Manchester United veteran the big winner from England break
After another unbeaten international break for Roy Hodgson’s England means his side are still yet to taste defeat since the World Cup and are nine games into their unbroken streak since the 0-0 draw with Costa Rica.
During a pair of games that had more talking points than most national-team meetups, Harry Kane was thrust into the spotlight, Wayne Rooney crept closer to making England history and Phil Jones wore number eight on his back.
Here’s how the squad rated after the Lithuania and Italy outings:
It seems strange to say about a 33-year-old, but Michael Carrick may finally be fully appreciated by the national set-up at this late stage of his career.
His forward-thinking passing skills were key to breaking down Lithuania at Wembley, while his introduction at the base of the diamond in Turin not only helped change the game, but highlighted that Hodgson doesn’t have a natural successor to the concrete-haired Manchester United man.
Another to impress was Phil Jagielka. The Everton defender seems to have lost his place in the competitive setup under Hodgson, perhaps due to the poor form of his club. But his assured display against the Italians was a timely reminder that neither Jones nor Chris Smalling are justifiable selections ahead of him yet.
Of course a first international goal with just his third touch fanned the flames of hype around Harry Kane, but his performance against Italy when starting did plenty to emphasise that this is a youngster not easily overawed, either by situations or canny, physical defenders.
Ross Barkley gave the side a far better balance when introduced to the tip of the diamond in Turin. He looks to be regaining form.
With Jagielka seemingly out of favour, Smalling had a chance to propel himself to the front of the queue to be be Gary Cahill’s regular partner in Turin. His departure in the first half through illness seems typical of a player that constantly seems to spurn chances to impress.
There was a time when Kyle Walker was the only man you’d consider filling the right-back spot with. Nathaniel Clyne has changed that and Walker’s cameo against Italy was as worrying as it was brief. Positionally, the Tottenham man just does not make the grade at international level.
Here’s a few things we knew about the England team before this week and still know now the Premier League returns:
• Wayne Rooney threatens to score goals when played as a striker, and often tucks some away.
• No backup keeper will ever displace Joe Hart for a friendly unless the opposition train among cattle.
• Andros Townsend sometimes lashes the ball home.
• Jordan Henderson and Fabian Delph run around. A lot.
• Leighton Baines is a left-back.
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