Hot Poland braced for England match

Hot Poland braced for England match

WARSAW - Agence France-Presse
Hot Poland braced for England match

Polish goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak, who plays for English giant Manchester United, dives for a ball during a training session before the England game. AFP photo

Buoyed by a three-game unbeaten run, Poland is bracing for one of the toughest games of its campaign to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, against an England team empowered by a 5-0 defeat of minnows San Marino.

History has taught England not to underestimate the Poles, who famously deprived it of a berth at the 1974 World Cup in a crunch qualifier at Wembley.

Although today’s Poland is a far cry from that generation, who went on to finish third in the finals, the team is rated as one of the strongest teams in a Group H that also includes Ukraine, Montenegro and Moldova.

“Alongside ourselves and Ukraine, Poland bear the burden of being favorites and it will be a tough game,” said England manager Roy Hodgson ahead of tonight’s game.

Hodgson has been inconvenienced by injury, with Chelsea duo Frank Lampard and Ryan Bertrand both ruled out, along with Theo Walcott, who sustained a chest injury.

“We’re expecting a much more difficult game,” said Everton defender Phil Jagielka, whose Polish roots will give the trip to Warsaw a sentimental edge.

Poland coach Waldemar Fornalik played down expectations.

“Don’t forget that we are playing one of the best teams in Europe. We can’t rush in,” said Fornalik. “Whatever the result against England, it won’t be a matter of one step forward or two steps back. We’ve set out a path and we plan to stick to it.”