England produced their two best performances of the World Cup qualifying campaign to reach Brazil and suggested they may enjoy a more successful tournament than most fans expect.
Ahead of the double-header against Montenegro and Poland, the Three Lions had only beaten San Marino and Moldova, drawing all four games against the better sides in Group H. They turned on the style when it mattered most to book their World Cup place.
A 4-1 victory over Montenegro assured Roy Hodgson’s side of a play-off place but they were determined to avoid that lottery on Tuesday night. Although it was not comfortable viewing at times, England got the 2-0 win their performance merited.
Attention now turns to the draw on December 6. England look as if they will not be seeded so can expect to be grouped with one of the world’s strongest nations.
Despite a potentially difficult draw, a repeat of their performances in the back-to-back wins should see them progress to the knockout stage.
Hodgson gambled by playing attacking line-ups featuring Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Andros Townsend. Those four ensured it paid off, with vibrant displays in both games.
Townsend, who won his first cap against Montenegro, was particularly impressive. His direct running style was a breath of fresh air and caused all kinds of problems. He is one of a number of exciting wingers coming through, players with the ability to hurt the opposition.
While it would be dangerous for England to adopt the same gung-ho tactics against the top sides next summer, they must play with the same swagger and attacking intent. They are often guilty of going into their shells at major tournaments; hopefully they can take confidence from the way they performed in the crucial double-header.
BetVictor has England at 20/1 to win the World Cup, a reflection of their past performances. Hodgson’s men would need to keep everybody fit to stand a chance. However, they do have the ability to surprise a few people.