England vs. Belgium: Player Ratings for Roy Hodgson's Team as They Head to Euros
England made it two wins in two games under Roy Hodgson as they defeated Belgium by the same 1-0 scoreline that defeated Norway last week, giving us a final chance to look at the England squad and asses their form ahead of Euro 2012.
Hodgson rang the changes, especially in defence, as he sought to take a look at more or less a first-choice team, with just three or four of the spots arguably up for grabs.
Danny Welbeck scored the only goal of the game on 35 minutes, with a fine clipped finish after he and Steven Gerrard had won the ball in midfield.
Here are the England players' ratings from the 1-0 Wembley win as they head off to Poland and Ukraine for the European Championships.
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart (18th Cap)
With some in the press box labelling him the best goalkeeper in the world—quite a claim for a player with less than 20 caps to his name—England's Euro 2012 hopes might well rest with Joe Hart, the undisputed no.1 for club and country.
Despite a shedload of possession in wide areas and outside the box, Belgium rarely opened up England to find clear goalscoring chances.
Shots from the edge of the box from the likes of Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini were about the best they mustered for most of the game, which Hart dealt with comfortably.
He took aerial balls well, managed his defence when necessary and was quick to react for Fellaini's effort late on—a good save low to his left.
He was well beaten by a Gillet strike that smacked the outside of the post and missed an attempted punch from a corner, but by and large Hart is in fine form and will no doubt have a good debut international tournament.
Joe Hart: 7/10
Full-Backs: Glen Johnson (36th Cap) and Ashley Cole (94th Cap)
With their supposed first-choice defence now back in place, Ashley Cole on the left and Glen Johnson on the right needed the minutes against Belgium to make sure they were in tip-top condition against tricky wide men Kevin Mirallas and Dries Mertens.
Cole and Johnson will surely come into contact with similar players who are a big step up against France.
Namely, Franck Ribery and Jeremy Menez.
On this evidence, England would do well to show France to their right at all costs.
Ashley Cole, possibly in the knowledge that this might be his last major tournament as a first pick, is back to his imperious best in defence. Sharp in the challenge and fearless in the block, he will be a key component in Roy Hodgson's team.
We didn't see him too much in attack, but he remains a potent threat going forward when given the opportunity.
Johnson, on the other hand, looked shaky and lacking his usual deft touch after a few weeks without a game. Hopefully the full 90-minute run-out and ensuing training will have a quick improvement on him.
He is a good outlet down the right flank for England and can run with the ball to relieve pressure or build an attack, but he lost the ball too often today and was unsure with a number of clearances.
Glen Johnson: 5/10
Ashley Cole: 7/10
Central Defenders: John Terry (73rd Cap) and Gary Cahill (9th Cap)
The only worrying thing about Chelsea and England centre-back duo Gary Cahill and John Terry is that one or both of them might not make the Euro 2012 squad through injury.
Both are fearless in defence and set an example to those in front of them as they strive to win every tackle and header, make blocks and form a staunch line of defence in front of Joe Hart.
However, head and hamstring injuries respectively may well yet mean neither of them travel with the England squad.
Performance-wise, both were key reasons for England's good organisation and well-drilled approach to defending.
John Terry: 7/10
Gary Cahill: 7/10
Central Midfielders: Scott Parker (13th Cap) and Steven Gerrard (92nd Cap)
This picture perfectly encapsulates what is required of a Roy Hodgson central midfielder in this England setup: run, harry, challenge.
They are not there to start moves, link play, build up long passages of possession or much else creative; they are there to protect the defence first and foremost and then, if possible, to join up with the attack from a deeper position.
Parker and Gerrard did this very well against both Norway and Belgium, and they will need to do it even better against France.
Gerrard in particular got forward two or three times and posed a threat to the Belgian back line, seeing two shots blocked inside the six-yard box, and his late bursts forward will be an important change of tactic for opponents to deal with when England do attack.
The phrase "wrapped up in cotton wool" will apply to this duo as Hodgson looks to nurse them, both having struggled with injury in the latter part of the Premier League season, through the group stages and beyond.
Scott Parker: 7/10
Steven Gerrard: 8/10 (Man of the Match)
Wingers: James Milner (26th Cap) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (2nd Cap)
James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the two players who were arguably playing for the only roles available for England's first game against France, with the possible exception of the centre-forward role.
Milner put in a good shift against Belgium, attacking when he had the chance and keeping the width, but his final ball was always disappointing.
In defence he covered well and showed again his tactical awareness with his covering, tucking in when needed. This above all else might make him favourite to start against France.
Oxlade-Chamberlain got his first start in an England shirt and had two chances to make an immediate impact with shots from range, both of which missed the target.
His best bet is still to be used off the bench as an impact sub for England at this point, but it was important for him to get more game experience at international level nonetheless.
England's wingers arguably face a thankless task in this regime, as they will be expected to be the fast and creative outlets for attack—but be asked to tirelessly sacrifice their natural instincts in the final third, in favour of a team-first deep and defensive approach.
James Milner: 6/10
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6/10
Forwards: Ashley Young (21st Cap) and Danny Welbeck (5th Cap)
Ashley Young played in the second striker role again for England but on this occasion lacked the incisiveness to be a constant effect on the game—but he ultimately played the pass that set up the winning goal.
In the first half Young dropped deeper, behind the midfield at times, to pick up the ball and look to start attacks from range, but his passing and decision-making was poor.
Young infrequently managed to get the ball at his feet with room to run at the defence and looked frustrated, instead settling for winning cheap free kicks.
He needs to be far better and more consistent in this role in the absence of Wayne Rooney.
Danny Welbeck only had one chance at goal and put it away, and not much more could be asked of him. It was a fine finish for his first international goal and will boost his confidence.
Welbeck worked the channels well, worked hard and looked eager to run onto lost causes, but ultimately looked starved of service and was running a one-man band at times in closing down the defence.
Ashley Young: 5/10
Danny Welbeck: 7/10
Roy Hodgson made his full complement of six substitutes again against Belgium, giving much-needed game time to several players ahead of Euro 2012.
Joleon Lescott (16th cap) played most of the game in place of injured Gary Cahill and may find himself promoted to the first team if Cahill is ruled out with a fractured jaw. 7/10
Wayne Rooney (74th cap) came on for a little over half an hour to get some much-needed game time. He looked short of sharpness but also made an incisive pass through the centre that almost set Theo Walcott away. England will miss him. 6/10
Jermaine Defoe (47th cap) will be an impact sub for England. He does not have the presence to be a starter for his country, but has a fine shot on him and a knack for grabbing a goal. He'll be needed at some point, for sure. Unlucky not to score when he hit the post. 7/10
Theo Walcott (24th cap) is looking to grab one of the wide places in the England team. It's anybody's guess as to if he has done enough, but his pace and width might outweigh his lack of consistency and final ball in Hodgson's mind. 5/10
Phil Jagielka (12th cap) is England's fourth-choice centre-back but like Lescott could yet be thrust into the spotlight because of injuries. He defended well in his short spell on the pitch. 6/10
Jordan Henderson (3rd cap) made a late cameo as he continued his international learning experience. No rating