World Cup - Hodgson: We could face play-off

Roy Hodgson is eager to avoid the play-off route to Brazil but the England manager accepts nothing can be taken for granted in the scrap for World Cup places.

PA Sport
World Cup - Hodgson: We could face play-off
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Roy Hodgson's England contract runs until 2016

The draw in Montenegro represented to some another precious point collected and to others two lost. A certainty is that England remain two points adrift of Tuesday night's opponents in Group H, and will be five behind by the time they play again if Montenegro overcome a dangerous Ukraine outfit in June.

That would leave England, in all probability, having to secure at least three wins and a draw from their final four games to secure an automatic World Cup berth without ending up in the play-offs, that already look set to include Croatia, Portugal and France. And Hodgson said: "No-one wants to be in the play-offs but the fact is, in World Cup qualification, one team qualifies."

He added: "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."

The last England manager who failed to qualify for a major tournament, Steve McClaren, was sacked within 24 hours. And it is widely assumed the minimum requirement for Hodgson, whose contract runs to 2016, is to reach Brazil.

"It is not for me to say (what the minimum requirement is)," said Hodgson. "I care as much about qualifying as anyone else and will try to do the best job I can. But I do know my expectations are not going to vary from anybody else's. They are always very high.

"We, as footballers, coaches and fans, want England to qualify for the major tournaments. As yet, we have not failed to do so.

"Maybe that question will become a bit more relevant if the day ever comes when we do fail. Until such time as we do fail I prefer to look forward positively and keep working towards our goal."

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