Both teams scored from corners against the run of play, then were happy to settle with a point in the closing stages.
The teams remained from what was confirmed last night:
Hodgson introduced Phil Jagielka to partner Joloen Lescott in the centre of defence, a debut performance for the pair following John Terry's international retirement. Tom Cleverley started on the left, and Jermaine Defoe was picked ahead of Danny Welbeck up front.
Poland manager Waldemar Fornalik also kept his predicted starting team, with the rapid Kamil Grosicki replacing star man Jakub Blaszczkowski on the right.
Starting Line ups
The game started cautiously. England looked intent on keeping to the solid defensive nature that Hodgson favours, while Poland were eager to attack down the right. Here they had both the impressive pace of Grosicki and the intelligent overlapping of Lukasz Piszczek, and 50% of their attacks came from here. Poland no.10 Ludovic Obraniak was drifting out wide to provide one twos against Ashley Cole, and with further intelligent movement from Robert Lewendowski- who dropped incredibly deep to get the ball- Poland wielded some half chances in the opening exchanges.
England seemed intent on controlling the ball- perhaps explaining the presence of Michael Carrick for the game, but overall passed poorly. Frequently Gerrard attempted a range of long passes over the top for Defoe, which usually were unsuccessful. Hodgson himself acknowledged this in his post match interview where he admitted- 'our passing was really poor in the first half. The extra day, the sogginess of the pitch didn't work in our favour'. Such was clear- England's first half performance was remarkably average.
The quality of the game was epitomised by Rooney converting a Gerrard header in the 31st minute- which took a nick off a Polish player before beating Tyton at his far post. England kept their shape and held the game out till half time, with the slow tempo of their play and lack of midfield creativity bordering on ludicrous.
Poland are by no means a poor side but their strengths have universally been recognised down their right flank with the competent trio of Piszczek, Blaszczkowski and Lewendowksi. Despite Blaszczkowski's absence there was still a clear threat here- Grosicki is excepetionally fast and with Obraniak drifting out as a 'central winger' Poland carved out a number of opportunities.
It was therefore surprising that Hodgson chose to field Tom Cleverely out on the left- because he's (a) relatively inexperienced at international level (today was his 4th cap), (and putting an inexperienced player in arguably the most significant position of the pitch was questionable), (b) more renowned for being a natural central player, and (c) far more capable going forward than tracking back in a restrictive role. His performance too was disappointing- dominated by a continuous responsibility to track back on Piszczek, meaning he rarely got forward. Indeed, England attacked down the right 44% of the time as oppose to only 30% on the left, and considering James Milner was playing on the right this might have been largely unintentional.
Tactical change: Rooney left, Piszczek subdued, Gerrard and Cleverley greater license to advance.
Rooney moves to the left
With Poland maintaining their attacks down the right flank Hodgson reacted correctly. Carrick dropped into a more defined holding role in front of the defence, Cleverley went infield and Rooney moved out left.
The change was massively effective- Piszczek no longer felt confident moving forward knowing that Rooney could exploit space behind him, and more importantly, both Cleverley and Gerrard could both get forward safe in the knowledge that Carrick was covering behind them.
The advantages of playing Rooney on the left have been discussed on the Football Butler before (albeit in a slightly more advanced role), as the system accommodates a more advanced role for Gerrard who is clearly more effective when playing in the final third. In this small period before Poland equalised, England penetrated far more effectively through the middle and Rooney should have seen the game off completely following a Danny Welbeck tee up. More importantly though, Poland were subdued through the right, and within this period they threatened rarely.
Poland equalise, England fail to react
Identically to England, Poland equalised from a corner- courtesy of an awful goalkeeping error from Joe Hart- against the run of play and suddenly the momentum swung again. Hodgson's reaction was unclear- Rooney off for Oxlade Chamberlain who partnered Cleverley and Milner behind Welbeck in a rather confused and loose 4-2-3-1; Gerrard went back to holding with Carrick.
The game went back to its mediocre foundations and neither team managed to create anything, with the tempo slowed down to a point where anyone watching assumed both teams had one eye on their respective club fixtures at the weekend.
Hodgson's passive and cautious tactics were exposed here as the team showed very little attacking creativity when they were expected to push forward for a winner. Ultimately both seemed content with a point.
In truth this was an incredibly average match which will be remembered more for when it was played as oppose to how it was played.
England will probably blame the quality of the pitch as a result of their lack of intent, while Poland will probably be content with a point given the way they got back into the match.
Hodgson will leave Warsaw moderately satisfied to take something from the game, but will know that there is a lot of work to do with this England squad, which he now has the indefinite task of rebuilding.