They may be ranked at 141st in the world, but can Moldova cause Roy Hodgson an upset in Englands opening World Cup qualifier?
One problem facing Roy Hodgson is injuries. The England manager said it was a “great blow” to be without a number of players, including striker Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll and defender Ashley Cole, through injury.
Hodgson is especially sparse in his attack, and will have to look for strikers amongst the likes of Jermain Defoe and the inexperienced Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck.
Hodgson said: “It is a great blow to lose players you have selected but we chose a large squad to cope with that. I’m still happy with the players that remain with us and we certainly have more than the 11 we need to play the game.”
And despite being 138 places behind third-placed England in the FIFA world rankings, Moldova may not be the push-over the figures would suggest.
The football team, from the former Soviet Union country with a population of 3.5m, conceded only two goals against Holland in the qualification matches for Euro 2012. In the qualifying campaigns for the World Cup 2012 and Euro 2012 Moldova conceded 34 goals in 20 games.
The team is known to be strongest in defence, exacerbating England’s barren attacking options.
Hodgson said: “You know if you don’t prepare for a tough game or an opponent that is going to be well organised and disciplined in defence, then you are not preparing for the game properly.
“We are aware of that and this is a team capable of playing well and causing problems so we won’t under-estimate them. We are well aware that a very strong Holland team only won here 1-0 and at home only won 1-0 as well.”
Moldova also has a financial incentive, with the players set to receive cash bonuses from their employees if they can hold England to a draw.
“The Moldovans’ bonus system will have to be their bonus system,” said Hodgson. “We have our own fish to fry and we want to try and win the game.”
Concerns have also been raised ahead of the match about the pitch at the Zimbru stadium in Chisinau, Moldova, pitch after Moldova’s assistant manager Ion Testemitanu said earlier this week that it may not be up to standard.
“I’m pretty sure that I have a very experienced group of players and they’ll have played on many pitches, and I really don’t envisage any particular problems there, but obviously after tonight’s training session we’ll know a little bit more about it,” said Hodgson.
However, there is little doubt that England are favourite to win the match. Kick-off is at 7:45pm.