England show their claws as Welbeck strikes to beat Swiss
Roy Hodgson's bold selection pays off as pacy England pick off main Euro 2016 rivals
Switzerland 0 England 2. Finally the Three Lions have found their claws and it was poor Switzerland who ended up getting mauled. After two years of tentative football Roy Hodgson sent his side out against the Swiss with instructions to be bold and they were, with new Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck scoring two second half goals in a win that puts England in a dominant position in Group E.
With the top two countries in each group qualifying automatically for the 2016 European Championships, England are strong favourites to come out on top having got the hardest away game out of the way first. Trips to Lithuania, Slovenia, San Marino and Estonia follow but if England continue with the attacking approach they showed in Basel they should comfortably qualify for France.
Monday night's performance was in stark contrast to those England inflicted on their fans during the World Cup and again last week when they were so poor they sent Alan Shearer to sleep.
Hodgson sent his side out to play in a diamond formation with Jack Wilshere at the base and Raheem Sterling at the tip. With Welbeck and Wayne Rooney in attack England had too much pace for the Swiss – ranked ninth in the world, 11 places higher than Hodgson's side - though the hosts tested out Joe Hart on a couple of occasions.
Welbeck gave the visitors the lead on 58 minutes after a swift and clinical three-man counter attack, firing home Sterling's delightful cross for his first international goal in 12 months. And the 23-year-old, who moved from Manchester United to Arsenal last week, made it 2-0 on the stroke of full-time as the Swiss poured forward in search of an equaliser, picking up a pass from Rickie Lambert and slotting the ball past Yann Sommer.
"It was a bold approach but we decided there was no point coming here for a 0-0, we want this team to progress," said Hodgson afterwards. "When we can counter-attack. the pace, energy and youth of the team is shown."
Hodgson was hurt by the criticism heaped on the Three Lions last week in the wake of the 1-0 victory over Norway in which England managed just two shots on target. He called for patience and this result will certainly go some way to winning back the fans who have deserted England in droves following the abject World Cup.
"Yes the World Cup didn't go our way, yes we have been disappointed but we have been building up," Hodgson told reporters. "We didn't hit a brick wall and it was all wrong, we had to maintain faith that we are on the right track and we are getting the right players. It was so important to get a good start against the team who are our biggest rivals in the group."
England host San Marino next month at Wembley in their second qualifier and they're guaranteed more than the 40,000 crowd who turned up for the Norway friendly if Hodgson keeps his promise to play with panache. "This is the way forward," he said of the diamond formation. "We've got to back them. We adopted a reasonably bold approach because I know if it's going to work in the future, if this group of players is going to become any good, we have to do it from the start."