England concluded their Euro 2016 preparations with a 1-0 victory over Portugal to give Roy Hodgson’s side a 100% record in the three games before next week’s big kick off in France. But the manner in which they overcame the Iberian side, having faced 10 men for over half of the game, shows Hodgson’s men have much work to do.
A late Chris Smalling header proved the difference, sparing England’s blushes in a tightly contested encounter at Wembley Stadium.
As far as send offs go, I think Hodgson would have been hoping for more; instead what he got was a lethargic display which resulted in large sections of the crowd resorting to making their own entertainment for the evening.
Going into a major tournament you would like to be convinced by the system and personnel of your national side but it seems Hodgson still has some way to go to find the right formula. It would be wrong to not question why the England manager has waited so long to play Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy in the same side.
To see right back Kyle Walker voted Man of the Match summed up England’s night; with all the attacking players Hodgson has at his disposal and against ten men for a large majority of the game you would like to think one of them would have stepped up but in keeping with England’s overall display on a night they failed to create any noteworthy chances until Smalling popped up.
No doubt changes will be needed to Hodgson’s side in the opener against Russia a week on Saturday, Rooney operating in the number 10 role, with Kane and Vardy playing as the front two ultimately meant moving Dele Alli out of his favoured position, a position where he has built a fantastic understanding with Kane.
For a man that is England’s leading goal scorer and with over 100 caps to his name, Rooney’s ineffectiveness against anything above average opposition is a worry. It would be unfair to say he hides as it’s not in his nature to do so but his failure to make things happen in such a crucial role could have a detrimental effect on how well the likes of Kane and Vardy do in France this summer.
If you’re going to start Rooney he has to be one of the two starting the forward positions, it would most likely come to the expense of Vardy but we have to take advantage of the relationship Kane and Alli have developed at White Hart Lane this season.
With all the young attacking talent in Kane, Sterling, Rashford, Barkley and Alli we shouldn’t be lacking in invention and tempo the way we did last night. One thing the display did confirm is that the inclusion of Jack Wilshere is a must come next Saturday.
Much was made of the Arsenal man being included in the 23 considering he’s barely kicked a ball all season, with Premier League winner Danny Drinkwater being omitted from the final squad on Tuesday but without question when fit Wilshere is our best midfielder.
Questions will be asked as to whether he is fully fit for this tournament, but you can see his quality when he’s played in the warm up games. He adds a calmness and quality to the midfield, a ball player who wants to be the link from defence to attack, and with his ability to drive forward with the ball, it gives our midfield another dimension.
Hodgson has looked to give Wilshere a place at the base of the diamond since England’s victory against Switzerland in Basel in September 2014, the midfield role which Eric Dier has impressed so much at Tottenham this season, for me Dier is a more natural fit, a ball winner and a physical presence to protect the back four and starts.
Wilshere certainly performs better in the final third, and although goals aren’t his forte he adds an intensity and imagination to attacks and judging by last night’s performance, it’s a quality that is much needed in the side. I would play Wilshere on the left of the diamond, a slightly different role but his quality is needed if we are to break down top defences, we’ve seen in the qualifiers last summer against Slovenia he has the ability to score goals in an England shirt, let him flourish in that role.
The winning streak continues, but Hodgson knows deep down that his players must do much more if they are to see any kind of success in France this summer.