Realism rules but England have cause for optimism
When Scotland beat World Cup holders England at Wembley in 1967, the joyous Tartan Army took a cue from boxing and declared that the title of global rulers was now theirs.
England performed a similar feat in beating world and European champions Spain on Saturday - but on this occasion Wembley was awash with perspective and realism ruled amid the pleasure gleaned from Frank Lampard's winner.
Fabio Capello will not use victory as a form guide for Euro 2012 or an indication that his side is closing the gap on the Spanish artists. When and where it truly matters, in serious competition, England cannot even dream of being their equals, let alone betters.
This does not mean, however, that a victory built on industry, resilience and unbending tactical discipline is not a matter of some significance to Capello and his players.
A statistical analysis of events at Wembley would have placed England behind Spain in most areas except, rather crucially, for the one that defines the outcome. For all Spain's possession and passing patterns it was England who scored the goal that won the game.
And to pour cold water on England's celebrations is both churlish and unfair. It is not a result that changes football's landscape but it is a mean spirit that does not allow them to enjoy beating the world's finest national team, irrespective of the status of the game.
Capello may have sported a carnation as a sign that part of his heart was in Milan, where his son Pierfilippo was getting married, but he kept a little bit of Italy back at Wembley and saved it for Spain.
Everton's Jack Rodwell (right) impressed against Spain on his debut. Photo:Getty Images
England's gameplan was the direct result of Capello's Italian roots. Spain may have had the possession but they found immovable opponents and once Lampard headed England into the lead four minutes after half-time they soaked up what Spain had to offer to delight the Wembley gallery.
It was a night when Capello openly accepted England's limitations - and rightly so. He made it clear in his pre-match briefing that no-one could take Spain on at their own game. He knew to do so would be the equivalent of a tactical suicide note.
So this game became the living embodiment of one of Capello's little nervous ticks. When he sits down to face the media, he has developed a habit of rearranging dictaphones in front of him in his beloved "9-1" formation, which he believes epitomises the modern approach.
This was the framework he used for victory against Spain. At times striker Darren Bent was virtually in solitary confinement as Spain took possession, but behind him was a feverish work-rate and a desire not to simply accept the obvious technical superiority of Vicente del Bosque's side.
And from this came a measure of optimism for the present and the future for both England and Capello. It is not that they are now serious contenders for Euro 2012, but there is at least plenty to take away from Wembley in confidence and self-belief.
England also faced a Spain team that was flat and unable to move through the gears with their normal slick ease. For a side of such lavish gifts they struggled to fashion an end product.
For Capello, however, there were positives in many areas, though we must resist the urge to get carried away.
My own view was that a meeting with the World Cup winners was made for Wayne Rooney, and once captain John Terry was selected it made little sense to leave him out of a game carrying such prestige.
Capello's decisions were vindicated by the result, which will carry extra weight as it was also achieved without that influential, pair as well as key midfield men Jack Wilshere and Steven Gerrard. It also allowed players from varying generations to stake their claims for Euro 2012.
In a rare outburst of public praise, Capello described central defensive pair Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott as "fantastic" and called Scott Parker's performance "incredible." He was not far wrong.
Lescott has often cut a figure shorn of confidence with England, but it is no coincidence that arguably his two finest displays, at Wembley against Spain and in the Euro 2012 qualifying win in Switzerland last season, came alongside his one-time Everton partner Jagielka.
It seems Jagielka's presence and authority brings out the best in Lescott and the Manchester City defender was magnificent, showing an assurance he has rarely demonstrated for his country. They were formidable together at club level and were again against Spain.
With Phil Jones, who stuck manfully to his task in an unfamiliar central midfield role before being substituted, also likely to battle for a central defensive berth next summer, this may have been the night that Rio Ferdinand's England future moved even further behind him.
Parker received a standing ovation when he was substituted late on and no-one would begrudge him a second of it. Defensive shield, ball carrier, tackler - he did it all. It was a performance that made a nonsense of Capello's decision to ignore him for so long, especially given his form at West Ham United last season.
Capello appeared to reserve particular excitement and animation for England's younger brigade, who he is convinced will bring energy, personality and fearlessness to his squad as next summer approaches.
Everton's Jack Rodwell has long been touted as an England player but his career stood still last season before flourishing again in a struggling side this term.
The suspicion lurked that for all his natural talent, he lacked a ruthless streak, the phrase used among Everton fans being "too much Birkdale not enough Kirkdale". Birkdale is the more affluent area of his birth, as opposed to the tougher area of Kirkdale, so hardly a compliment to his style.
Ironically, the incident in which Rodwell was wrongly sent off for challenging Liverpool's Luis Suarez in the Merseyside derby was an illustration of what had been missing from his game and what Everton manager David Moyes wanted him to discover: steel to go with silk.
Rodwell now looks more capable of fulfilling that promise, and although definitive judgements must never be made on the evidence of 33 minutes in a friendly, he has put himself firmly in Capello's thoughts and will get other opportunities.
Manchester United's Danny Welbeck won another Capello namecheck after an impressive cameo as a substitute, while more will be seen of Tottenham's Kyle Walker against Sweden at Wembley on Tuesday, when Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge will also make his debut.
So hardly a time for euphoria or an instant readjustment of England's Euro 2012 expectations - but still an excellent victory well worth celebrating.