England manager Steve McClaren hailed the 3-0 UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying defeat of Israel and immediately set his sights on Wednesday's Wembley showdown against Russia.
Goals from Shaun Wright-Phillips, Michael Owen and Micah Richards moved England into third place in Group E, boosting their chances of qualifying for the finals in Austria and Switzerland and greatly reducing Israel's. "I'm delighted," McClaren said. "It was important to win. I would have taken a 1-0 before kick-off but I'm pleased we scored three, although I am disappointed that we did not score more. Israel have proved to be a difficult side to break down but we beat them easily with a good performance and three goals."
'Set a standard'
Croatia lead the section with 20 points ahead of their midweek game in Andorra, while Russia have 18 and England 17. Looking ahead to what promises to be a highly-charged night against Guus Hiddink's unbeaten side, McClaren added: "I'm sure Russia will watch our video and not relish the prospect of coming to Wembley if we play like that. We've set a standard and have to do it again on Wednesday."
McClaren is hoping Owen Hargreaves will be fit for that game but acknowledged that Frank Lampard was "struggling". Still, the manager was delighted with the performance of his unheralded players. "I said we had players in that dressing room who were good enough. The likes of Gareth Barry were excellent. So were Shaun Wright-Phillips and Emile Heskey coming in and doing the job we wanted him to do."
Israel coach Dror Kashtan offered "no excuses" for the loss, saying: "We were beaten by a better side, of that there is no doubt, but in order to improve we also have to lose sometimes. Obviously there were gaps between us and England and there are massive gaps between Israeli football and English football. Our players had an off day. England prevented us from going forward. We did not have a clear-cut chance."
He was not, however, conceding defeat in the battle for qualification despite Israel being three points off the lead and having played a game more than their main rivals. "We still stand a chance with three games to play," he said. "England have to play Russia twice and face Croatia. In football you can never predict the future but we have to improve on our display today against a side with so many great players in it."
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