England will start qualification for the 2014 FIFA Football World Cup when they travel to Moldova for the first of the group stage games from Group H. The English had a mixed 2012 European Championships. The fact they made it as far as the quarter finals, with a new coach and a squad of considerably less than impressive players was a wonderful achievement. However, their style of play has earned them criticism, as have some of coach Roy Hodgson's tactical decisions.
However, they will be hoping to redeem themselves in qualifying strongly for the World Cup, from a group that also contains Montenegro, Poland, San Marino and Ukraine. In addition, the qualifying process could well be the farewell tournament for several of the country's old guard, including the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and John Terry. One of the principal complaints levelled against the English after Euro 2012 was the lack of ball-holding/playing midfielders, in the role of Andrea Pirlo for Italy, for example. The emergence of youngsters like Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverly and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could change all that.
England will expect nothing less than a very comfortable three points against Moldova, who, along with San Marino, are expected to be cannon fodder for the other teams in the group. The Moldavians are ranked 141st in the world and must be easier prey than the Three Lions' next opponents - Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine.
Moldova, on the other hand, will be looking to put up as much of a fight as they possibly can. The Eastern European nation do have a history of creating a few upsets though, the most notable being wins against Belarus and home draws against Scotland and Norway (in qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup).
Team News and Formation:
Roy Hodgson will have to do without a number of first team regulars for this game. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is out with a thigh injury, while Chelsea left back Ashley Cole and on-loan Liverpool striker Andy Carroll have also been ruled out. Midfielders Scott Parker and Gareth Barry and defender Joleon Lescott are also long-term absentees.
Cole's Chelsea team mate, Gary Cahill, who missed England's Euro 2012 campaign with an injury, will probably slot in alongside another club team mate in Terry, to form England's central defensive pairing. Liverpool's Glen Johnson will keep his right back position, while Chelsea youngster Ryan Bertrand, who has recently signed a new long-term contract with the club, could replace Everton's Leighton Baines at left back.
The Manchester United duo of Cleverly and Michael Carrick could start in midfield, ahead of veterans like Lampard, as Hodgson prepares his youngsters for World Cup action. That means Arsenal teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could also play. United and Chelsea will probably provide more youth in the form of Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge, while Spurs offer a striking option in Jermain Defoe, who scored the winner in the recent friendly against Italy.
Moldova will know they are up against it in this game. Their visitors may not have Wayne Rooney or Carroll up front but between the likes of Welbeck, Sturridge and Defoe, they must certainly have enough to give the minnows defensive nightmares.
The Moldavians are managed by former international Ion Caras and the ex-FC Zimbru Chişinău (top division Moldavian club with eight league titles and five domestic cups) and will look to Dynamo Moscow centre back and national team captain Alexandru Epureanu to lead the home charge.
Meanwhile, assistant manager Ion Testemitanu has indicated the absence of Rooney and Carroll provides his country with the best chance for an upset. Testemitanu, who played for Bristol City between 1998 and 2001, is the only player from Moldova to have played professional football in England.
"Rooney not playing is very, very big for us - we are very lucky. Andy Carroll not playing is also good news. We have a chance now. Anyone can win on any day," he said, adding, "We are realistic and understand who England are and will be careful from the first minute to the 90th minute."
England (4-3-3): Joe Hart; Glen Johnson, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Ryan Bertrand; Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverly, Steven Gerrard; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Danny Welbeck
Moldova (4-5-1, From Last Game): Stanislav Namasco; Igor Armas, Petru Racu, Alexandru Epureanu, Semion Bulgaru; Alexander Gatskan, Serghei Covalciuc, Alexandru Onica, Artur Patras, Igor Picusciac; Alexandru Suvorov
Where to Watch Live
The match will be telecast live on iTV 1 and iTV 1 HD from 7.30 pm onwards. You can also catch live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, from 7.45 pm onwards.