England v Poland: Hodgson's Brazil World Cup bid boosted 'phenomenally' by win over Montenegro
Merse says Poland will raise their game '20-fold' but England will get the jump on them at Wembley.
Last Updated: 18/10/13 12:21pm
I went through it 20-odd years ago when we lost to Norway and then got beat by Holland away and I ended up watching the 1994 World Cup on TV.
To say I was gutted - especially as the tournament was in America - doesn't even come close.
This England team still have their fate in their own hands and you can't ask for more than that. Beat Poland at home on Tuesday and they will be off to Brazil.
There isn't a team in the world that wouldn't have bitten your hand off to be in a similar position when this qualifying campaign began two years ago.
England had to beat Montenegro on Friday and I thought 4-1 was a great result; given the way the team played, I'd be flabbergasted if Roy Hodgson changed his XI besides bringing in either Chris Smalling or Phil Jones (as Kyle Walker is suspended).
Leaving Jack Wilshere out was a massive gamble and it worked because Andros Townsend played with no fear; he went out there and took people on and got the fans on their feet.
He is a slight doubt for the Poland game after picking up an injury but I really hope he recovers because teams don't come up against players like Townsend too often in this day and age - people who get the ball and want to take players on and commit people.
Five out of 10 times it won't come off and people have to understand that and swallow it but when it does, it is special. Even Diego Maradona didn't do it 10 times out of 10!
It's easier to use your skills when you are winning - there's no doubt about that -when you're two, three, four up everyone expresses themselves; what made Townsend's contribution so good was that he did it at 0-0.
Sometimes taking a risk like that pays off and it worked an absolute treat on Friday; fair play to Roy because it could have backfired badly.
Instead, the amount of confidence England will take out of winning that game 4-1 is absolutely phenomenal. They played well rather than fall over the line and that will help to erase any doubts they might have had.
We now have the weird situation where Townsend could send England to the World Cup without being anywhere near as sure of playing for his club, Tottenham, as his country, which is unbelievable!
You'd like to think that if he does the business again at Wembley on Tuesday, both Roy Hodgson and Andre Villas-Boas would remember that! To be fair, Villas-Boas has showed a lot more faith in him of late and it's becoming abundandly clear why.
Poland's own qualification hopes may be over but they won't be pushovers, no way. If you've asked them before this qualification campaign started what was the one game they wanted to win in the group, it would be England at Wembley. They'll pick their game up 20-fold.
The FA have made 18,000 tickets available to Polish fans and - safety concerns aside - I don't think that's a bright idea because the Polish players have already got the major incentive of winning at Wembley; this gives them even more motivation.
Those 18,000 Polish fans are going to make a lot more noise and for much of the game probably more than the 60-70,000 England fans, so I don't really see the sense in it.
By their own admission, I'm sure, England had a bit of a result against Montenegro in the sense that a lot of their top players weren't playing.
At this standard of football you can't afford to lose players like that; it would be like us missing Rooney, Gerrard or Lampard on Tuesday. Lampard was subbed fairly early on Friday so it may be that he's got a niggle, so it may be that either Wilshire or Carrick come into the middle.
England got a 1-1 draw when the teams met in Warsaw earlier in the campaign and any away result in World Cup qualifiers is a good result. Poland are always going to be in the game because they've got a very good goalie in Artur Boruc and a world-class centre forward in Robert Lewandowski.
But I don't really worry about us defensively - I think we're decent in that area. Sometimes we get over-run by other teams when they play five in midfield and that's the thing that worries me more than anything for the future.
What I was most pleased about on Friday was that England were patient; they had a lot of the ball in the first half and played mostly in Montenegro's half, but at 0-0 at half-time you could panic but they didn't and to get the goal that early in the second half was great. From there they went on to get a thoroughly deserved win.
Now they've just got to do it for 90 more minutes and England will be there. As England senior players know, nothing beats going to the World Cup.