Since time immemorial, England have had a propensity to complicate and confuse their own situation in qualification at major tournaments. However, in Poland & Ukraine, the extreme success of the national side in reaching a mouthwatering Quarter-Final against Italy has its genesis in true organisation, the like of which our game has never received. Without the usual worry and fuss, without the nerves and controversy, England have plotted, with intricate and clinical success, a conducive route out of a perilous group. Ultimately, the sagacious mind and knowledge of Roy Hodgson, in his academic and persistent thinking of the game, has qualified England for knockout play.
That organisation begins off the field. Following the logistical nightmare and utter impracticality of South Africa two year ago, the FA made a forthright and sensational decision in the selection of a camp based entirely in the centre of Warsaw. Ensnared in a city, as opposed to rattling around vast open expansive of rural nothingness, as in South Africa, this England squad can actually feel the tournament, and become immersed in it. Further, this adds to the sense of freedom and enjoyment with which Hodgson manifestly wishes to affiliate and associate national team duty.
Also, key in fostering support for his ideology, and his plans, Hodgson has entrusted his players. Recently, the wives and girlfriends were allowed a visit in Poland, a move which demonstrated a compassion and understanding on Roy's part so infamously lacking in the workings of Fabio. Central, too, in this regard, is the role of Gary Neville. Serving as much for his communication skills and as a blending agent between the cold tactical reality of Manager and warm, personable facade of Roy, Neville has united the entire camp into one unit, hellbent on success.
Of course, a swanky and geographically-pleasing base camp can only get a team so far. Where England have transcended and dwarfed other nations at this competition is in implementation of ideas and strategy. More than ever, England are a team that is incredibly disciplined. Rather than a team of phenomenal individuals, of Generations Golden, England, now, are a team! This is a joy to watch.
Even deep down in the psyche of the English fan, a place besmirched with pools of pessimism and endless worry, it never looked even a remote possibility that Ukraine would breach the backline. For all of their possession, all of their play, all of their attacking situations, only once did Ukraine get in behind England; and, even on that occasion, we all know that John Terry managed to scramble back and hook the ball off the line.
This mass organisation is the seismic paradigm shift which England have craved for generations. Roy Hodgson has made it his initial and most pertinent priority to facilitate England with a discernible base and foundation which, over the course of this exhausting group campaign, has emerged and evolved into a source of immense pride. Between the sticks, Joe Hart looks imposing and agile. A brave and dogged back four consists of a vastly-improved Glen Johnson, a truly inspirational and legendary John Terry, an immovable brick wall in Joleon Lescott, and, in Ashley Cole, quite possibly the best left-back ever to lace up a pair of football boots. Intrinsic, also, to this immense and enjoyable solidity are Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard. The former has thrown every possible modicum of effort at this his first International tournament. The latter has been the very best player at this his sixth International tournament. Together, they are incredible.
Against Ukraine, the game was won by the player on whom we pin our most fervent attacking hopes. The heralded return of Wayne Rooney was a refreshing and entertaining sight. Many pessimists will cite two deflections and a goalkeeper incapable of catching a bus as the rationale behind his far-post tap-in, but, ultimately, it was a goal of paramount importance. It was a goal which represented the literal and logical gap between our one and the Ukraine's nil. It was a goal which was the realisation of English dreams, spurring us on to a Quarter-Final berth. It was a goal which won the group.
With an organisation on the field rare in the annals of English footballing history, and an organisation off the field incongruous with the general pattern of English tournaments, Roy Hodgson's incarnation are unique. With optimism and expectation, hope and belief now rising and developing back home, it is soothing to know that, for once, England have a balance. Harbouring the most stable and imposing defence at the competition, and a certain Mr Rooney at the other end of the field to nick crucial goals, England, as in their group stage negotiation, may have attained a profitably and consistent route to success.