Maturing Hart vital to England
Among the fall-out from the incident that left Gary Cahill with a double fracture of the jaw and renewed the debate about Rio Ferdinand's exclusion from England's Euro 2012 squad, manager Roy Hodgson may eventually reflect that things could have been worse.
The cynical shove from Belgium's Dries Mertens that ended Cahill's hopes of figuring in Poland and Ukraine also narrowly avoided inflicting damage on goalkeeper Joe Hart as his late evasive action unwittingly injured Chelsea's defender.
And as one of the most precious pieces of cargo aboard England's plane to Krakow on Wednesday, the prospect of losing the 25-year-old Manchester City keeper would have been nigh on unthinkable for Hodgson.
Such is Hart's sporting prowess that he earned accolades as a promising young cricketer with the Worcestershire academy before making his way in football. New Road's loss has been England's gain.
Hart's measured performance in front of the world's media at England's first press conference following their arrival in Poland was merely a mirror image of the assurance he has brought to his work at international level and as a Premier League title winner at City.
This mature, rounded personality has bought in fully to the philosophy England have brought to Poland, a determination to embrace the culture and history of this proud country while at the same time focusing on the business of football.
Hart is serious about England's aspirations for Euro 2012 - but there was no mistaking how important he felt Friday's emotional visit to Auschwitz will be to the team. This may be a sporting showpiece but this was clearly a crucial element of the overall experience here in Poland.
He said: "You need to experience these things. You need to see these things to appreciate them. It's talked about, you hear words like the Holocaust but you have to find out what they are to help you respect people. It gives you more of a feeling about the history of this world."
Hart is becoming an increasingly impressive figure on and off the field with a demeanour many feel marks him out as a future candidate for the England captaincy.
To watch Hart in close-up action during England's open training session at Wembley on Friday before the 1-0 win against Belgium the following day was to witness someone with a growing command of their craft - and someone who will be invaluable to Hodgson when his Euro 2012 campaign opens against France in Donetsk on Monday.
England's current captain Steven Gerrard admits to marvelling at Hart's work in training, revealing: "He just makes world-class saves, jumps back to his feet and prepares for the next shot like nothing has happened. The rest of us are just looking at him wondering 'what the hell was that?' but it's just normal to him. Amazing."
Hart's rise to prominence now has him regarded as one of the world's goalkeeping elite but there is caution in his message. He says: "I'm not living on some sort of confidence where I think I'm untouchable and I can do whatever I want.
"I don't think you can get too lost in it. I have always been doing all right in football but there have been times when I was left on the bench when Shay Given came to Manchester City. I wasn't cool about it but there is no point getting lost in it all."
Hodgson has been so impressed with Hart that he was even moved to mention him in the same breath as the great World Cup winner Gordon Banks after the win against Belgium. And Hart was outlining his determination to be "the rock that England needs" exactly 42 years to the day since Banks's legendary save from Brazil's Pele in Guadalajara during the Mexico World Cup.
Fabio Capello regarded Hart as too young to risk at the World Cup in South Africa two years ago. The keeper's role was restricted to offering very public consolation and comfort to Robert Green after his error allowed Clint Dempsey to give the USA a crucial draw in England's opening game before a 39-year-old David James completed a tournament that was nothing short of abject misery.
No such debate or uncertainty surrounds the choice of England's goalkeeper in Poland and Ukraine. Hart will be among the first names Hodgson writes down on his teamsheet and one that will give his England team-mates a sense of security about their last line of defence.
Hart has been described as a future England captain. Photo: Reuters
Hart has the most solid hold on England's number one shirt since his boyhood hero David Seaman made his last appearance for the England team in 2002. And if the former Arsenal keeper prided himself on his "Safe Hands" label then the same applies to the goalkeeper who cost City just £600,000 when he arrived from Shrewsbury as a teenager in May 2006 with only 54 senior games behind him.
He is working closely with England's new goalkeeping coach Dave Watson and Hart said: "Dave wants to do so well. He doesn't see his role as just smashing a few balls at the goalies and then send them into a game. His role is to prepare you and he takes everything personally.
"He really, really takes his role on. He's shown me his plan for the next three weeks. He's already got it ready, how he wants to prepare for this. He's always asking do I need anything - he's just very professional. He takes so much pride in his work and I just feel ready."
Hart accepts England's intention to be seen as "good tourists" with their hotel based in the heart of Krakow, mingling with the locals and attending a reception held by the Mayor on Thursday evening.
It is all a far cry from the isolation of the now infamous "Camp Capello" in Rustenburg, where England were so cut off from South African civilisation that they could have been anywhere.
Hart, however, does not lose sight of what is top of his agenda. He said: "It was fine with the fans at our hotel when we arrived. We weren't mobbed. It was just people showing an interest and I'm sure it will die down.
"I'm here to prepare for a football tournament but if we need to go out I'm sure the lads won't think twice about having a wander. Sometimes you need a change of scenery but we are here to play football."
And if England are to thrive at Euro 2012, it is becoming increasingly clear that their outstanding young goalkeeper is vital to those hopes.