Midway through the second half of their game in Russia, England had looked likely to confirm a place at UEFA EURO 2008™. Four minutes and two Russia goals later, their hopes of reaching the finals were dramatically diminished.
A penalty and a close-range finish in quick succession from Russia substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko more than cancelled out Wayne Rooney's first-half volley in Moscow and left the visitors just two points ahead of hosts who have a game in hand next month. For England, victory in their remaining Group E match against Croatia on 21 November still might not be enough to secure qualification – especially if Russia collect three points in Israel four days earlier, before they then visit Andorrra.
Since England have not missed out on the UEFA European Championship since the eight-team tournament of 1984, failure to get to Austria/Switzerland would be a huge blow and one recognised by Steven Gerrard, standing in for injured captain John Terry. "It is important that we do not give up," Gerrard said. "We are waiting on other people to do us favours. I can't believe it is out of our hands. For England not to make the finals will be unthinkable. But we've got to take responsibility for that."
Manager Steve McClaren was equally subdued. "We had it in our grasp and ended up losing," he said. "I've been involved in games like this before and there are no answers to how it is possible to end up on the losing side. It's a bad position. We have to rely on Russia stumbling against Israel ... We're not giving up. We'll take it to the end. Israel is a tough place to go. They have to go and win. They've still got a lot of work to do."
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