Roy Hodgson believes a few teams will be dreading the prospect of drawing England at the World Cup.
Their ticket to Brazil was booked on Tuesday night with a nail-biting 2-0 win over Poland at Wembley.
After coming in for criticism during the qualification campaign, Hodgson’s men came up with the goods in the final two games, delivering the six points they needed to qualify.
Talk of England going back to the “dark ages” has dissipated for now, and superb performances by Andros Townsend and Wayne Rooney have given the nation a sense of hope ahead of the tournament.
Hodgson concedes England will not be among the favourites when the tournament kicks off in June next year, but the coach believes a few countries will be looking to avoid his team when the draw is made for the finals in December.
“We won’t be favourites, that’s for sure,” the England manager said. “But I don’t think we will go into any games believing we don’t have a chance to win and I don’t think there will be too many teams out there thinking ‘whoopee, we have got England, what an easy one!’ ”
Townsend put England one step away from qualification with a breathtaking debut against Montenegro, while Rooney looks back to his best following a turbulent summer.
England’s poor form in the middle of the campaign – when they drew with Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro – meant they dropped to 17th in the Fifa rankings.
England are sure to climb the ladder when the rankings are revised later this month, but it is highly unlikely that they will be seeded when the draw is made on 6 December in Bahia.
That is of no concern to Hodgson, who has previous experience of defying the odds at a World Cup.
“With Switzerland we came out of the hat fourth but we still got through the group (in USA ’94),” Hodgson added. “I am not that bothered about the system.
“There will be 32 very, very good teams there, so it’s pretty unnecessary to worry too much about whether we are the first or second out of the hat.
“We will embrace whatever happens.”
Hodgson’s tactics and team selection came under fire during the qualifying campaign, but the 66-year-old resisted the temptation to have a dig at his detractors yesterday.
Just like on Monday night when he was agonising over the prospect of failure in the biggest match of his managerial career, the former Fulham and Liverpool manager did not get much rest on Tuesday night, the adrenaline still pumping through his veins after a tense night in London.
“I didn’t sleep well,” he said. “I feel tired and probably look tired, but I have plenty of time to sleep now.”
The sleepless nights will soon return, no doubt, as he has some huge decisions to make over who he takes to Brazil.
Hodgson was fulsome in his praise for Townsend, the 22-year-old Tottenham winger.
“He has spent the best part of his life on loan, playing in front of very, very small crowds,” Hodgson said of the Tottenham winger.
“He shrugged it all off and played as if he had been playing for England all his life. All credit to him.”
Hodgson also praised England’s old guard, name-checking the likes of Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard in the process.
Hodgson said he could not “guarantee” anyone a place in his 23-man party, which will be named in May, but he conceded that he is likely to blood some new faces in the November friendlies against Germany and another opponent – reported to be Australia.
Young stars like Ravel Morrison and Saido Berahino have impressed of late in the Premier League and for the Under-21s, but they will have to work hard to put themselves in the manager’s thoughts.
Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andy Carroll and Cole will be available once they come back from injury, leaving Hodgson with plenty of selection dilemmas. He does not mind that one bit, though. “It will be nice to have the problem rather than be chasing around trying to fill up the quota,” Hodgson said.
“Ravel has done ever so well, as has Saido, but on the other hand, Daniel Sturridge has been playing well for the national team and Ross Barkley has been training well.
“One always welcomes those heavy knocks at the door from those who are screaming ‘listen I am the one you have to choose, I am better’, but we have a strong squad at the moment so it won’t be easy to break in.”