Switzerland 0 England 2
The only disappointment for Roy Hodgson, perhaps, is that England could not conjure up this kind of football more often during the World Cup. They have got their European Championship qualifying programme off to a flying start and they did so in a manner that should go a long way to easing some of the negativity that had been threatening to engulf Hodgson's side.
What a pity for Hodgson that his team could not play with this distinction against, say, Uruguay in Sao Paulo three months ago. Switzerland occupy ninth position in Fifa’s world rankings but England made that feel like a mistake in the system and created enough chances to feel they probably ought to have won with even more to spare than merely Danny Welbeck’s second-half goals.
They were not flawless and it needed a superb piece of defending from Gary Cahill to deny Haris Seferovic an equaliser but it was certainly one of the better performances of the Hodgson era and from here, the level of opposition in Group E is so undistinguished it would need an extraordinary kind of meltdown now for England not to reach the tournament in France.
They have, without any exaggeration, pretty much ensured they will qualify. England’s next assignments, to put it into context, come against San Marino and Estonia in October. The trip to Basel should, in theory, be as tough as it gets and perhaps it was that layer of insurance that meant Hodgson’s team could approach this match without feeling too suffocated by the pressures.
For long spells they played with a confidence and fluency that had seldom been evident in the friendly against Norway last week.
Hodgson had abandoned his plodding 4-4-2 system and changed to a midfield diamond with Raheem Sterling at the forward tip, Jack Wilshere in front of defence and Jordan Henderson and Fabien Delph operating on the inside channels.
Immediately, England looked like a better, modernised side, breaking with speed and creating enough scoring opportunities that Hodgson must have been exasperated that his side did not lead by half-time.
Wayne Rooney was denied twice by Yann Sommer during that period and what a shame, perhaps, that the England striker is no longer quite the player of old.
Another early chance was asking to be struck on the volley and the younger Rooney would surely just have taken aim. Instead, he tried to take the ball down, trying to shape a more conventional finish, and the opportunity was lost.
Hodgson could also reflect on an outstanding save from Sommer to palm away Phil Jones’s header from a corner and an earlier chance that showed both the good and bad of Welbeck, beating his nearest opponent on the right wing, then haring into the penalty area with the choice to let fly or pick out Rooney and Sterling in a three-on-one break. Welbeck went for Sterling, misjudged the pass and that moment encapsulated so much about Arsenal’s talented, yet raw, new signing.
England were playing with composure, with Sterling’s ability to worry opponents a prominent feature, but there were still imperfections.
Jones went from intercepting the ball in one defensive moment to presenting it straight to Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland’s most dangerous player, and was fortunate that Seferovic’s shot came back off Joe Hart’s right foot in the ensuing attack.
Then there was Delph flying into tackles in a manner that must have left England’s management contemplating whether to withdraw him at half-time rather than risk him any longer.
Delph was booked after nine minutes for a reckless lunge at Stephan Lichsteiner and that would have been a red card if the Turkish referee, Cuneyt Cakir, had not been so lenient for scything down Valon Behrami three minutes earlier. Delph might be inexperienced at this level but, at 24, he should have had more sense than to be this impetuous.
He looked liked a red card waiting to happen and one might easily have followed after another mistimed dive later in the first half. He was fortunate Behrami moved out of the way and his body language, looking up to the skies and blowing out his cheeks, suggested he knew as much.
Those moments were incongruous with the control that England were showing elsewhere on the pitch and it was a splendid goal that gave them the lead.
The speed of their counter-attack, after Gokhan Inler had lost the ball in the centre-circle, was breathtaking. Rooney led the movement, surging forward against a defence that had suddenly been left badly exposed. Sterling was on his left and Welbeck was running to the far post, anticipating what was coming. It was a blur of quick, first-time passing, from Rooney to Sterling and then across the six-yard area for Welbeck to finish.
Switzerland did start to exert more pressure in the closing stages, when Jones had to go off with an injury, and it was a marvellous block from Cahill after Seferovic had broken the offside line and gone around Hart.
Yet England still looked dangerous on the counter-attack and really ought to have had a penalty eight minutes from the end of normal time when Johan Djourou went flying into Delph.
Rooney and Welbeck were both looking sharp and Hodgson’s decision to free up the elusive, menacing Sterling had paid off, culminating in the second goal.
The 19-year-old Sterling linked up with the substitute Rickie Lambert and Welbeck managed to pick his spot.