Having helped England sign off for the year nine games unbeaten, Bobby Zamora, Jack Rodwell and Kyle Walker are hopeful 2012 might bring personal reward and a place in the squad for the UEFA European Championship.
The trio made their first international starts on Tuesday as an experimental team defeated Sweden 1-0 at Wembley thanks to a deflected header from Gareth Barry. That ended a run of 13 games without a win against the Scandinavian nation.
Rodwell, in particular, would have marked the occasion with a goal had he headed a cross from Stewart Downing inside, rather than against, the upright before half-time. Nonetheless, the Everton FC midfielder, 20, was delighted to have featured from the outset, three days after his debut as a substitute in another 1-0 Wembley victory, against Spain.
"I should have scored one or two, but I'll take the positives from that," said Rodwell, capped 20 times at under-21 level. "Playing against Spain and world class players like Xavi and Iniesta was brilliant, it was a great experience for me, and to start tonight against top players is another step."
Walker will also have impressed Fabio Capello after a typically energetic display at right-back. When asked whether he had given the England manager something ponder, the Tottenham Hotspur FC defender said he would "like to think so".
"I just want to go out there and play football, which is what I enjoy doing, and the rest can take care of itself," explained Walker, who also made his senior debut on Saturday. "I need to keep playing club football and hopefully keeping performing, and then we can look towards the summer."
Fifteen months after his England bow as a substitute against Hungary, Zamora earned his second cap as the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation. "It's hard up front on your own," said the Fulham FC forward. "You've just got to work hard and put yourself about and that's what I tried to do."
Like Rodwell and Walker, the 30-year-old Zamora is keen to maintain the club form which prompted Capello to select him this month. "I've just got to work hard at Fulham and keep doing what I'm doing," he added. "The gaffer will be looking, watching and that's all I can do."
In contrast to England ‒ whose last reverse came against France 12 months ago ‒ Sweden have ended 2011 with successive defeats since booking their place in Poland and Ukraine as the best runners-up in qualifying. "Losing two games is not what we wanted to do, but luckily they were just friendly matches," Sebastian Larsson, who played in Friday's 2-0 loss to Denmark, told UEFA.com.
"Today was definitely a better display from us; we should have got something from the game. In the second half we created plenty of opportunities but weren't good enough in the final third, which is something we have to work on. It was similar at times against Denmark, and if we can work on that and become more effective, we'll do all right."
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