Captain Wayne Rooney is not inspiring much optimism ahead of his first competitive match as skipper – claiming England will settle for a point in Switzerland tonight.
Following a narrow victory against Norway in front of just more than 40,000 spectators, the Three Lions won’t be too disheartened by failure in St. Jakob-Park – arguably their toughest fixture in a powder-puff Group E.
The Man United forward is looking to secure three points in his first competitive fixture wearing the armband, though admits a draw in Basel would represent a good result for his side.
Rooney said: “We want to win it, but if we get a point, so be it.”
Their opponents, who were managed for three years by Roy Hodgson, took Argentina to extra-time in the second round of the World Cup.
Switzerland are ranked ninth in the world, eleven places above Rooney’s men.
And so tonight’s fixture looks the most difficult test of England’s qualifying group with Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and international whipping boys San Marino expected to provide little resistance on the road to France.
England manager Hodgson, meanwhile, has had to defend an expletive-laden swipe at his side’s critics in the wake of the dour Norway victory.
After slamming those who mocked his side’s limp performance on Wednesday night, the 67-year-old denied he was falling out of love with managing England.
He said: “Popularity doesn’t really mean much to me. There may have been a slight swing in popularity after the World Cup. I’d have been surprised had there not been.
“Am I seeing the nasty side of the job? No. There is no nasty side. I love this job.
“It’s a magnificent job. It’s the pinnacle of any coaching career.”
For Rooney, there is not only the chance of achieving what would be an impressive result as England begin their qualification campaign – but the chance of an individual milestone too.
The 28-year-old is close to topping the all-time goalscorers chart for his country, needing just nine goals to beat Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 49.
His penalty on Wednesday meant he overtook former Man United team-mate Michael Owen in fourth place and Rooney says he should climb the scoring charts further before hanging up his boots.
He said: “I’d be a fool if I didn’t look at Sir Bobby’s record and feel capable of passing him. It’s in my sights.
“Both his records have stood for a long time and a lot of players have attempted to break them.
“Now they’re in touching distance, the two of them. It’s something I’d love to do. I feel I’m capable of doing it.”
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