They can be adventurous; John Terry is slowing up; strikers have star quality; better passing helps; beware poetic justice
In the entirety of their first game, against France, England mustered five attempts on goal, one of them on target. When they took the lead in the 23th minute of their second game it was with their fifth attempt on goal, and the second on target. In all they had 16 shots. Players who barely left their own half against France were given the freedom to break forward. This was most evident in the constant marauding of the England full-backs, for whom the opposition penalty area was little more than a speck on the horizon on Monday, and the attacking influence of Scott Parker, who attempted just 10 passes in the attacking third against France and had reached that number within the first half-hour against Sweden. England's attacking threat will be further improved when Ashley Young starts to impress: the one England attacker who came into this tournament in a rich seam of form has been their least effective since it started, and after Theo Walcott's goalscoring impact, his place must be considered at risk.
It was John Terry's great misfortune that when he and Zlatan Ibrahimovic set off to chase a ball speared towards one of the corner flags in the 21st minute, it was down England's left flank. That, after all, was where most of the television cameras were, and one of them caught the pained grimace that betrayed quite how much effort the Chelsea defender was putting into the race. Against an opponent noted neither for his blistering pace nor for his eagerness to chase down hopeful long balls outside key areas, and given a five-yard head start, Terry appeared to be moving in slow motion as the Swede sped past. At 31 Terry is still a year younger than Linford Christie was when the sprinter won Olympic gold over 100m in 1992, but even if age is not the cause his lack of pace seemed almost cruelly exposed at that moment.
Danny Welbeck is 21; Andy Carroll is 23. Given good luck and a good attitude both can look forward to another decade at the highest level but neither is likely to score many better goals than the ones against Sweden. Welbeck's improvised backheel volley from Walcott's cutback was a flash of the kind of cunning and quality that we are unused to witnessing from Englishmen. Carroll's header, by contrast, was the absolute epitome of stereotypical English centre-forward play and no less enjoyable for it. It is ironic that it was while playing for England, who needed no transfer fee to acquire his services, that Carroll showed the brilliance that if sustained would make the £35m Liverpool spent to bring him from Newcastle appear something of a bargain. Though Steven Gerrard's cross was superb, the header that resulted was simply awesome. If Carroll's selection for this tournament was at all controversial, that moment alone has justified it.
Against France England were successful with only 83% of their passes, and the French turned that profligacy into massive control of the play: England enjoyed a meagre 35.1% of the possession. That Roy Hodgson's side were so much more effective here was down to Sweden's failings as much as any improvement of their own – their pass completion rate was unchanged from Monday night, but their possession shot up to 49.8% (in the first half, with 84% pass completion, it was 53.8%). It was England's great fortune that on this occasion their opponents' passing – at 81% – was even worse than their own. The truth of Gerrard's pre-match assertion that "with all due respect to Sweden, who are a good, strong team, they are not France" was evident throughout.
England were so focused on Sweden's inability to defend high balls and set pieces that they appeared to neglect the possibility they might be quite good at attacking them. It may be that 10 of the last 14 goals the Swedes have conceded were headers but it is hard to imagine that any of them featured defending as poor as the one which gave them the equaliser in the 59th minute. Glen Johnson has had a good tournament so far, producing a number of excellent tackles – including potentially goal-saving efforts to frustrate Karim Benzema in the France game and Rasmus Elm and Ibrahimovic of Sweden – and at the other end a delicious cross from which Terry should have scored. But he could be blamed for both of Sweden's goals, and will go down as the scorer of one of them. Perhaps he was dwelling on his 49th-minute own goal when Seb Larsson lined up a free-kick 10 minutes later but one would imagine that it is quite hard to so emphatically lose track of a precociously bearded 6ft 2in centre-back. Perhaps if England had been less public in identifying Sweden's failings they would have been less exposed to such poetic justice.