- Moldova v England, World Cup qualifying
England's long road to Rio starts in ChisinauSeptember 7, 2012
England coach Roy Hodgson has warned his side not to expect an easy start to their World Cup qualifying campaign against Moldova on Friday evening.
The Moldovan players are set to earn a sizeable cash bonus from their employees if they can cause an upset by holding England to a draw in their Group H opener.
But, even without those financial incentives, Hodgson knows England can ill afford to be complacent against a side who twice lost by only a single goal to Holland in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
"You know if you don't prepare for a tough game or an opponent that is going to be well organised and disciplined in defence, then you are not preparing for the game properly," Hodgson said. "The Moldovans' bonus system will have to be their bonus system. We have our own fish to fry and we want to try and win the game.''
Hodgson is glad to have started his role in time to lead England into Euro 2012 even though he had little time to prepare for the tournament. He is excited about the blend of youth and experience he feels is starting to gel together.
"It was a good time for me to start with a tournament even though it wasn't an easy time. It was good for me because I feel much more confident knowing about players going into these first qualifiers than I would have done had I been employed after the tournament and this would have been the first squad I selected.
"I'm really positive at the moment that we have a group of players who will balance youth and experience.''
Hodgson is missing a number of players through injury, including Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, Ashley Young and Andy Carroll. The absence of Rooney, in particular, and Carroll is a big boost for Moldova, according to their assistant manager Ion Testemitanu, who believes his side are capable of causing an upset.
"Rooney not playing is very, very big for us - we are very lucky,'' Testemitanu said on BBC Sport. "Andy Carroll not playing is also good news. We have a chance now. Anyone can win on any day.''
Testemitanu, who played for Bristol City in England, knows it will not be easy though for a side ranked 141st in the world. England are third.
"We are realistic and understand who England are and will be careful from the first minute to the 90th,'' he added. "England are always very good - there are no secrets. I saw how they played at Euro 2012 and was impressed.''
Moldova player to watch: Petru Racu is likely to be given the nod in the heart of defence for Moldova, a bold move considering the 25-year-old has been without a club since being released by Danish side FC Hjorring in the summer. If he wants to attract new suitors, a big performance would undoubtedly do wonders for him. "If England under-estimate us they might get a surprise," he warned. "We know how to defend and the game starts at 0-0 so there's no reason it can't finish 0-0."
England player to watch: Captain Steven Gerrard has had an underwhelming start to his club season with Liverpool, and two years is a long time in which to decline before the World Cup rolls around. If he wants to be in the team (let alone hold the armband) in Brazil, he can allay some early concerns about his ability with a dominant performance from midfield. With England's lack of attacking options, his creativity from behind the strikers could prove especially important.
Betting: Assuming he gets to start, Jermain Defoe to score twice in the game is 4/1 with bet365. Alternatively, Danny Welbeck is double the odds.