At least Sunday's performance against Japan helped dampen the frenzy that always seems to accompany England's departure to a major tournament.
Now, even the most optimistic England fan must know that Fabio Capello's side have absolutely no chance of winning the World Cup.
Victory over their fellow qualifiers in Graz could not mask a poor display that, like the game against Mexico last week, posed more questions than found answers, and exposed yet more frailties.
And, unfortunately, it also served to reopen the great Steven Gerrard-Frank Lampard debate once again.
With just 10 days to the start of the World Cup in South Africa, the timing could not be worse. Capello has had 27 months to get his tactics sorted, yet in England's final outing before the big kick-off against the US, he opted to return a central midfield pairing not seen since the infamous Wally with the Brolly night.
Capello himself has already said he does not think the combination is viable - ED can only assume that is why the Italian has always resisted the urge to play them together - yet there he was, sending on Gerrard to replace Tom Huddlestone and team up with Lampard in that position for the first time in his 24 games in charge.
England did look a far better side after the break, but let's put things into a bit of perspective here. First, it couldn't have been much worse than the first half. Second, this was Japan, a team ranked 45th in the world, and not Spain, Brazil, Argentina, or even the USA. And England had to rely on two own-goals to turn the result around.
ED is loath to subscribe to the view that finally, after all this time, Gerrard and Lampard have worked out how to play together and that England will now steamroller their way to glory in South Africa.
How can things have clicked so suddenly? Sven-Goran Eriksson tried it time and again, always with the same lack of success. And there is nothing to suggest it will be any different this time around - 45 minutes against mediocre opposition in a warm-up game certainly does not provide compelling evidence.
Of course, they only played there together because Gareth Barry is crocked; the situation would be very much different if the Manchester City man was fit.
Fortunately, Capello's refusal to give Scott Parker a run-out in Austria revealed his confidence in Barry's powers of recovery. Let's just hope that is the case and that all this hoo-ha proves academic.
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The game will have left Capello with another poser - can he put faith in Lampard from the spot?
His second-half miss made it two successive failures from 12 yards - most un-Lampard like, and far from the ideal preparation with the inevitable quarter-final shoot-out on the horizon.
Mind over matter counts in high pressure penalty situations and the question now has to be: will Lampard himself be confident in his own ability to score from the spot? ED suggests not, especially when you consider his nationality.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: Fabio Capello: "I know Joe Cole very well. He is in a good moment. He is fresh because he did not play a lot of games. Joe Cole is good. He played very well in the second half." Looks like the Chelsea midfielder has won a place on the plane after providing the one positive to be taken from the game with a display of skill and invention - everything that was lacking from the 45 minutes before his introduction. Indeed, England's second-half improvement probably had as much to do with his entrance than anything else.
FOREIGN VIEW: Disillusioned with how things are going in the England camp? Then spare a thought for our Gallic brothers from across the Channel. They may have bonded as a squad with recent buggy races and hikes up mountains, but on the pitch France are still struggling. And a dour 1-1 draw has done nothing to convince the French public that the glory days of '98 are to be revisited any time soon. 'One step backwards' reads today's front-page headline in L'Equipe.
COMING UP: World Cup hosts South Africa play Guatemala in today's must-follow game (kick-off 19:30), but before that Paul Parker will be giving his thoughts on England's performance against Japan, we'll have the updated World Cup Power Rankings, Behind Enemy Lines and the England squad barometer, and the latest instalment of the World Cup Dream Team will be published.