England must now show ambition

Roy Hodgson is unbeaten in his first three games as England manager. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/Press Association Images

It wasn’t pretty to watch but it was certainly effective. Organised, predictable, defensive, pragmatic, a model of damage limitation perhaps. There are many ways to describe England’s performance against the French but ambitious is not one of them.

That’s not Roy Hodgson’s style, especially against a technically superior team. But however you see it, it worked, and has set the foundations for a real tilt at this group and who knows what beyond that.

The old failings were there for all to see though. England just don’t seem to cherish the ball like other teams. Don’t, or maybe can’t. They give it away far too easily and as a result are forever chasing opposition shadows. It is an energy sapping way to play the game, especially in temperatures north of 30 degrees.

The French had 65 per cent possession last night. 65 per cent and still couldn’t find a winner.

As I’ve said here before it’s the way Chelsea beat Barcelona and then Bayern Munich.

England manager Roy Hodgson studies his squad. Credit: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Before those games I would have argued it is all but impossible to keep winning by adopting such a defensive, siege-like approach but then Roberto Di Matteo’s men proved me wrong and proved me wrong against two very good sides.

I’m still convinced though someone somewhere will punish England if they carry on this way.

Although Roy Hodgson has now gone three games unbeaten with his safety first philosophy, I think England are going to have to shake it up against Sweden. A draw is not what they need, both in terms of points and momentum.

It doesn’t necessarily mean changing the starting line up, more the intent, but if I was him I would consider Theo Walcott instead of James Milner. At the very least I’d give the Arsenal flyer a run out a long time before he was unleashed last night.

We do know Hodgson has the ability to surprise, he did that by picking Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain yesterday. That gamble was a real success and so Walcott may yet have a significant say against Sweden.

England captain Steven Gerrard, goalkeeper Joe Hart and teen star Chamberlain all feature in England's recovery session video, as the players wind down and recover from the opening match.

I’d also persuade those warriors of midfield, Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker, to try to push forward a little more. Their positioning dictates the shape of the team and at times last night their back tracking heels were almost stamping on John Terry and Joleon Lescott’s toes.

Nasri’s goal happened partly because he had too much space in front of him on the edge of the area.

In the last half hour everyone tired and everyone dropped deeper but the stifling heat will not be such an issue in Kiev.

Rooney, who will return for England's final group match against Ukraine, tweeted this photo of himself and teammate Ashley Cole today. Credit: Twitter

Also, in terms of ability the Swedes are not France. They’re not even close. And just think, after this one England can at last call up someone who really can make a difference on this stage.

It was endearing to see Wayne Rooney living every second of last night’s game, kicking every ball from his seat in the stands but I guess we’d all rather he was doing it for real. And it’s quite clear he can’t wait.

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