Decisive Hodgson passes tactical test
Wayne Rooney has been smashing balls around England's dressing room walls in readiness for his belated entrance to Euro 2012 against co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk.
And for a chaotic spell in Kiev it looked like manager Roy Hodgson might be left banging his head on the same place as England did not so much flirt with danger against Sweden but grasp it in a full-blown embrace.
Hodgson and England have been accused by outside forces of failing to enter into the spirit of this football festival on the flimsy evidence of one pragmatic draw in their opening game against France. Both answered those charges - but face others as they prepare for a decisive final game against the co-hosts on Tuesday.
This 3-2 win, their first in competitive action against Sweden, means avoidance of defeat in Donetsk will send England into the quarter-finals. As he reflects on the victory, Hodgson will have found causes for concern and optimism.
It was the first serious test faced by Hodgson since his appointment in early May - but the manager's sound decision-making before and during the game meant he emerged unblemished and with a crucial victory.
Hodgson will be judged on the impact and results of his big calls and he could not have done much better both in acting on a tactical theory and reacting when it threatened to go wrong.
He recalled Liverpool's £35m striker Andy Carroll with a very specific purpose, one served to perfection as he exploited Sweden's aerial vulnerability to head home Steven Gerrard's perfect cross.
Hodgson then reacted to his team leaving their concentration in the dressing room at half-time to concede two embarrassingly poor goals to Olof Mellberg (though the first was later ruled to have been a Glen Johnson own goal) by swiftly introducing Theo Walcott.
He could see the game drifting from England's control and backed Walcott - who was ready to come on at 1-1 - to switch the momentum. This he did with a swerving equaliser then a cross that allowed Manchester United's Danny Welbeck to score a goal of athleticism, dexterity and pure instinct 12 minutes from time.
England headed back to their Krakow base in the small hours to debrief ahead of their return to the Donbass Arena, where they will face a night of fierce hostility against a Ukraine side knowing victory can put them through.
You could hear players shouting to each other during England's game with France - you will not be able to hear yourself think next time around.
And Hodgson will have to make the tough decisions all over again. Defensive frailties may have been exposed but he will revel in solving the attacking conundrums presented by an increasingly wide array of options.
Rooney is available and must return. For all the good work of Carroll and Welbeck, one must step aside against Ukraine - and the starting choice for me would be the Manchester United youngster.
Carroll was a specifically designed pick against Sweden and vindicated his manager. There may be a need for a different approach against Ukraine so there is sound logic in reuniting the blossoming club pairing of Rooney and Welbeck, who has shown maturity as well as an ability to score goals for England in recent internationals.
The pair will be joined by another OId Trafford attacker in Ashley Young. He will play on the left - but there will be a pressing matter for Hodgson about who occupies the other flank.
James Milner offers work-rate, the occasional good delivery and protection for Glen Johnson. Walcott, on the other hand, provides searing pace and - as he proved in Kiev - those moments that can define matches.
Here he delivered a cameo of some class, a brief performance that allowed England to steady themselves after the dark moments and show such commendable resilience to recover and win.
Much loose talk is spoken about team spirit and camaraderie but the true test is how England respond to adversity and this was a ringing endorsement of the unity Hodgson is said to have fostered.
England refused to be blown totally off course by a horror spell after the break. They were able to right the ship helped by Hodgson's prompt and successful substitutions.
Hodgson will not merely be focusing on plus points. England's defending for both goals, resulting from set pieces, were abominable as first Zlatan Ibrahimovic's free-kick was not cleared then Mellberg headed in Seb Larsson's free-kick unmolested by anything resembling a marker.
There were also moments of alarm when John Terry appeared to be treading in mud in a footrace with Ibrahimovic, a moment that will have been noted by sprightly attackers.
England were also caught short on the counter too often by Sweden - offences which will drive at the very heart of Hodgson's philosophy.
The final reckoning is that England need to come out with a draw against Ukraine, which is perfectly workable if former disciplines are restored. They are also able to try and achieve this with their best player back.
Hodgson can think through his attacking strategy carefully with so many players stating their cases after Kiev. And most heartening of all for the England camp was that two key decisions, starting with Carroll and introducing Walcott, were a reflection of Hodgson's current clear-headedness in the heat of tournament competition.
England may have been late arriving at the Euro 2012 festivities - but they crashed through the door with some style as this tournament continues to sparkle.