England vs Slovenia: We were too nice at the World Cup and needed to get streetwise, claims Gary Cahill

Defender says Roy Hodgson's 'young and exciting' squad had already taken steps to toughen up

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England may have an exciting crop of young attacking talents but Gary Cahill has warned that Roy Hodgson’s side will only achieve tangible success if they master the dark arts of the game.

The Chelsea centre-half said that England had been guilty of being “too nice” in the past – words that echoed Wayne Rooney’s call for more “nastiness” after the World Cup defeat by a streetwise Uruguay side in Brazil last June.

Rooney had highlighted Uruguay’s tactical fouling in the match that sealed England’s elimination, and Cahill added his view that there was a time and a place for spoiling tactics – and suggested that Hodgson’s “young and exciting” squad had already taken steps to toughen up.

“We’ve been too nice, that comes with experience,” the 28-year-old said. “We’ve got a very young team but that’s a big part of the game, to know when to slow things down, to know not to always play from the back.

“Everybody has this philosophy of playing from the back but there are times to think, ‘Hold on, let’s kick up the front for five or 10 minutes’.

“It’s just managing the game really, which maybe we are doing a lot better,” he added. “It’s something that has been addressed. In terms of game management, there are times in the game to kill it off or slow things down when they aren’t going well.”

Playing under Jose Mourinho, Cahill is no stranger to the game’s more cynical side, as he acknowledged. “Exactly, it is a part of play at Chelsea and that’s because there are so many experienced players,” he said. “People know when to [kill a game off] and not. That’s something that’s coming into the make-up with England and that’s another reason why we are progressing.”

It helps, Cahill continued, to have in the national defensive coach Gary Neville a man who is only too happy to promote a few old-fashioned virtues. “He likes the kind of hard, tough-to-play-against, physical, almost old-school [defending] whereby you let the attackers know they are in a game,” he said.

“[It’s about] being aggressive and getting tight – when players are trying to hold the ball up and you’re behind them and they are thinking: ‘What is this guy doing?’”

England have not conceded a goal in five matches since Luis Suarez’s double for Uruguay in Sao Paulo, and Cahill added: “It’s something we’ve certainly addressed. If you see now, we are definitely a lot harder team to play against and I’m not just speaking about the back four – just in general. That is about being physical and wanting to win the ball back.”