Gareth Barry reflected yesterday that England's emphatic stride towards next summer's European Championships does not disguise the fact that Spain are "a better team" and served a reminder that the summer of 2010 proved the perils of getting carried away.
"You can look at it very deeply and say Spain are a better team," Barry said. "They probably showed that when we played them the other day. But the fact we did beat them showed that on our day we can beat anybody. We can't say we are going into [next summer] as the best team in the tournament because we know we are not but ... we can beat them. Everyone knows the way we qualified [for the World Cup] last time, the expectations went through the roof. We flew through the group, didn't concede many goals and played some great stuff. When it comes to the business end, the tournament, that is where you need to perform and get that winning habit. At the minute we've got that, but we've got to try and take that all the way to the tournament."
The draw for the Poland/Ukraine finals, to be made at 5pm on Friday 2 December, could be sobering. With England in the second group of seeds, the worst-case scenario for Fabio Capello is a group stage, minus Wayne Rooney, in which his side must face Spain, Portugal and France. At best, Poland, Sweden and Denmark could lie in wait.
But Tuesday's 1-0 win over Sweden reinforced the sense that the resources at Fabio Capello's disposal are certainly far greater than in June 2010, when the state of Barry's ankle briefly become a source of national obsession. Barry accumulated 123 minutes on the field against Spain and Sweden, suggesting that Capello does consider him an important prospect for next summer, though Barry admitted there was far more competition now. "With the way these games have gone, no one has let themselves down, there have been some great performances," the 30-year-old said. "All the young lads that have come in have adapted well in training and in the games done well. Probably you've got to look [most of all] at Phil Jones, playing out of position, he looked as if he has played there all his career. It is not his natural game.
"The manager has got plenty of options to bring different people in to play against different opposition. Spain was a completely different game to Sweden but we got over the line in both of them. The way you adapt and play against different teams and different styles is going to be important. It was great we did do that."
Jack Rodwell said that the header he placed against the outside of a post from Stewart Downing's cross would torment him. "I'll be going over that all night," he said as he left the stadium. "It's one of them – nine out of 10 I'll put it in the back of net. I take the positive that I got in the right position." Indeed, the threatening positions he took up when bursting into the box made his 57 minutes against the Swedes a genuinely good launchpad. His manager David Moyes sees him ultimately as a centre-half, though Rodwell said this offensive role suited him. "I've played all over to be honest; centre-half, defensive midfield, attacking midfield. I have been playing box-to-box more for Everton so I have felt comfortable in that position but anywhere across the midfield I can play. I felt like I should have scored the header. I took a knock as well in the first half but, all in all, I'm pleased with my performance."