Given the team put out by Roy Hodgson, it's debatable at best that any part of England's 2-2 draw with Ecuador on Wednesday night should be read into.
Hodgson experimented with James Milner at right-back, Wayne Rooney on the left and Chris Smalling in the team, and the result was a predictably hodge-podge performance that mixed the good (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rickie Lambert's rocket goal), the bad (Smalling's positioning) and the ridiculous (Raheem Sterling managing to get himself sent off in a friendly).
Lambert was indeed the primary positive in the match, if only because he displayed once again his aptitude for stepping up whenever a new challenge was placed before him. It's an encouraging sign for Liverpool, but also of course for any English fans who feared that the World Cup might be a level too high for the big centre-forward, his clinical rasping finish exactly the sort of thing England could need in high-pressure spots in Brazil.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was impressive, but obviously the gloss was taken off that performance by his injury. While the severity is not yet known, Hodgson didn't sound especially positive about it after the match, as quoted by the BBC:
We have our fears there might be some ligament damage...His knee buckled under the challenge as the player turned into him. He'll have a scan tomorrow, I'd imagine. When we've had the scan, we'll know more.
However, the main negative in the performance is one that has been clear for some time, and that is a certain fragility in defence. Of course, this was a second-string back line that featured a midfielder, an 18-year-old making his first international start and two men who haven't been first choices for their club all season, but that in itself displays the problems Hodgson has with this squad.
His favoured defensive pairing of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka is solid enough, but beyond those two his options are rather limited, as this game displayed quite clearly. Even though Ecuador are hardly the toughest side in the world, their rapid attacks caused problems and panic in England's patched-up defence. One wonders what damage attacks containing Mario Balotelli, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani might do to such a defence.
Both Ecuador goals came from the result of defensive deficiencies. For the first, Enner Valencia found it incredibly easy to find space between Smalling and Luke Shaw to direct a header past Ben Foster, and while Michael Arroyo's second was a rocket that no goalkeeper in the world could have saved, it had been coming.
England had been lucky to escape conceding a goal on a number of occasions before Arroyo actually found the net, and he was afforded far too much space to line up the shot that blasted into the roof of the net.
It has been suggested that England should base their team on Liverpool, and in many respects this performance was much like that—the only problem being it mirrored the Reds' defensive minuses, rather than their attacking pluses.
Not many new conclusions can be drawn from this game, but it did serve to back up ones that were reached some time ago.
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