THE only disappointment for Roy Hodgson, perhaps, is that England could not conjure up this kind of football more often during the World Cup. They have got their European Championship qualifying programme off to a flying start and they did so in a manner that should go a long way to easing some of the negativity that had been threatening to engulf Hodgsonâ€™s side.
What a pity for Hodgson that his team could not play with this distinction against, say, Uruguay in SÃ£o Paulo three months ago. Switzerland occupy ninth position in Fifaâ€™s world rankings but England made that seem a glitch in the system and created so many chances they probably ought to have won with something more to spare than merely Danny Welbeckâ€™s second-half goals.
This is what happens when Hodgson abandons the plodding 4-4-2 system: England immediately look better and modernised. The midfield diamond, with Raheem Sterling at its front tip, was instrumental in making this one of the better performances of the Hodgson era and the level of opposition in Group E is so undistinguished it would need an extraordinary kind of meltdown now for England not to reach the tournament.
Englandâ€™s next assignments, to put it into context, come against San Marino and Estonia in October. This trip to Basel should, in theory, be as tough as it gets and that layer of insurance may have helped Hodgsonâ€™s team to play without feeling too suffocated by external pressures.
For long spells they passed the ball with a confidence and fluency that had seldom been evident in the friendly against Norway last week. They were not flawless and it needed a superb piece of defending, at 1-0, for Gary Cahill to deny Haris Seferovic an equaliser. Yet England were not just the better side in flurries. They dominated large passages and always had the speed of movement in attack to trouble a side that had not lost any of their previous nine home games.
Sterlingâ€™s ability to run with the ball, menacing his opponents, was a prominent feature. Wayne Rooney put in a much improved performance and Welbeck can think of this as the finest moment in his international career.
Welbeck really ought to have helped England take a first-half lead, when he instigated a three-on-one attack but chose not to shoot and misjudged his pass for Sterling. He looked raw in those moments but he quickly shook his head clear and took his goals well.
The first came 13 minutes into the second half and the speed of Englandâ€™s counter-attack, after GÃ¶khan Inler had lost the ball in the centre-circle, was breathtaking. Rooney led the movement, surging forward against a defence that had suddenly been exposed. Sterling was on his left and Welbeck was running to the far post, anticipating what was coming. It was a blur of quick, first-time passing, from Rooney to Sterling and then across the six-yard area, with brilliant accuracy, for Welbeck to fire in.
By that stage Hodgson was entitled to be exasperated at having had to wait so long. Rooney was denied twice by Yann Sommer during the first half and Hodgson could also reflect on an outstanding save from Switzerlandâ€™s goalkeeper to palm away Phil Jonesâ€™s header from a corner.
There were still imperfections. At one point Jones went from intercepting the ball to presenting it straight to Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerlandâ€™s most dangerous player, and was fortunate that Seferovicâ€™s shot came back off Joe Hartâ€™s right foot.
Then there was Fabian Delph flying into tackles in a manner that must have left Englandâ€™s management contemplating whether to withdraw him at half-time rather than risk him any longer. Delph was booked after nine minutes for a reckless lunge at Stephan Lichtsteiner and that would have been a red card if the Turkish referee, Cuneyt Cakir, had not been so lenient when the Aston Villa player scythed down Valon Behrami three minutes earlier. Delph might be inexperienced at this level but, at 24, he should have known better than to be this impetuous. He did, however, cool down and that showed an understanding, albeit belatedly, that he was in danger of marking his first England start in the worst fashion.
Those moments were incongruous with the control that England were showing elsewhere on the pitch. Jack Wilshere might not have the mobility of the classic defensive midfielder but he did reasonably well in a newish role. Jordan Henderson increasingly looks comfortable in midfield and England continued to be dangerous on the counter-attack.
Switzerland did start to exert more pressure in the closing stages, when Jones had to go off with a hamstring injury, and it was a marvellous block from Cahill after Seferovic had broken Englandâ€™s defensive line, taken the ball to the outside of the oncoming Hart and fired in a goalbound shot. Equally, England should have had a penalty eight minutes from the end of normal time when Johan Djourou went flying into Delph.
Rooney and Welbeck were both looking sharp and Hodgsonâ€™s decision to free up Sterling in the middle had paid off. In stoppage time Sterling had the ball at his feet again and Englandâ€™s opponents were short of numbers at the back. Sterling fed the substitute Rickie Lambert and Welbeck was waiting for the ball on the left, taking a touch to steady himself before picking his spot. – The Guardian