Sweden vs. England: 6 Things We Learned
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the star of the show as Sweden produced a late comeback to take a 4-2 home win in an international friendly against England.
It was a night of milestones for Roy Hodgson's men, with plenty of debuts and other notable appearances.
Ibrahimovic got the scoring underway with a close-range finish in the first half, but England turned it around before the break with quickfire goals from Danny Welbeck and Steven Caulker.
As time ticked down it looked like another victory for England, but Ibrahimovic turned up the heat with three goals in the final 13 minutes.
Here are six things we learned from the game.
Mixed Night for England Debutants
England started the night with three uncapped players in their team: Raheem Sterling on the right wing, Leon Osman in central midfield and Steven Caulker in defence.
A further three debutants came off the bench for their first appearance for the national team: Ryan Shawcross, Wilfried Zaha and Carl Jenkinson.
The starters arguably fared pretty well between them.
Caulker mixed an uncertain start in defence with a debut goal to put England ahead with a close-range finish, and Sterling showed pace, inventiveness and attacking intent throughout his time on the pitch.
Sterling started the move which led to England's equaliser, threading a pass out wide to the left into space for Ashley Young to attack.
Osman was busy and industrious but also showed plenty of excellent technique inside the penalty box to make room for a couple of shots. He was certainly a more effective performer than midfield partner Tom Cleverley.
The substitutes had far less impact, at least in a positive sense.
Ryan Shawcross got all of a 30-second introduction before Ibrahimovic left him for dead, volleying in the equaliser to make it 2-2. Tom Huddlestone was too slow on the ball and off it to make himself a realistic consideration to replace Steven Gerrard in future.
Zaha has far more time on his hands—and a decision to make.
Danny Welbeck Looks Like Solidifying His Place in England Team Under Hodgson
He's not the most reliable in club form.
He's not even the highest English goalscorer in the Premier League.
But Danny Welbeck has found favour from the national team since Roy Hodgson took charge, and he made another good case for himself in this game to remain the country's No. 9.
In a game of few chances, despite the big scoreline, Welbeck made a great run and produced a finish to score England's equaliser, capitalising on a good cross from Ashley Young.
That gives Welbeck a tally of five international goals in 14 caps overall, all of which have come since Hodgson was appointed.
Even with Wayne Rooney to return and Jermain Defoe in good form, it would be hard to leave out Welbeck while he's on his present scoring run.
Does Another Goalkeeper Need to Get a Chance?
Sure, Joe Hart is England's best goalkeeper.
But should Roy Hodgson not have a responsibility to ensure Hart is not England's only goalkeeper?
Named in the squad alongside the 27-cap Manchester City man were John Ruddy (one cap) and Fraser Forster (uncapped).
Either one, or perhaps even both, should have been given an opportunity against Sweden.
Hart has not been in great form for a month or more at his club, making a series of errors. Against Sweden he was culpable for at least two of Ibrahimovic's strikes.
Adding to his poor performance were several instances of dropped crosses, poor kick outs and a general lack of communication with his defenders, where twice he and Gary Cahill got themselves into a muddle over the ball.
Hart will return to form, no doubt, and will be England's goalkeeper for the World Cup and beyond. But should the country find themselves with their No. 1 injured, suspended or in even worse form—surely they'll be wanting to turn to somebody with a few games experience at this level under their belt?
Steven Gerrard: 100 Caps and Counting
While six players were starting their international careers, England's captain, Steven Gerrard, was surpassing a milestone that only five players before him have managed.
Against Sweden, Gerrard won his 100th England cap and managed an assist on the night, his 20th for his country.
The free kick he bent over to Caulker to score from was one of several which offered excellent delivery for the away nation to attack, proof of Gerrard's continued importance to the team even without his fine all-round performance.
Passes, shots from range, tackles and blocks were all apparent as usual as the captain put in an excellent display and left the field to loud applause and chants from the fans with his team up 2-1.
Another personal award for a truly top-class professional.
Tom Cleverley and the Attacking Midfield Role
As briefly alluded to earlier, Tom Cleverley had a less than impressive game at the head of England's attacking midfield.
Sure, he was tidy in possession in spells and made forward runs, both prerequisites for playing that role, but that's hardly worthy of huge amounts of praise.
All too often in his short time in English colours—he now has seven caps—Cleverley misses more than presentable chances to score goals. He similarly passed up an opportunity in the first half against Sweden.
After a less than auspicious second-half showing he was replaced by the returning Jack Wilshere.
The Gunner has been out for a long time with injury but has more about his technical side of the game than his Manchester United rival. Neither have yet shown themselves to be great goalscorers and need to work on this, but Wilshere is certainly the more creative and quick-witted—at his peak, that is.
It remains to be seen how quickly he returns to that level.
Jonjo Shelvey got a run at the role recently.
Adam Lallana will hope for another callup and a chance to play there.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also capable of filling that position.
Not to mention a certain Frank Lampard, should he return to add to his 93 caps.
All in all, the attacking midfield role is still very much up for grabs. However, don't be surprised to see all six of these players shunted aside to make way for Wayne Rooney, when available, if Welbeck continues to impress up front.
We haven't learned this, let's be clear.
But we have certainly, absolutely, completely and wonderfully been reminded of it.
The final word goes to the man who made the game something more than just another friendly.