It was with a certain degree of relief that England fans sat back after Steven Gerrard's toe-poke hit the back of the end in Wembley last night.

That, coupled with Rooney's timely first half header, was enough to sink Poland and assure England something that had been an incredibly debatable possibility less than a week ago; World Cup qualification.

It's now high time we stopped talking about the worries and doubts heaped upon the national team when they set out against sides like Montenegro and Ukraine, and looked ahead to Brazil 2014.

To say that the majority of the nation is expecting a complete and utter disaster next summer is a serious understatement. However, contrary to popular opinion, I for one am of the opinion that not only do England stand a good chance of going further than usual, but it's their well documented weaknesses that give them the chance to do so.

First let's start with the side itself in terms of individuals, and how it might look come the end of the domestic season.

The current side, though maybe a little bereft of the the star-studded figures of yesteryear, are complemented by a tidy mix of youthful vigour and experienced heads.

In the current climate, for England to be able to field the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and the usually fit Ashley Cole alongside players such as Andros Townsend, Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge, presents an advantage that some other nations don't have.

The latter names in the above selection are all also evidence of a neat crop of youth players who have broken into the senior team in recent months.

Sturridge, Townsend, Wilshere and others like Ravel Morrison, Ross Barkley and Phil Jones could all develop over the course of the season and add to their already impressive skill sets.

For Hodgson to be offered a pool from which to draw young, hungry talent who are used to playing week in, week out at the highest level is a gift that in the past England manager haven't too often been afforded.

Next we can move on to the current tag that the England team carry. Whilst many are shaking their heads at this tournament being the first in living memory that England can, by a vast majority world-wide, be considered rank-outsiders at best to win, I think it serves as nice little guise.

The players will now go to the World Cup not bearing the weight of a nation's expectancy on their shoulders but instead looking only to do as well as they can. Hopefully this will allow them to play in contrast to the way they've conducted themselves in the tournaments leading up to this one, and give them the freedom to experiment. Put plainly England can benefit from falling into the 'dark horses' pile for next summer.

And it's ironically another element that has become synonymous with England of late, and has of course come under criticism, that is perhaps the most pertinent in terms of being welcomed rather than scorned.

Roy Hodgson is a man who prefers to set his teams up in a manner that makes them hard to be beaten rather than focusing on their own goal-scoring opportunities.

Sure, it falls some way off the mantra of the exciting tiki-taka football, and it definitely doesn't make England the most attractive team to watch. However it guarantees that they won't be caught shorthanded by better equipped opposition and ensures that the best teams in the world will have trouble getting goals.

That particular point has proven foundations in the last tournament, where England were knocked out by Italy on penalties after Pirlo and co- though vastly superior in their build up play- failed to convert.

A look at England's run ins with the likes of Brazil under Hodgson prove how resolutely the Three Lions can defend when needed, firstly edging a 2-1 win and then drawing 2-2 in the Maracana.

The ability to triumph over teams when not necessarily better than them will be something that England will almost certainly have to fall back on next summer.

I think that for the most part, it's still massively premature to claim that England can even threaten to lift the trophy for the first time since 1966, but there's no reason with the squad and ethos we have, that we can't match, if not do better, than the traditional second-round/ quarter-final exit.

Topics:
#Football
#England Football