REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
Hodgson's England are proving hard to beat
Some might say they are even harder to watch but those critics expecting England to play like an amalgam of Spain, Brazil and Germany are dreamers. The manager was parachuted in to oversee a squad that has capped 35 players in eight matches this season. In the circumstances the level of organisation Hodgson has instilled in the space of a handful of coaching sessions is remarkable, not least as he has fielded eight defenders in two matches.
Also impressive is the speed with which the players have embraced Hodgson's ethos. There is no lack of team spirit, with a selfless element to Steven Gerrard's performance in particular (making him captain, and imbuing him with a responsibility to do as instructed, rather than try and be Roy of the Rovers, may be a masterstroke). Vincent Kompany, the captain of Manchester City and Belgium, and an interested spectator at Wembley, tweeted afterwards: "Can't see England walking over teams BUT I can't see top teams breaking them down either... England has become a well-organised unit. I actually have a lot of faith in that team."
Hart is the real deal
England went into the last tournament with uncertainty surrounding the goalkeeping position and it cost them when Rob Green made the uncharacteristic error that cost England an opening match win. Joe Hart was then an understudy whose main experience was being reprimanded by Capello for his poor distribution in a warm-up friendly match.
Now he is the undisputed No 1 and a league champion. There are still times when his inexperience betrays him – he should have taken swifter control of the situation that led to Gary Cahill's injury – but he will justifiably go into the Euros as one of England's key figures.
Parker lasted 90 minutes
Scott Parker is an important player for England, not least because of the lack of alternatives. Hodgson was thus pleased to get a full match out of the Tottenham midfielder though he admitted Parker was probably a fortnight short of being match-sharp.
Rooney is a class act
Rooney's cameo was brief, and much of it was spent augmenting the defence, but when he did get on the ball he showed the ability to size up the game's angles and possibilities which only the best players possess.
REASONS TO BE FEARFUL
Who, in Rooney's absence, is going to open up opposing defences? Ashley Young is becoming a serious international player but he does not possess Rooney's range of passing, which, given how deep England play, may be necessary to create chances.
If Parker tackles as he did on Saturday he will be suspended from England's third match after receiving two bookings. Not that he is the only player likely to be at risk: James Milner has been booked in seven of his last 13 internationals, half of them friendlies.
England's straight lines
Four-four-two is unfairly maligned; it can deliver flexible, modern football, but players must be prepared (and allowed) to move within the structure. England look rigid and predictable.
The absent Cahill's broken jaw
Even if there are no further injuries England's non-available XI would give the first-team a decent game. Foster; Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Barry; Carrick, Scholes; Lampard, Rooney, Wilshere; Bent.
Despite its huge playing population England does not have enough high-quality footballers to cope with such a high level of injuries and retirees. It should do, and the Football Association are belatedly working to ensure it does, but it will take a generation to fix.Reuse content