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Welbeck impresses but it's a bad day for Glen Johnson: How the Belgium game affected England players' chances ahead of Euro 2012

Welbeck impresses but it's a bad day for Glen Johnson: How the Belgium game affected England players' chances ahead of Euro 2012

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Ashley Young has also all but secured his place in the starting line up against France while captain Steven Gerrard put a good shift in. Joe Hart, however, needs to remain focused

By John Stammers

It was far from inspiring, but it was certainly efficient. Roy Hodgson's England recorded a second 1-0 victory in as many matches last night and look hard to beat with the start of Euro 2012 just around the corner.

The Three Lions have eight days until the curtain is raised on their tournament, with an opening fixture against France awaiting, but who shone in the dress rehearsal? And who still has something to prove? takes a look at the winners and the losers from England's 1-0 friendly victory over Belgium at Wembley.


A second international start and a first England goal, not a bad day at the office for Danny Welbeck. The Manchester United forward often gets critiqued for his erratic finishing, although his deft chip over the helpless Simon Mignolet in the 36th minute was simply faultless. A quite superb finish, in fact.

That was the 21-year-old's one and only shot of the game, through no fault of his own. England were, at times, dominated on the possession front and left Welbeck a little isolated up front - something no-one would be shocked to see happen against France. How comforting to know, then, that the Untied striker has the ability to put away the one chance that falls his way.

With Wayne Rooney banned for the first two groups games of the competition, up front remains one of the questionable selection points against the French. Welbeck was, however, withdrawn from the action with under an hour played, a sign that Hodgson is very pleased with the forward's preparation.

A goalscorer from England's first warm-up game against Norway last week turned provider yesterday, in fact, Ashley Young has either scored or assisted 11 of The Three Lions' last 20 goals. The 26-year-old dispatched a perfect ball through to his United team-mate to set up the winner.

In the absence of Rooney, Young can provide a natural understudy. He's tricky, quick and has proved he has an eye for a pass, not to mention that he can also be dangerous when pulling the trigger from range. Plus, if deployed in the central role, it leaves Hodgson with the option of playing the more dogged Milner out wide in order to defend against opposition wingers.

Another good display from the former Aston Villa man, then, who has all but secured his starting place against France and a probable key role in England's bid to get out of their group and beyond.

In a week which has seen Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard ruled out of the Euros due to injury, not to mention the likes of Jack Wilshere already out and Michael Carrick making himself unavailable beforehand, Steven Gerrard's job just got a whole lot tougher. Luckily, he's the sort of player to thrive under the responsibility.

He said himself that it is a very different feeling being captain on his own merits, rather than as a stand-in, and the England skipper gave a solid and determined performance in the centre of midfield at Wembley on Saturday.

Having to sit back and be more disciplined while Young supported Welbeck, the Liverpool man broke down attacks well and was tireless in carrying the team forward, including making the tackle that then sparked England's goal. The 32-year-old looks fit and raring to go.


Where one player's form means they are likely to be included, unfortunately for another that means they will not be. Andy Carroll had to sit on the bench and watch Welbeck's perfect looped finish dent his own hopes of starting against France.

Then, to make things worse, Hodgson wanted to have a look at Jermain Defoe with just over 10 minutes remaining. Tottenham and England's No.1 super-sub looked sharp and lively from the moment he got on the field, hitting the woodwork then finding the side netting.

Welbeck's performance may just have nudged Carroll out of the starting XI but while the Liverpool forward doesn't possess the pace of an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Defoe, both potential impact players from the bench, his aerial ability mean he would be an outlet for the Three Lions when chasing a game, and the switch from a passing style to pumping it long, or holding onto a lead.

Ashley Cole is still widely regarded as one of the top left-backs in the world, yet the same cannot be said for England's opposite full-back spot. Glen Johnson, granted had not been able to complete a full week of training due to a toe infection, but the right-back is most definitely still a liability.

Great going forward, no doubt about that, but the 27-year-old was caught out on a number of occasions by the tricky Belgian attackers. The defender also conceded a number of free-kicks, some in fairly dangerous positions where England could get punished, for reckless and rash tackles.

Cover is light in the right-back slot, with Phil Jones or Phil Jagielka the probable second choices, and therefore it would take a blunder of a certain size to force Hodgson to drop him. That should not, however, be how the Liverpool man is thinking. He needs to keep focused and not be the weak link in the manager's defensive unit.  

Another with virtually no real competition for his place, Joe Hart must not become too comfortable in his England No.1 jersey. The Manchester City keeper has obviously kept clean sheets in the last two games so by no means should anything drastic be said, although there have been some shaky moments.

For a second it looked like the 25-year-old was going to allow a Marouane Fellaini shot to slip through his arms, he flapped at a few things, gave away the ball with some sloppy kicking and nearly had it stolen from his feet by Fellaini when dwelling in his box. Then, of course, there was the Gary Cahill collision, the centre-back was pushed by Dries Mertens but the keeper could have avoided the situation by coming out and commanding his area. The extent of the Chelsea defender's injury is yet to be announced but these are the kind of mistakes that Hodgson will want to avoid.

Nevertheless he is a fantastic shot-stopper and did produce a fine late save from Fellaini as well as other good moments, but with little back-up and the nation's hopes arguably more heavily on his shoulders than others, complacency must not be apparent.

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