England must be 'spot on' to beat Poland
Gareth Southgate has stressed England will need to be ‘spot on’ out of possession when they travel to Poland if they are to continue their 100 per cent record in 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying.
It means the Three Lions are currently top of Group I, five points ahead of second-place Poland, at the halfway point.
But Southgate has reiterated that the job is far from done as they head into another away game in front of opposition fans at the Stadion Narodowy on Wednesday night.
Southgate said: “We have to approach the game like we did the other night. We know that keeping possession can be a big factor in managing those situations [with the crowd] but the flow of the game will be different.
“We are playing against a level of opposition who I think are in a better moment. They have won their last two games and they have some good footballers in their team who will keep the ball better than Hungary were able to on the night against us.
“So the detail of how we press and how we defend will have to be spot on.”
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who was sitting alongside his manager for the press conference, was also asked about having to cope with passionate supporters during away games.
Pickford added: “You have to be focussed. As a goalkeeper, you can hear it a lot more clearly but as the manager said, it is about us playing our football and silencing them to play our best football.
“It is difficult but it is something I have learned and concentrate on – not to focus on it.”
Southgate made eleven changes for Sunday’s match against Andorra as he looked to rest the players who had beaten Hungary three days earlier.
But the Three Lions boss highlighted there could still be changes to the team which face Poland, compared to the side who beat Hungary last week.
Southgate said: “You could argue over what is our strongest team. The team who played in Hungary, we were able to rest those guys after the game but there is still huge competition for places in this group.
“It is not as straight forward as saying ‘we won that game and this team will go again and give the same level of performance’
“The challenges of the game in Poland will be different, the rhythm of the game can be different, the problems on the night can be different, so we can’t just drift into the match. We have to make sure our levels of concentration are really high.”
England have already beaten Poland during this 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, after the Three Lions needed a Harry Maguire goal five minutes from time in March.
Poland were without their captain Robert Lewandowski that night though and the Bayern Munich striker is expected to be fit for Wednesday night’s contest.
Southgate said: “Any team is going to miss a player of that calibre and we know he is one of the best finishers in European football.
“We have got to prepare for what he brings to the team but we also know that they have other strong players. They gave us a really good game at Wembley that night and pushed us to the end.
“So yes we have prepared some specifics around Lewandowski but we have to be ready for the whole team.”
When asked about how he prepares to face a world-class striker like Lewandowski, Pickford replied: “Just have to work hard all week, do all my stuff with Marge (Martyn Margetson) and the other goalkeepers and just be 100 per cent on the training pitch and put it into the game on a match day.”
He continued: “We know they are a top side and he is a top striker, so we will focus on certain areas and we will be ready for anything.”