ROY Hodgson hopes last night's 2-1 win over Brazil provides England's emerging young players with a timely morale boost ahead of a run of crucial World Cup qualifiers.
England resume World Cup qualifying action next month with back-to-back games in San Marino and Montenegro, before completing their programme with four more matches in September and October.
They currently trail Montenegro by two points having failed to beat both Ukraine and Poland last autumn, and their trip to Podgorica on March 26 is shaping up to be a critical encounter.
Last night's victory represented an ideal warm-up, with Frank Lampard's second-half strike securing only England's fourth ever win over Brazil after Fred had cancelled out Wayne Rooney's first-half opener.
With Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck all named in the starting line-up, Hodgson has put his faith in England's youth, and he is hoping his players will have drawn inspiration from their efforts against one of the world's leading sides.
“I hope it gives the players belief,” said the England boss. “And I hope it will lead to some more good performances between now and the end of October.
“We had quite a young team out there. A lot of players in that team were 22 years old or younger. The player that was named man of the match (Wilshere) is only 21, and Theo Walcott, who must have pushed him close, is still only 22.
“I thought it was a good blend of youth and experience. There were a lot of young players on the field – the likes of Cleverley and Welbeck – and it's nice that those players have linked together with the more experienced ones. They're seeing that they're good enough to play in this team and win matches.”
Wilshere's performance drew widespread praise, with the Arsenal midfielder dominating midfield and producing an excellent slide-rule pass to help create Rooney's opener.
Earlier this week, Hodgson tried to dampen down the expectations that have accompanied Wilshere's fine performances in the Premier League this season, but after last night's display, he admits the youngster has catapulted himself to a new level.
“I've been trying to protect him, but he doesn't need it does he,” he said. “You can crank up the expectations as much as you like now because he's comfortable. And as long as he's comfortable with it all, why should I worry?”
Wilshere, who was only winning his seventh cap, is still at the start of his international career, but Lampard, who came off the bench to grab a 60th-minute winner, is nearing his swansong.
Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole have both entered the 100-cap club in England's last two matches, and Lampard needs just six more appearances to reach the same landmark.
He could make it before the end of the year, although with his club future uncertain as the end of his current contract at Chelsea draws near, Hodgson admits his international prospects will be greatly enhanced if he remains in Europe next season.
“I think he can (reach 100 caps), but I hope we keep Frank in England,” he said. “It's not for me to discuss his future with his current club, that's for him and his club. I know he'll have a lot of offers is Chelsea do decide they're prepared to let him go, but if we're not going to see him in England, then I'm rather hoping we see him in Europe because that will make my task easier.
“If he goes further afield and follows David (Beckham) then it complicates matters. It doesn't mean your career with England is over, but the further afield you go, the more problematic it gets.”
Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari was presiding over the first game of his second spell in charge of his home nation, and the former Chelsea boss was anticipating a strong England display.
“All of their players impressed me,” said Scolari. “That was not a surprise. I've seen all the data and watched all the videos of their games and England always play like that when they are in good form. But let's see if they play like that on June 2 (when the two sides meet in a friendly in Rio de Janeiro). I'm used to losing my first game as manager, but after that first game I'm used to winning games and competitions.”