There was a strange sense of pride in watching England face Denmark the other night given the role that Liverpool's contingent played; in selecting five from Brendan Rodgers' squad for his starting eleven on Wednesday evening, Roy Hodgson made it difficult to actively root for the type of spectacular failure his England side are so accustomed to producing. Each of the five selected played significant minutes, and, with his header in the 82nd minute, Daniel Sturridge proved the match winner.
It's a role he played early and often for Liverpool this season, scoring the lone goal in three successive 1-0 victories to start the league campaign and adding three more between the League Cup win over Notts County and the 2-2 draw at Swansea. He combined well with Luis Suarez after the Uruguayan returned from his ban, but lingering fitness problems limited his availability through November and December, causing him to miss matches for both club and country.
Having already established himself as a regular in Liverpool's eleven, there was little concern about whether or not he'd retain his place once fit under Rodgers, but his place in the England setup was anything but certain with few chances left ahead of this summer's World Cup. Goals in six successive Premier League matches left little doubt, however, and he mostly carried his form into the midweek clash at Wembley.
And for him, it's simply a matter of taking the chances he's given and staving off any sense of complacency:
"It is important that I keep improving. For me, I can never stop improving no matter what age I am at and what club I am at. I have to push myself as hard I possibly can to get as good as I possibly can. I am not getting too excited about anything that is going on - I am just humbled by it. Whichever opportunities come my way, I do my best to take them. I work as hard as I possibly can and give 100 per cent in every game.
"I've learned a lot from Luis, but I have been given the opportunities to play now and that is what is more important than anything else. If you're not given an opportunity then you can't produce. If you don't play as a young player, it is difficult to progress. It is about the team, it is not about myself - it's not about me feeling amazing or anything. I am just humbled to be given the platform to play for my club and my country."
It's a theme that's come up time and again since he arrived on Merseyside last January--give him the opportunity, and he's happy to do whatever it takes to prove himself. Questions about his attitude and commitment to the cause were quickly brushed aside, and while his fitness record is still of concern, he's managed to make swift returns to match fitness by virtue of his willingness to work his way back every step of the way. In nearly every aspect of the game, both on the pitch and off it, he's been a revelation.
Which means at this point further improvements don't seem possible, but we've learned our lesson when it comes to doubting Daniel Sturridge.