With England‘s World Cup 2014 fate on the line, they blasted past Montenegro to leave them just one win away from Brazil.
But with one game down, it was great to see manager Roy Hodgson finally make some brave, positive decisions. In the past, there has been the opportunity for Hodgson to pick a team that was safer. His lineups have been selections that showed how he clearly didn’t want to blow England’s qualification chances early on.
This time, when it was the most dangerous to make a daring selection, Hodgson did exactly that.
When Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were ruled out of the squad for these two games with injury, it was widely accepted that James Milner would be England’s right midfielder. But, Hodgson was aware that England had to take the game to the opposition and be the team making things happen.
That said, there is a difference between picking a more attacking player and picking someone making his debut in such an important game, in this case Andros Townsend. The terror that ex-manager, Steve McLaren experienced when he picked Scott Carson as his keeper in the pivotal Euro 2008 qualifier vs. Croatia is a clear piece of evidence that first-timers can struggle.
But as Rickie Lambert proved vs. Scotland earlier this year, this England squad are hungry to succeed at the international level. These players being picked know that they not only need to perform to help England qualify, but also that they need to impress for their own England future.
The squad no longer picks itself. That is a big difference right now. It means a lot of the squad are not fearing that they will be ridiculed, but instead relishing the chance to grab the manager’s attention.
Townsend was superb. He had bags of confidence and desire to help win the game, and his quality was very high. The goal was the peak of the night, and although credit must be given to Townsend, it is Hodgson who deserves praise.
He finally broke the boring, more defensive attitude to England lineups and took a risk. If it failed and England drew or lost, then his neck would be on the line. He clearly knew that there was a better chance that Townsend would create chances and impress than Milner would have.
It was brave and it may well help England qualify for the 2014 World Cup. They have just Poland to beat now in a game where Hodgson must be brave once again.