Roy Hodgson remains determined to avoid a World Cup play-off but accepts England may have to take that route to qualify for Brazil in 2014.
Tuesday night's 1-1 draw in Montenegro leaves England remain two points adrift of their opponents in Group H, and they will be five behind by the time they play again if Montenegro overcome a dangerous Ukraine outfit in June.
That would leave England facing the challenge of securing three wins and a draw from their final four games in the autumn to secure an automatic World Cup berth without ending up in the play-offs, which could include Croatia, Portugal and France.
"No-one wants to be in the play-offs but the fact is, in World Cup qualification, one team qualifies," said Hodgson.
"Everyone knows that to qualify as the team that wins the group is that much harder.
"And if you do get in the play-offs, whoever you meet is going to be a good team because there are some groups in which I would suggest there are more than two good sides.
"At the moment I shall focus all my attention on the friendlies in the summer, then I shall work even harder on those important four qualifiers that we have through September and October.
"If, as a result of our performances, we are second in the group, then we will worry about the team we have to qualify against."
After the draw with Montenegro, will England qualify for the 2014 World Cup?
Yes, as group winners
Yes, through the play-offs