There are two images that endure. The first is of an airborne Andy Carroll, his eyes fixed on the ball as it careers over in a delicious arc from the right flank and the white flash of gritted teeth, his jaw fixed, an indication of the power he is straining to summon from heaving neck muscles. Beneath him Andreas Granqvist winces, his shoulders hunched as if resigned to the reality that Sweden have been undone. He is diminished, shrunk in the striker's presence.

The second, much later in the contest, is of Danny Welbeck pirouetting on his left leg and carefully clipping England's third beyond Andreas Isaksson with the instep of his right foot. There is surprise then dismay etched across Olof Mellberg's brow as his momentum carries him towards goal and the ball dribbles beyond the prone goalkeeper at his side. Where one finish felt brutal, the other is impudent. Almost silky. Yet both have dashed the idea that this England team are purely functional and, actually, rather blunt.

Where the Swedes had been spearheaded by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Johan Elmander – a combined 142 caps and 47 goals – Roy Hodgson had begun this game with a front pairing who boasted 10 caps, two goals and a combined age of 44. He ended it with two youngsters pepped by self-belief and personal rewards, and a nagging concern as to just how he is to integrate the returning Wayne Rooney into his side for next Tuesday's final Group D fixture against Ukraine.

England's talisman was supposed to be their cavalry, appearing on the scene in the nick of time to smooth passage into the knockout phase. He has been chomping at the bit on the sidelines for 11 days. But now who does he displace? His club-mate who summoned the cutest of winners? Or the line-leader who had, at times, left the Swedes cowed?

It is a pleasant problem to occupy Hodgson in the days ahead. The manager's honeymoon period has been prolonged, his tactical game-plan here – add aerial presence to the team and target space behind opposing full-backs – having ended feeling inspirational even if, for 15 desperate minutes at the start of the second half, England had felt horribly exposed. Including Carroll was hardly visionary, with his first-half finish the seventh header out of the past eight goals the Swedes have shipped, but clearly astute. The introduction of an eager Theo Walcott once his team had mystifyingly slipped behind injected pace and trickery down the right where James Milner had offered only industry. He was a winger to force defenders into retreat. Erik Hamren's team lost all shape and control as they backtracked.

The forwards, inevitably, were at their most effective here when the supply line was efficient and accurate. Carroll had been introduced as the focal point but England were not direct in the crude, long-ball sense. Rather, they worked the channels, their wingers and full-backs pinned to the flanks, and tore at Sweden's full-backs. As an attacking unit England were more aggressive. Carroll's goal drew comparisons with that thundered home at San Siro by Mark Hateley in the Milan derby 28 years ago: for Steven Gerrard read Pietro Paolo Virdis on the right; for Granqvist and Isaksson, Internazionale's Fulvio Collovati and Walter Zenga. "Give credit to England," said a crestfallen Hamren. "They made good use of Carroll's head."

That will be the key for the player's future. The striker's brute force is obvious, his physique and spring clear. He consistently unsettled the makeshift right-back Granqvist, a player whose frailties in the air while at Wigan had swiftly suffocated his Premier League career, and relished what felt like a Premier League occasion.

The question coming into these finals was whether Carroll could refine his style to suit international football. Does he boast the speed of thought, awareness and instinctive movement to excel on this stage? Does he have the temperament to thrive? His goal smacked of the required quality, the technique of the header majestic, yet there were also reminders here – too many for Hodgson's comfort – that he remains raw. He had committed two fouls in the opening 90 seconds and it was his unnecessary offence early in the second period that had led to Sweden's equaliser. The adrenalin was pumping; he remains rough round the edges.

Yet, in this setup, the refinery could be provided elsewhere. It was in Walcott's jet-heeled approach and, most pertinently, in Welbeck's scintillating finish on the turn. There was an impudence to the effort, the forward realising his winger's delivery was marginally behind him to spin and open up his body to flick home with his back to goal. This was only his seventh cap but instinct tends to kick in. He had probably conjured touches laced with such confidence when enjoying his kickabouts as a kid back in Markfield Avenue, Longsight. That this was the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, with England's supporters outnumbered four to one by those in yellow and blue, mattered not a jot.

Hodgson now has a dilemma, with Rooney sure to start in Donetsk against the co-hosts next week. The most likely fall guy is Carroll, the management falling back on familiarity given that Welbeck and Rooney, with Ashley Young as a supply-line, are accustomed to each other's company at Manchester United. Leaving the Liverpool forward out, though, feels cruel given his booming first-half contribution in particular. Regardless, a team who initially felt blunt are now propelled by a sense of optimism. There is bite to this lineup after all.