Ukraine was supported by 40,000 spectators in the Tarczynski Arena, giving the game the ardent feel of a home match despite the fact that the hosts were unable to play in their own country due to the war with Russia.
When Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko headed in a cross from Yukhym Konoplya after 26 minutes, the beautifully loud crowd in Poland exploded into a thunderous roar.
England had plenty of possession but lacked creativity, and it took a brilliant moment from captain Harry Kane four minutes before half-time to set up the equalizer, dropping back almost to the halfway line before sending a magnificent raking pass to play in Kyle Walker for his first international goal on his 77th appearance.
The second half belonged to Gareth Southgate’s side, who came close when Bukayo Saka’s drive was deflected off the bar by the tiniest touch from Ukraine goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan.
England is still on track to qualify from Group C for next summer’s Euros in Germany, but this was a disappointing showing.
The fact that Harry Kane is England’s all-time leading goalscorer attests to his value, but his evolution into a complete player cannot be overstated.
Kane’s superb show of vision and variety of passing to set up Walker, who finished with elegance, helped to rescue a point from a drab team performance.
It was a rare moment of quality from England, and questions will be raised about what appeared to be Southgate’s conservative approach.
The natural talent and diversity of Jude Bellingham and James Maddison were present in England’s midfield, but there was a lack of balance and urgency in the face of a Ukraine side determined to repay their fans for some very remarkable backing.
It would take something genuinely extraordinary for England to slip up in qualifying, but there was nothing else to take away from Wroclaw as Southgate’s men prepare to travel to Glasgow for a friendly against Scotland on Tuesday.