Downing helps England to lift Swedish hex as fans stay away


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The world champions have been vanquished. The cruel subjugation of the England team by the Swedes for the previous 43 years was finally broken last night. Surely now victory for England at Euro 2012 is simply a matter of booking the right flight to Poland and allowing events to run their natural course.

Steady on. It has undoubtedly been an international break with encouraging features for Fabio Capello's team, even if last night's win over Sweden – the first in 13 attempts since 1968 – comes second to the victory over Spain on Saturday. But for all the positive points from both games, the pieces of Capello's plan for next summer still seem well-scattered.

There were many aspects of last night to give some hope to the England manager: the performances of Jack Rodwell, Phil Jones and Kyle Walker among them. Stewart Downing was England's best player and England's winner came from an own goal courtesy of the Sweden captain Daniel Majstorovic in front of the smallest crowd – 48,876 – new Wembley has ever hosted for a full England international.

The England manager got what he wanted: a chance to see some of his new boys in action with the added bonus of a victory. John Terry played 90 minutes and was left alone by the supporters. Zlatan Ibrahimovic played 45 minutes and was anonymous.

It should be said that Sweden were pretty awful, and nowhere was their drab, unimaginative performance better summed up than in the wild volley over the bar by Christian Wilhelmsson in the final minutes of the game. By then the stadium was even emptier than it had been at kick-off.

Earlier in the day, Danny Welbeck had been sent home to Manchester United having failed to shake off his thigh injury and, having been a likely starter last night before that, Capello was forced to change his plans accordingly. He kept Theo Walcott in the side and switched the side's focus to a 4-3-3 shape as opposed to the 4-5-1 formation that was used to smother Spain on Saturday.

The hosts went ahead on 23 minutes when one of many good crosses from Downing was attacked by Gareth Barry in the box. He got just the faintest of touches but it ricocheted off the Celtic defender Majstorovic and flew in.

Sweden rallied late on and Wilhelmsson gave those who stayed to the end a laugh but, goodness, they were poor. Things could be worse for England.