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England secured their place at next summer’s World Cup with a 2-0 win over Poland last night, with goals from Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard enough to get Roy Hodgson’s men over the line.
With a lot at stake and nerves jangling, the result was exactly what England needed and they consequently topped Group H. However, there were a number of things that stuck out from the game – some positive and some negative.
Joe Hart starting to look like his old self
The Manchester City stopper has come in for a lot of criticism for his performances for club and country of late, with some even calling for the goalkeeper to be dropped.
However, despite Poland not showing a clinical edge in the final third, Hart did all that was asked of him for a second consecutive game and looked to be regaining some of his old confidence.
For England to excel in Brazil they will need Hart at his best. It is a big 12 months for the keeper.
Chris Smalling out of position and lacking sharpness
Admittedly Roy Hodgson was without Kyle Walker and Glen Johnson, but Manchester United defender Chris Smalling did not look comfortable at right-back.
The former Fulham man is only getting back to fitness after injury and is clearly out of position on the flank. This was proven in the Manchester derby and again Smalling looked vulnerable here.
Potentially a top centre-half if he can get regular football under his belt, the experiment of playing Smalling at full-back should now stop for club and country.
Leighton Baines’ exemplary delivery
The Everton full-back continued to put forward his case for a starting place when Ashley Cole is back fit and available, and again looked right at home.
An excellent delivery for the opening goal was backed up with good distribution of the ball throughout the clash, and the Chelsea defender will have a job on his hands getting back into the team now.
Baines’ ability on the ball certainly gives England an extra dimension going forward and he looked accomplished in his own half also.
Carrick and Gerrard a more-rounded pairing
Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick was brought into the team at the expense of Frank Lampard, and his deep-lying tendencies suited England well both in attack and defence.
With his excellent range of passing, Carrick will be pushing for a regular start at the tournament in Brazil.
More to come from Townsend
Although starting the game slowly, Andros Townsend ended any fears that he could be a one-cap wonder by putting in another confident display. The Tottenham winger’s ability is there for all to see and if it can be harnessed correctly he can be a real star for club and country.
Townsend’s emergence gives England another option, where they have been relying on Theo Walcott for pace in wide areas previously.
A big season for Wayne Rooney
After all the talk of transfers and discontent at Manchester United, Wayne Rooney has done his talking on the pitch so far this term.
The striker has been in excellent form and again looked like the best player on the pitch. If he can keep this up and stay fit, the former Everton prodigy can be England’s match-winner in Brazil.