to withdraw from the squad after being injured at the weekend, and while Cole should return for next Tuesday’s game against Ukraine at Wembley, Carroll is likely to be out for six weeks. Other absentees include striker Wayne Rooney and midfielder Scott Parker, but England will go into the Group H match in good spirits following a 2-1 friendly win over Italy in Berne last month.

Apart from losing on a penalty shoot-out to Italy in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012, England manager Roy Hodgson is unbeaten in seven matches over 90 minutes since taking over on May 1.

And with England improbably ranked third in FIFA’s world rankings, compared to Moldova’s 141st, anything other than an England win will be a major surprise.

Even with its injuries, England should repeat its wins over Moldova in the qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup, when England won 3-0 in Moldova in September 1996 and 4-0 at Wembley a year later.

Moldova has never qualified for the World Cup and has won only two of the 38 qualifiers it has played. It has not won any of the past 13 over the past seven years.

Moldovan coach Ion Caras told the website moldova.sports.md: “We do have confidence in our strength and our chance -- however, this is slimmer than England’s.”