Fabio Capello has told England's emerging generation of talent they can dislodge some of his more established stars and secure a place in his squad for next summer's European Championships.
The Italian singled out Jack Rodwell, Kyle Walker and Phil Jones for praise after all three impressed during last night's historic 1-0 victory against Sweden, the first time in 43 years England have managed to beat the Scandinavians and a result which ensured his team finish a calendar year unbeaten for the first time since 1994.
Capello dismissed both of those quirks of history – suggesting both statistics and form will mean little next summer – but admitted that the seamless transition to the international arena of some of his younger players means nobody is assured their ticket to Poland and the Ukraine. Indeed, the only exception to that rule appears to be Wayne Rooney, who will have his appeal against his three-match ban heard by Uefa on 9 December, a hearing which could yet allow him to play some part in the group stages.
"The competition to play in the Euros will be really, really strong," said the Italian. "I hope it will be strong for everyone [not just the young players]. During these games I was looking for something new, and I found it. I found three really interesting players. They are really good technically, really good physically, and all three are fast. That is important in modern football.
"It was important to see Jones, Walker and Rodwell against a team that is really well organised and really difficult to play against. The answers they gave me were really important for me. All three played very, very well.
"We have had good results this year and we are unbeaten in 2011, but those are just statistics. It will be important what we do in the Euros, not what we have done this year."
The Italian will be encouraged, though, that England's last two performances – in victory against Spain and last night, when the unfortunate Daniel Majstorovic earned the unwanted honour of scoring the country's 2,000th international goal – have at least served to rid his team of the fear which he has long felt afflicted them at Wembley.
"Yes, we played with less fear," he said. "We started [only] the first 15 minutes against Spain [like that] and [against Sweden] we played without fear."
Even Capello's restored captain, John Terry, felt moved to thank the 48,876 crowd at Wembley – England's lowest attendance since the stadium's renovation – for their warm welcome, insisting that he has never felt any pressure to stand down from his post amid the fall-out from the allegation he racially abused Anton Ferdinand.
"I would never stand down as captain, no chance," he said. "It is something I dreamed of as a boy and I have worked very hard to get. I am very confident and very proud to be England captain, too. The fans have always been great with me and all of the players, win, lose or draw. They get upset sometimes, but that is because they're passionate, and so are we, and that is what makes us the very best. But they were great with me. If we can keep this momentum up for the next six months, then hopefully things will keep getting better."
The Republic of Ireland will join England at Euro 2012 after a 1-1 draw with Estonia. So will Croatia, Portugal and the Czech Republic.Reuse content