Ex-England manager Glenn Hoddle has signed on to write a weekly column for Bleacher Report UK. Learn more out about Glenn's exciting new website venture, Zapsportz, here.
Congratulations, England, and well done, Roy Hodgson. The manager was bold in his team selections and he deserved to reap the rewards for his bravery.
Tuesday was a good evening for English football, and it was great to see Wayne Rooney and captain Steven Gerrard—the players the younger ones will look to for guidance at the World Cup—coming good in England's hour of need against Poland.
What impressed me the most was England's excellent movement in the final two games—the way the team played with freedom, under so much pressure and with so much riding on the game.
In previous games, especially against better opposition, England have been laboured with their movement off the ball, but there was much improvement against Montenegro and Poland in terms of keeping possession and finding those elusive options.
England's first goal against Poland was an impressive move. The cross from Leighton Baines and the finish from Rooney were impressive too.
Rooney was outstanding and looked back to his very best—full of confidence and one step ahead of everybody else on the pitch. The way he is going, providing he steers clear of injuries, he is destined to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record for England.
What I liked about England's tactical set-up was that it had a nice balance to it. Of course the Poles had one or two chances, but Joe Hart did well in goal.
England's qualification for Brazil was achieved with a lot of nail-biting, but also with a lot of belief in the team and improved defensive performance. But it is one thing qualifying, and another entirely making an impact in the finals.
It is going to be a big test, but whatever happens I hope they come back better players. England need to embrace the challenge, enjoy it, utilise it for their benefit to ensure the squad matures and improves, and can then make a real impact in the Euros two years later.
It would be marvelous if England could reach the quarter-finals or even the semi-finals in Brazil. But winning it? Well, there is only a slim chance, but let's see how far they can go. What's certain is it will give the youngsters real experience of big-tournament football and that will be of enormous benefit to their development.
I am pleased that the fans' expectations won’t be as high as they has been in the past—that will reduce the enormous pressure the England players.
How far will England go at World Cup?
The two friendlies coming up against Germany and Argentina will help us all to measure England's real development and see how they can improve still further. Sometimes as an England manager you wince at friendlies and wonder about their significance, but there can be no doubting their importance at this stage in the development of Roy’s team. England need to face the kind of top-quality opposition they will have to encounter in Brazil.
I am sure Roy has his players grounded, so hopefully if we beat Germany 2-0, we won’t be hailed as potential world champions—or if we lose 2-0, we won't be relegated to total no-hopers. It is always somewhere in between, and the good thing is that Roy has finally got some depth to his squad.
Jack Wilshere and Frank Lampard came off the bench against Poland, with Ross Barkley not even used. And we have players like Theo Walcott to come back and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who played like Andros Townsend in these last two games when he first broke into the side. On that theme, we need to be patient if Townsend suffers a dip in form at some point.
There was a time when Ashley Cole was injured, you wondered who would play left-back, but Baines certainly fits the ball and it illustrates the depth Roy now has.
As part of the FA Commission we need to make sure that the depth continue to increase, so it is a critical time all-round for the England team and its future development.
*Zapsportz.com is an exciting new website where Glenn Hoddle reveals how kids from all over the world can enter the X-Factor-style Zapstarz, the former England manager's search for a new generation of footballing talent.