Comment: England must dare to be risky during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

The only thing England have to lose are the shackles of caution

The great World Cup infatuation has begun. A swathe of contradictory opinion washes over England, revealing the age-old tension between soaring optimism after a job well done and the evidence preserved in the lost decades post-1966. The old reactionaries are already trying to kill the new sense of enterprise at birth with their hysterical labels, so the introduction of verve and invention via the Andros Townsend catalyst is dismissed as gung-ho football that won't work against the "big" teams.

Are they blind? What doesn't work against the big teams is the subjugation of attacking impulses in order to meet defensive needs. What about inverting the desire to keep the opposition out by recognising the need to put the ball in the net? We have spent too many years watching England labour without the ball against teams who dominate possession and take the game to us. And what a joyless experience that is.

The lesson of Tuesday night against Poland was learned in the stands, where the fans were in thrall to the action and went home happy. Give me that over the grim toil against Italy in the Euros last year when Andrea Pirlo et al passed a willing England into oblivion. The best for which they could hope was a conclusion via the penalty spot, and they couldn't crack that. They never can.

Roy Hodgson was asked in the immediate glow of victory what approach England might take in Brazil. In other words, was this more cavalier style sustainable? I would argue it is necessary. Perhaps sensibly, he shifted the focus on to technical grounds; his concern was to ensure that when England defend they do so properly as a unit and when they attack they do so responsibly, using the example of full-backs needing to resume their station after any advance.

Lee Dixon erred on the side of caution, pointing to the need for England to better protect their centre-halves against teams with bigger guns up front. I would ask Dixon why Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka looked vulnerable against Poland. That would be because a player, typically Robert Lewandowski, was running at them at pace with the ball at his feet.

Ask yourselves what made England so much more potent in the past two games. The introduction of Townsend, perhaps? And why has he made England look like a team that carries a threat? Because he runs at players at pace with the ball at his feet. This need not be gung ho. Poland didn't look gung ho when Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski were tearing at England in the opening 20 minutes. They looked like good players in a half-decent team.

England have not produced a more cohesive and compelling passage of play in many a year at Wembley than they managed in that purple period in the first half. Poland were pulled all over the place by quick, incisive, clever movement which yielded a pin-point cross from Leighton Baines converted by Wayne Rooney.

Hodgson has worked hard to rid the England experience of the adhesive fear that has clung to the shirt. It would be madness to crush this nascent age of enlightenment with the return of caution. No defender, no team in the world is comfortable against pace. England have not had a player of world class able to consistently go past players while appearing to know what he is doing since Paul Gascoigne.

Now we have the flying Townsend. Pressing his case from below is Ravel Morrison, who demonstrated that Gascoigne quality with an individual thrust through the middle for England Under-21s at Ipswich on Tuesday. Tell me you would not want to see him running at the opposition in Brazil. Ross Barkley is another teenager with attitude and quick feet who likes to shoot. Hodgson is never going to throw caution out the door. There will always be a strategic, disciplined quality to his approach but he has somehow introduced some devil and creativity. That, frankly, has been a revelation.

The doubters are out there, laughing at the idea that after beating Montenegro and Poland, England can now expect to compete technically with the usual suspects. Spain, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Italy and the Netherlands are rolled out as mythical beasts beyond the reach of the English sword.

Twaddle. We can compete, but in order to do so we must trust in our ability and believe. The evidence was there on Tuesday that showed what England might do when they dare to risk. They have nothing to fear but fear itself, nothing to lose but the chains of caution that have held us back too long.

Hodgson has done the English game a favour by restoring a sense of occasion and joy. This is sport, after all, something to be enjoyed. Of course winning is the point, but surely England's chances of doing that are enhanced by unleashing the kind of hell that we know we shall face against the "big" teams.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn