On the eve of this friendly, the England captain Steven Gerrard said his side were "a lot stronger" than the one destroyed 4-1 in Bloemfontein in June 2010. Twelve months ago, the goalkeeper's position might have been one in which that was unequivocally true. Joe Hart was supposed to be England's No1 for years to come but his place has come under intense pressure as his form has dipped. So a sharp first-half save from a Per Mertesacker header, then a follow-up shot from Max Kruse, provided a much needed fillip. Another good save from Marco Reus just after half-time proved his confidence remains undimmed, despite the criticism.
This England side do not seem like they have evolved hugely, yet Ashley Cole was one of only three players starting to remain from Bloemfontein. Just over six months from the World Cup, none of this back four is assured of a starting berth and just six clean sheets in 18 since Euro 2012 is evidence of a worrying porousness. Chris Smalling, given the opportunity to usurp Gary Cahill, failed to impress and was found wanting for the goal. Kyle Walker, on the right, did better. So leaden-footed were John Terry and Matthew Upson as part of a static back-line in 2010 that it was not hard to offer an improvement. Memories of that match alone should do much to temper any creeping momentum behind a recall for the Chelsea man.
Andros Townsend was again bright on the pitch where he shot to prominence in those back-to-back qualifiers, with the noise level rising appreciably whenever he got the ball. A shot that slammed against a post deserved a goal. Outpassed on Friday by Chile, it was England who were initially the better at keeping the ball. Tom Cleverley and Gerrard at first provided an effective platform to allow Townsend to run directly at the German defence, despite offering little attacking threat of their own. But as the game got stretched, holes started to appear.
For Wayne Rooney, every major tournament since he burst on to the scene at Portugal 2004 has been an exercise in disappointment. Paired with Jermain Defoe in Bloemfontein he barely got a kick. He has looked less bereft of late but his partnership with Daniel Sturridge has largely failed to fire. Townsend and Adam Lallana did their best to offer zest and support but if the former are to be England's front two for Brazil then further work is required.
Before a lumbering England were left shellshocked in Bloemfontein, Joachim Löw had called the World Cup knockout tie a clash of Germany's "youthful lightness" against England's "international class". He was being charitable to England's ageing, outclassed side. On that score, at least, there is more equilibrium. Hodgson has alighted on a better blend of youthful innocence and experience. The austerity of the Fabio Capello reign has been replaced by a new realism and a feeling that this squad actually enjoy being together. Whether Hodgson is any closer to melding a winning mentality, and evolving an identifiable style that bridges the gap with Germany so mercilessly exposed three years ago, is very much open to question. He has plenty more thinking to do.