After their encouraging 2-1 victory over Brazil on Wednesday, Hodgson's team now have a six week break before they are in action again.
And that trip to Rimini for a meeting with San Marino is very much the hors d'oeuvre for an encounter with Montenegro that is likely to shape England's qualification prospects.
For, after dropping points already in draws against Ukraine and Poland, should England lose in Podgorica, they would have little chance of topping their group and securing automatic qualification to Brazil 2014.
It had been suggested in some quarters that Hodgson was prepared for that, and would not regard the play-offs as the end of the world.
Now he has cleared up the confusion.
"I have never said I would settle for that," he said. "We are trying to win the group.
"What I might have said is if we don't win the group, we will try and win the play-offs.
"But there is no question of us taking a play-off route."
Ukraine gave themselves a problem with their surprising failure to overcome Moldova in October, but Poland and Montenegro are still in contention, even if England remain favourites.
Certainly there was little comparison between England's victory against Brazil, epitomised by that dazzling performance from Jack Wilshere, and Poland's late defeat to the Republic of Ireland.
Hodgson needs no reminding though that the Three Lions have so often struggled to match lofty reputations when the real action begins.
"We were the top seeds in the group. We are seeded to win it," he said.
"It doesn't always happen of course.
"All teams like ourselves accept the responsibility and will do our best.
"But I won't be accepting it is over until we are more than three points off first place and there is only one game left to play.
"Don't forget I was at Fulham when we had three games to go and were 2-0 down at Manchester City.
"But we never gave it up. We never said we can't do it. And in the end we got out of it."