An entire nation of football fans breathed an enormous sigh of relief when the final whistle went at the end of a special night at Wembley. England boss Roy Hodgson admitted to suffering from pre-match nerves in the build-up to his side’s encounter with an awkward Poland team, as the possibility of qualification loomed. As we know, England were incorrigible and superfluous, winning two-nil. It gives us cause to reflect on a campaign that began in September 2012 away to Moldova and culminated this week.
Early on there were signs that Hodgson’s England equated very much to Hodgson’s Fulham side that reached the Europa League final of 2010: industrious, skillful and difficult to beat. These are the qualities required for a successful World Cup campaign. Hodgson knows tournament football, having managed Switzerland from 1992 until 1995. And now there is cause for optimism, though England are firmly underdogs; it is not always the best national side that wins the major competitions, take Greece in 2004 for example. The usual suspects seem to be at the peak of their powers, which should make it a fantastic spectacle with the amount of flair on display. We can only hope that the best players raise their game to the optimum level, unlike the last World Cup where the likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney were strangely lacking.
The England manager and team deserve the plaudits on this occasion for guaranteeing we all have a good summer next year. Amongst those that caught the eye were Sturridge, which is beginning to sound like an everyday occurrence, and the exciting Andros Townsend, who offered much. I am a strong champion of Leighton Baines, who should make the team ahead of Cole. He has all the same attributes, is slightly younger, and is a dead-ball specialist, as he proved in Everton’s recent match at West Ham. Ashley Cole is a magnificent servant to England, but only has the advantage in terms of trophies won now. Sturridge, Townsend and Baines have all played their part in getting England to Brazil next summer, and will hopefully be playing a big part once they’re there.
With that, there is only left to say congratulations to England.Follow @Spark_sport