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With Steven Gerrard becoming the sixth player to earn 100 caps for the Three Lions and five players handed their debuts, who made the best impression on Roy Hodgson?


ANALYSIS

By Alex Young

This was all about youth, we were told leading up to Wednesday's friendly against Sweden, and Roy Hodgson - helped out by five withdrawals - stuck to his word.

Five debuts were handed out, along with Steven Gerrard's 100-cap landmark, in a game which the future may record was where the new generation of England stalwarts were blooded.

However, the four youngsters (and Leon Osman) were given a harsh reality lesson in the form of four-goal supremo Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

So who was good and who was bad? Goal.com examines how each player who featured at Friends Arena will have affected their standing in Roy Hodgson's thinking...

GOALKEEPER & DEFENCE

JOE HART:  A mix-up between himself and Gary Cahill after less than 40 seconds was the warning sign for Joe Hart’s worst performance in an England shirt. He could do little about Ibrahimovic’s fierce first, or slick second but the striker’s free kick for the third and the goalkeeper’s own assist for the fourth will have Hart cursing his performance. However, there is no doubt the goalkeeper is the undisputed No.1, and even this confidence-lacking performance will not go too far to worry Roy Hodgson after a string of assured performances in the past.

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GLEN JOHNSON:  The right-back continued his improved form for Liverpool on the international scene with another marauding performance down the flank. Johnson often supported youngster Raheem Sterling in attack, setting up Leon Osman for England’s first shot on target. However, he should have done better with an effort of his own in the first half, but a scuffed attempt from the edge of the area only nearly bore fruit after Tom Cleverley instinctively stuck out a foot. Johnson’s main competition for right-back is Tottenham’s Kyle Walker, who also enjoys a raid down the wing, and he will have done his hopes of being first choice no harm.

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GARY CAHILL: Despite his assured performances for Chelsea, Gary Cahill showed nerves throughout. After the confusion between himself and Hart early on, hesitation struck again after 20 minutes to allow Ibrahimovic a second opportunity to score the opening goal. Shortly afterwards, another mix-up between himself and his goalkeeper presented Mathias Ranegie with a near-open goal. Possibly his worst performance for England, which will have him worried with the recent return of Chris Smalling from injury, but the inexperience of centre-back partners Steven Caulker and Ryan Shawcross could have contributed.

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STEVEN CAULKER:  His exposure to regular Premier League football with Swansea has been the catalyst for Caulker’s rapid rise to prominence, with seven appearances for Tottenham already in his breakthrough season. The centre-back showed good prowess to power home a debut goal but, in defence, he was inconsistent. Questionable positioning and an inexperienced reading of the game outweighed an assured first-half performance. Did well enough to stay in Roy Hodgson’s thinking and has a huge amount of potential, but the England manager may opt to continue with a slow introduction to the international stage.

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LEIGHTON BAINES: A quiet night for the left-back. Like Johnson, has the ability to threaten when coming forward, but seemed much more subdued than usual. He supplied a superb whipped cross to nearly set up a third for England when the score was 2-1 in his only real opportunity to pressure the opposition defence. However, Baines was in danger of being caught out of position with Sweden showing danger on the counterattack, and was for Sweden’s fourth goal. His usual competition for a starting berth is, arguably, the best in the world in the position in the form of Ashley Cole and an option as back-up is the least the Everton man deserves. A solid, if unremarkable, display.

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RYAN SHAWCROSS:  The Stoke City man suffered a baptism of fire against the indomitable Ibrahimovic on his debut. The centre-back was caught out within four minutes of arriving on the pitch to allow Sweden to equalise, with the striker easily holding him off to power home an impressive volley. Six minutes later, Shawcross committed a clumsy foul on Alexander Kacaniklic to allow the opposition’s talisman to fire in his third from the free kick. He will have done himself no favours in the eyes of Hodgson, but his performance was not indicative of his usually steadfast displays at the Britannia. The awe of the occasion could have affected him.

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CARL JENKINSON: 

The right-back has performed admirably in the absence of Bacary Sagna for Arsenal after a tough first season at the Emirates and was handed his debut with just six minutes left to play. Jenkinson could do nothing about either of Ibrahimovic’s two goals while he was on the pitch, and would have done himself no harm in the eyes of his international manager.

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MIDFIELD

RAHEEM STERLING: The 17-year-old produced an impressive display on his debut despite an obviously concerted effort by Sweden to man-mark the youngster. In the face of often two opposition players, he won many free kicks for his side, including the set-piece that saw Gerrard set up Caulker to fire England into the lead. He showed a good understanding with his Liverpool team-mates Johnson and Gerrard by darting down the right and into the centre of the pitch to find space. Sterling slotted into the wide role well and often swapped flanks with Ashley Young with little difficulty, and even fed the Manchester United man in the build-up for the first goal. Hodgson will have been impressed with his mature head on experienced shoulders.

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STEVEN GERRARD: The skipper marked his 100th cap with a performance which barely matched his own "seven out of 10" assessment of his entire England career. The midfielder was evidently, and understandably, keen to mark the milestone with a goal, and came close with a strong strike on the half-volley during the second half and supplied the assist for Caulker's goal but, otherwise, his performance was without the spectacular. Worryingly, that is becoming a similar appraisal domestically at Liverpool.

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LEON OSMAN: Another debutant, but this time at the age of 31. Osman took a while to get to grips with the pace of the game after a tepid opening quarter of an hour, but combined well with Cleverley and Johnson to find space for a shot midway through the first half. The Everton man was far busier in the second half, linking up well with his captain and second-half substitute Jack Wilshere. Osman provided no evidence why he should not be called up again in future.

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TOM CLEVERLEY:
The central midfielder struggled to assert himself as he was played in a wider position than he is used to at Manchester United and failed to make a similar impact that he manages at Old Trafford. However, he came close to scoring when showing impressive instinct by attempting to latch onto Johnson’s scuffed effort in the first half but could not get the ball under control. Cleverley will have been disappointed with his performance on Wednesday night, but has shown enough ability regularly for United to warrant a place in the squad.

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ASHLEY YOUNG: Suffered a dire opening 30 minutes as he struggled with a poor pitch and solid defending from Mikael Lustig. However, as soon as he was given the chance to beat his man, Young took it emphatically by delivering a perfect whipped cross from the left wing to allow Danny Welbeck to convert smartly from six yards. After a disappointing start to the season with Manchester United, which has been riddled with injuries, the winger formed a strong front three with domestic team-mate Welbeck and Sterling that showed understanding and reliance. Young can consider himself a valuable member of the squad if his performances continue in the same fashion.

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TOM HUDDLESTONE: The defensive midfielder played his part as England were pushed further and further back as the game drew to a close. Huddlestone would have been desperate to impress as his last international appearance came two-and-a-half years ago but failed to gain a foothold, not that that was of his own making. The Tottenham man can consider himself unlucky not to be afforded more of an opportunity.

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JACK WILSHERE: The Arsenal man made his first England appearance since June 2011 and showed smart movement and quick feet. However, Wilshere is very much still in the first stages of his first-team return both domestically and internationally, so any rustiness will be taken with a pinch of salt. He can consider himself part of future squads despite the limited run out in Stockholm.

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WILFRED ZAHA: The much talked about Crystal Palace star was afforded a little over five minutes, and looked capable in the limited times he saw the ball. Zaha, who evidently has bags of talent, needs more exposure to show his real worth, which will probably came under Stuart Pearce’s guidance in the Under-21 squad as the Ivory Coast-born attacker’s call-up was partly due to those in line ahead of him being ruled out through injury. The experience was a win-win for Zaha.

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ATTACK

DANNY WELBECK: After being just one of two recognised strikers in the squad, Welbeck was evidently determined to show Hodgson want he can bring to the side. The Manchester United forward enjoyed a busy game, and showed good awareness to breach Sweden’s defence and get on the end of Ashley Young’s superb delivery for England’s equaliser. Andreas Granqvist and Martin Olsson seemed troubled by his movement throughout, which was impressive considering his lone role. Hodgson will have been impressed by the 21-year-old’s burgeoning career on the international stage and ability to bring other players into the game.

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DANIEL STURRIDGE: The striker was introduced with half an hour left to play to support Welbeck in attack but, despite clever movement with his partner, suffered from England’s gradual regress into a defensive mindset as Ibrahimovic came to the fore in the final 15 minutes. Hodgson will not have been put off by the Chelsea man’s work rate and willingness.

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