The road to Brazil
Sky Sports takes a look at the opponents and some familiar foes facing Roy Hodgson's England in Group H as they prepare to begin their path to the World Cup
Last Updated: September 7, 2012 11:55am
Roy Hodgson: England will be facing familiar opponents in Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine
FIFA world ranking: 137
Boss Ion Caras faces the usual tough task in attempting to transform the nation from the usual whipping boys. In qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, Moldova picked up just three points and finished bottom of their group. The current crop are not completely scarred by previous failures of the past, including two defeats by England in 1998 World Cup qualifying, after a focus on youth. Captain Alexandru Epureanu is only 25 years old.
Danger man: Igor Bugaiov
FIFA world ranking: 50
Priding themselves on hard work and tactical organisation, they are tough opponents, as England discovered in Euro 2012 qualifying when being held to two draws - including throwing away a two-goals lead in Podgorica. Montenegro became an independent nation after their split from Serbia in 2007 and in their only previous World Cup qualifying campaign to date they finished fifth in Republic of Ireland's group.
Danger man: Mirko Vucinic
FIFA world ranking: 54
Finishing bottom of their group as co-hosts at Euro 2012 was not part of the script and cost Franciszek Smuda his job. Waldemar Fornalik is the new man in charge and is under pressure for improvements after the failure to qualify for the last World Cup. The days of finishing third at the 1982 World Cup are a distant memory but in the likes of Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Wojciech Szczesny they have players full of potential.
Danger man: Robert Lewandowski
FIFA world ranking: 206
Everyone remembers England's last meeting with this particular opponent. A Stuart Pearce gaffe helped put the Three Lions behind in the opening seconds before an eventual 7-1 win in the final match of the doomed 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign. England have improved, just about, in the past 18 years but little has changed for San Marino. They lost all 10 of their Euro 2012 qualifiers, failing to score and conceding 53 goals.
Danger man: Manuel Marani
FIFA world ranking: 45
Another Euro 2012 co-host who, like Poland, failed to make it out of the groups. England will be well acquainted with these particular opponents after playing them in the summer and will be aware of the threats. Andriy Shevchenko has of course retired but Marko Devic and Andriy Yarmolenko remain as highly-rated elements of the squad. Former Ballon d'Or winner Oleh Blokhin is still manager and is again likely to provide a lively press conference or two.