Though England's achievement of finishing qualification for the 2016 European Championships with a 100% win record from their 10 games should not be understated, it is a feat that should not be laboured on or held with any significance ahead of the challenge facing them next summer. The reality is Roy Hodgson's side are no more developed than they were 16 months ago, when they crashed out of the World Cup in the group phase without a single victory.
It says much about the group, where the opposition had an average Fifa world ranking of 91st, that the upcoming friendlies against Spain, France and Germany will be a greater indicator as to England's progression since their harrowing experience in Brazil. Hodgson's side have looked ponderous and dithering at times and could once again be cannon fodder.
A combination of injury and the standard of opposition allowing for experimentation had led to Hodgson using a massive 33 different players during the 10 qualifying matches, leaving him with several selection dilemmas ahead of selecting his squad for the competition. To assist the England boss, IBTimes UK has looked at those used over the past year since the World Cup, plus a few potential wildcards, and compiled the 23-man playing party for next summer, fitness permitting. Roy need not worry.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford
Joe Hart played in all but one of England's qualifiers and is as reliable as any member of Hodgson's roster. Jack Butland's clean sheet against Lithuania, though mostly achieved as a spectator, coupled with his promotion into the Stoke City first team should see him elevated to number two. As for the number three, tournament experience could prove vital for the development of Sunderland's Jordan Pickford, who has two Under-21 caps. The selection of older reserves, with little hopes of usurping Hart, would be a wasteful selection.
Contenders: Fraser Forster, Tom Heaton
Defenders: Nathaniel Clyne, Chris Smalling, Eric Dier, John Stones, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill, Luke Shaw, Ryan Bertrand
The primary dilemma facing Hodgson surrounds who will be selected at left-back, with injury concerns currently hanging over two contenders. Though Leighton Baines is expected back before the end of the year, Luke Shaw is facing a longer spell out with a double broken leg. The Manchester United full-back should be first choice if fit, and must be joined by Ryan Bertrand, who has been the Premier League's best left-back since joining Southampton. Kieran Gibbs and Danny Rose will suffer due to not being first choice at their clubs, while Baines' best days are now behind him.
Elsewhere, with deputies to Nathaniel Clyne few and far between, Hodgson must flood his defence with utility options. Chris Smaling, John Stones – the first choice centre-back pairing – and Phil Jones should be joined by the uncapped Eric Dier of Tottenham, who has impressed this season. He edges the marginalised Calum Chambers, but Gary Cahill should win the race over Phil Jagielka as the figure of experience.
Contenders: Calum Chambers, Leighton Baines
Midfielders: Michael Carrick, Fabian Delph, James Milner, Ross Barkley, Jack Wilshere
Jordan Henderson is the glaring omission, with few players having made more than his six appearances during qualifying, but without being a probing attacking player, defensively shrewd or a creative force, he does not bring enough to the England team. His deficiencies are made up for by the likes of Fabian Delph, who impressed before being struck down by injury, and Ross Barkley, who has the capacity to light up the tournament. Michael Carrick and Jack Wilshere can control games, with James Milner providing the versatility needed during any competition. Next summer comes too soon for Spurs pair Dele Alli and Ryan Mason.
Contenders: Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli, Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Wingers: Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling
A trio all horribly out of form but with the capacity to rip defences apart given the opportunity. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is perhaps the most exposed of the three, with his place at Arsenal far from secure, but it is the form of Sterling that is of most concern since his big-money move to Manchester City. Lallana's fitness concerns are a worry too but Jurgen Klopp appears the perfect manager to nurture his undoubted talent.
Contenders: Jason Puncheon, Wilfried Zaha
Forwards: Theo Walcott, Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney
England will arrive in France with their record international goalscorer in toe, but the role of Wayne Rooney, not least his position, is yet to be decided. Theo Walcott has finally proved himself in a central role ahead of Olivier Giroud at Arsenal, and has a recent goal record to prove it. Harry Kane may be overworked but he provides something different at the pivot of the attack, and Daniel Sturridge is the country's best finisher. Danny Welbeck has plenty of credit in the bank with England but will have missed nine months by the time he returns in 2016.
Contenders: Saido Berahino, Danny Welbeck