McClaren can't afford for England to slip-up in Estonia

If England doesn't win in Estonia, manager Steve McClaren could be returning home without a job.

updated: June 07, 2007 09:36 IST
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Tallinn, Estonia:

If England doesn't win in Estonia, manager Steve McClaren could be returning home without a job.

Failing to secure three points on Wednesday would almost certainly end England's chances of qualifying for the European Championship 0 - a financially damaging prospect for the English Football Association.

To do so against a team which is winless and pointless in the Euro campaign would make it difficult for McClaren to extend his troubled 11-month reign.

With six rounds remaining, England is fourth in Group E - five points adrift of leader Croatia.

England's unconvincing 3-0 win over Andorra in March, which followed a goalless draw in Israel, was its first victory since September when it beat Macedonia 1-0.

"I am still very confident we will qualify," goalkeeper Paul Robinson said. "We've put ourselves in a difficult position and we have a lot of hard fixtures to come.

"We all are aware it will be a disaster if we don't win on Wednesday. But we have the players at our disposal capable of winning our remaining games."

Players such as David Beckham. To save his own job, McClaren has grudgingly recalled Beckham despite dismissing the former captain in August.

Beckham's return

The Los Angeles Galaxy-bound midfielder made an immediate impact in Friday's 1-1 friendly draw against Brazil, floating in a trademark free kick for John Terry to nod home.

Beckham is likely to start again in Tallinn, while Terry appears to have shaken off a tight hamstring sustained in the friendly and trained on Monday.

McClaren has called for a disciplined performance at A Le Coq Arena.

"All games are difficult at the international level, especially away games," McClaren said. "If we do the job as we have done with the England B game (a 3-1 win over Albania last month) and against Brazil we expect to win, but we have got to do the job and have the same level of performance that we had on Friday night."

Beating Estonia doesn't appear an insurmountable challenge, but McClaren witnessed Saturday how their players can stifle visitors, battling Croatia before falling 1-0.

"Despite not winning games, they actually try to play football - they try to attack," McClaren said.

McClaren will be without the suspended Wayne Rooney, but Michael Owen is expected to make his first competitive England appearance since injuring his knee in last year's World Cup.

After Alan Smith struggled against Brazil, Peter Crouch looks he will be Owen's preferred partner, and the Liverpool forward's height could be decisive in converting Beckham's crosses from the right wing.

"(Beckham) has always got that killer ball he can put into the danger area from free kicks, which can make a goal," midfielder Frank Lampard said.

Standing in the way of England will be Watford goalkeeper Maart Poom, whose most successful spell in England came at Derby in the late 1990s when McClaren was an emerging coach.

"We try to be tight and compact at the back but also try to find ways to be positive on counterattacks and with set-pieces," said 35-year-old Poom, who joined Watford last month from Arsenal. "We just need to show more composure and confidence in front of goal."