England will focus on getting the required result, rather than worry about an artificial pitch, when they meet Russia in Wednesday's pivotal UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier.
Manager Steve McClaren and senior players such as Rio Ferdinand will make no excuses before the game at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, where an England win would guarantee their place in Austria and Switzerland next summer. England will likely be hampered by the absence of captain John Terry, who is nursing a knee injury and pulled out of training in Russia on Tuesday.
The Chelsea FC defender had also missed Saturday's 3-0 Group E victory against Estonia, hoping his condition would improve over the following four days. Russia, beaten 3-0 by England at Wembley on 12 September, must avenge that defeat to maintain any realistic prospect of qualification. While the artificial surface may give the home team an advantage, Ferdinand says England's players are not worried about the pitch.
"We have trained on an artificial pitch in the past few days so we know what it is all about," said the Manchester United FC centre-back. "We haven't played on their pitch before but it is not something we will be worrying about. We are just going to play our own game. Russia have more experience playing on the pitch in Moscow, but I think our quality can come through. We will apply ourselves and make sure we win the game in the right manner."
McClaren has also played down talk of the surface affecting England's performance, saying he has "absolutely no worries about it". With the Group E campaign reaching its final straight, Croatia lead the field with 26 points and two matches to play. They are followed by England on 23 points with two games remaining, and Russia with 18 points and three outstanding fixtures. Should Russia fail to win on Wednesday, Croatia – who do not play – will be through to the finals. A victory for England would also secure their ticket ahead of their concluding match against Croatia at Wembley next month.
©Reuters 1998-2010. All rights reserved.