England wrapped up their preparations for Euro 2012 with a dogged 1-0 victory over Belgium at Wembley. Just nine days before their meeting with France, Danny Welbeck saw England head off to Poland and Ukraine on the back of two uninspiring wins under new coach Roy Hodgson.
While few England fans would have left Wembley beaming about their side's chances this summer, the encounter was a snapshot of how Hodgson is likely to attempt to make most effective use of a group of players generally lacking in the highest quality.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was handed his first start for his country and it was the young Arsenal man who looked the most threatening early on. Looking at ease on the international stage, perhaps it was over-excitement that caused Oxlade-Chamberlain to fluff the first opening as he appeared to lose his footing when perfectly placed on the edge of the area from James Milner's cutback.
With the likes of Eden Hazard in their ranks, Belgium produced plenty of neat interchanges as the visitors controlled possession for most of the friendly encounter.
But it was England who took a surprise lead in the 36th minute. Captain Steven Gerrard won the ball back in the midfield, allowing Ashley Young to gain possession and play a clever through ball to Welbeck who executed a stylish chipped finish with his left foot over the advancing Simon Mignolet.
Continue Reading Below
The match continued in similar vein with England conceding possession, but Belgium lacking the penetration up front to take advantage. In fairness to England, Hodgson will have been pleased by the organization of his two lines of four at the back and in midfield. Hallmarks of Hodgson's teams throughout his much-traveled managerial career.
The closest Belgium came to getting on the score sheet ironically arrived through their right back. Guillaume Gillet lauched a rasping first-time effort from 25 yards that cannoned off the outside of the post.
The post was soon rattling at the other end, courtesy of substitute Jermaine Defoe. Looking to remind Hodgson of his lethal instincts, the Tottenham striker shifted the ball to the side of Thomas Vermaelen and hit a good low shot across goal that had Mignolet beaten before coming back off the far post.
Defoe had another sniff at goal, but could only finish into the side netting as the 90 minutes drew to a predictable conclusion. The concern at the final whistle for Hodgson will be potential injuries to his two first-choice center-backs. Gary Cahill will have a scan on a potential fractured jaw that would rule him out of the Euros, while John Terry felt a worrying tightening in his hamstring.
As for the match itself, given France possess similarly-skilled midfielders to Belgium, this was an ideal warm-up for England. However, with Karim Benzema leading the line, Les Bleus should be a much greater test to Hodgson's back line than they endured on Saturday.
England will not be pretty in Euro 2012 and wont be may neutrals' favorites, but that doesn't necessarily preclude them from being successful. Greece have already provided a perfect blueprint for that.