Despite the positive nature of the result, England’s 1-0 friendly win over Portugal served to douse flames of pre-Euro 2016 optimism, as opposed to the exacerbating effect victory over a team ranked three places higher in the FIFA world rankings would typically have.
The Three Lions can be backed at 11/2 to be crowned kings of the continent, but their lacklustre attacking showing against a Seleccao side whose starting rearguard was comprised exclusively of over 30s and who also played the majority of the match with ten men.
In an attempt to appease both the blood-baying press and public, as well as key figures in the dressing room, Roy Hodgson combined the forces of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and captain Wayne Rooney into the same starting lineup, with the latter supporting the former two at the tip of a midfield diamond.
However, the unstoppable attacking machine this experiment was meant to yield failed to materialise. The trio’s talents didn’t seem to be compatible, with all three forced to spend inordinate amounts of time carrying out menial defensive tasks when relieved of possession.
Observant sports fans have been quick to spot the correlation between Rooney’s return to the fold and the instant lack of vibrancy in the England attack, especially when contrasted to the scintillating performance the Three Lions produced against Germany in March.
Kane and Vardy both played integral roles in the Berlin victory, but the Germans’ desire to impose themselves on that particular fixture worked to their advantage.
This especially applies to the Leicester City striker, whose greatest strength is without doubt his searing pace.
Against outfits content to absorb pressure, as Portugal were, the impact of this asset is instantly negated.
Pockets of space are a by-product of the strategies of foes eager to dominate the ball and it is only against such adversaries where Vardy should be utilised.
When attempting to dismantle the obstinate backlines of sides deploying Portugal’s modus operandi, Rooney’s technical prowess and international experience will be of far greater use than Vardy’s ability to sprint like a cheetah on a Russian track and field team.