Five things we learned about England: Wayne Rooney remains key and Roy Hodgson is a Gary Cahill fan

What did the draws with Brazil and Republic of Ireland tell us?

1. Whittle down players

Jack Rodwell last night became the 39th player used by Roy Hodgson in the five friendlies played this season. A new manager inevitably wants to take a look at all options, and Hodgson has had to dredge deeply into England’s limited talent pool because of withdrawals, but it is time to narrow down the candidates for a place at Brazil 2014.

It would take a dramatic revival on form for Adam Johnson to figure, while Carl Jenkinson, Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone, Stephen Caulker and Ryan Shawcross are unlikely to make it. Others, such as Raheem Sterling and Ryan Bertrand appear to have been blooded with a view to the long-term future. What, though, to make of Leon Osman who impressed in his one outing against Sweden but has been absent since?

2. Rooney remains key player

His club form may be patchy, and some observers seem to expect him to score a hat-trick every game, but seven goals in the last seven matches underline Rooney's importance to an England side which often finds it hard to score against decent opposition. Rooney, though, is much more than a goalscorer, he is also arguably England’s most creative player. Hodgson’s task is to find a position for Rooney which encourages this without losing his goal threat. Since bursting onto the scene (and being injured) in Euro 2004 Rooney’s tournament experiences have been unhappy. He will not lack for motivation in Brazil.

3. Hodgson is a Cahill fan

Gary Cahill is the only player to start all five friendlies and while the unavailability of rivals has inevitably been a factor in this Hodgson clearly likes the Chelsea defender. Being an ever-present in friendlies does not mean Cahill’s ticket is booked. He did not start a minute of England’s three most difficult fixtures this year - the World Cup qualifiers against Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro - which suggests Hodgson does not yet trust him. However, with John Terry and Rio Ferdinand out of the reckoning, Joleon Lescott out of favour at club level, and neither Phil Jones nor Chris Smalling able to nail down a regular place in Manchester United’s central defence there is a place available alongside Phil Jagielka. Hodgson is giving Cahill every chance to claim it.

4. Friendlies are needed

England play friendlies in large part because the FA need the cash to pay for Wembley, but international managers need them too. Club managers may complain about them but they are being hypocrites - no club goes into a season without a series of friendlies behind them despite having far more time on the training ground to work on structure and familiarity. Friendlies do lack competitive edge and the raft of withdrawals diminishes their value but last night’s match will have been enormously helpful to England. Hodgson and his players have earned good experience for next summer should they return to Brazil, and some of those who did not travel may fear for their place

5. We need to find our own method.

It is one thing to be out-passed by Brazil, it is another entirely to be unable to retain possession against Republic of Ireland. English players remain technically poor compared to the world elite and it is naïve to think we should try and ape Barcelona (whose best player is Argentine, not Spanish), or even Bayern Munich (whose flair is provided by Dutch and French wingers).  However, English players do have strengths that go beyond ‘Dark Age’ kick-and-chase, they are resilient, and have a decent goalkeeper. That should enable England to remain competitive against technically better sides. If the defence can become more solid (the only clean sheets this season were against Moldova and San Marino) England ought to qualify for Brazil 2014 and provide a respectable display there.

RESULTS

England 2 Italy 1

Sweden 4 England 2

England 2 Brazil 1

England 1 Rep of Ireland 1

Brazil 2 England 2

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing