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England 2 Brazil 1: match report

Read a full match report of the international friendly between England and Brazil at Wembley Stadium, London, on Wednesday Feb 6, 2013.

Jack Wilshere gave England more hope for the future, more belief that they can live with more technical opponents. Still only 21, Wilshere performed with real authority on his seventh international appearance, taking the game to Brazil with urgency and intelligence, so inspiring England to a first victory in 23 years over such famous opponents.

Playing with his head up, looking all around for team-mates’ positions or angle of runs, the Arsenal midfielder drew regular applause and doubtless a few sighs over how much England had missed him through injury. The England shirt does not act like a straitjacket on Wilshere as it can do to others. He certainly played with a hunger as if the term “friendly” was an alien concept.

He was liberated from some defensive duties by Steven Gerrard, who sat diligently in front of the back-four. Having given Gerrard and Wilshere 13 minutes in tandem in Stockholm last November, Roy Hodgson received further substantial evidence of the immense promise of their partnership. Wilshere also linked well with Wayne Rooney, who was playing at centre-forward but occasionally dropping off to join the creative process.

On the eve of this international, Gerrard talked sensibly of not lavishing too much hype on Wilshere too early, arguing that the term “world class” should be applied to players only towards the end of their career when they have compiled a glittering body of work. Such was Wilshere’s stellar contribution that Gerrard’s plea for restraint was drowned out amid the sound of the nation’s print presses rolling feverishly.

Brazil’s coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, wondered afterwards as to whether England would fare so well on June 2, when Hodgson’s side visit Maracana for another friendly. It sounded like sour grapes but Scolari had a point; Brazil will be better organised, more in tune with the new coach’s tactical demands, while England can fade when summer comes. Some perspective needs applying to the win, however enjoyable.

This was only England’s fourth ever success against Brazil in 24 attempts, and the first time they have scored twice against them since John Barnes, memorably, and Mark Hateley found the mark at Maracana in 1984. It was only a friendly, and Neymar and company were disappointing, but this win mattered.

Psychologically, this defeat of the five-time winners of the World Cup, and of their old nemesis Scolari, will undoubtedly lift England’s spirits as they prepare for next month’s testing trip to Montenegro (via San Marino). The feelgood factor was not fostered solely by Wilshere. Rooney, 27, struck his 33rd goal for his country; if he stays fit, Rooney could break the all-time mark of 49 held by Sir Bobby Charlton. As well as scoring, Rooney also delivered the telling pass that led to Frank Lampard striking the winner with one of his measured specials. At 34, Lampard remains a force for England, making Chelsea’s decision not to renew his contract even more bizarre. He’s still delivering.

With England operating almost a central triangle, initially Gerrard-Wilshere-Tom Cleverley, then Gerrard-Wilshere-Lampard, the Chelsea man has a platform. The setting for Lampard’s goal was created by another dashing run by Theo Walcott, whose acceleration cutting in from the right was a constant source of distress for Brazil.

It was an emotional evening for Ashley Cole, who looked close to tears during the National Anthem and by the warm applause of the crowd on the occasion of his 100th cap. Cole’s mother and some of his friends were amongst the 87,453 spectators, who saw the left-back struggle at times against his Chelsea club-mate Oscar.

Cole was removed at the break because he felt his back and hamstring, bringing Leighton Baines on. The debate will continue over who should start, the experienced Cole or the in-form Baines, but Hodgson clearly sees Cole as still first choice. One of his former managers, Scolari, embraced Cole afterwards. Coaches know what he brings to the team: positional intelligence, energy, and a will to win.

After the players had lined up for the anthems, all 22 then made their way to the centre-circle. Sadly, and disgracefully, some idiots in the England and Brazilian areas of the terraces failed to observe the period of silence to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Munich air disaster, the 20th anniversary of Bobby Moore’s death and to remember all those who died in the Santa Maria nightclub fire in Brazil.

It was a sour note to the start of a game that was supposed to be a celebration of the FA’s 150th anniversary. Brazil had been chosen for their history, their allure and their famous names. Neymar was disappointing in the first half, repeating his anonymous showing in the Olympic final here.

The man who left David Seaman in tears in the 2002 World Cup should have scored from another set-piece here after 19 minutes. Having won a slightly questionable penalty after his cross was deemed to have been handled by Wilshere, Ronaldinho tried to beat Joe Hart low to the keeper’s left. Hart saved and then made a fearless follow-up block as the Brazilian dived in for the loose ball. England were still fortunate that the referee, Pedro Proenca, failed to notice Cleverley’s foul on Neymar.

Reprieved, and grateful to Hart, England took the lead within seven minutes. Danny Welbeck, not at his most effective on the left, played the ball inside to Wilshere, who glided forward in that muscular, assertive way of his. Having exchanged passes with Rooney, Wilshere teased a low ball behind Adriano for Walcott. Julio Cesar did superbly to save the winger’s shot but Rooney calmly slid the ball back in past Dante and Cesar.

England’s enduring concerns at centre-half then materialised three minutes into the second half. A mistake by Gary Cahill gifted possession to Luiz Fabiano who found the substitute Fred, who equalised with a majestic strike. Cahill almost made amends with a header from a Gerrard corner pushed over by the excellent Cesar.

Cometh the hour, cometh the prolific midfield man. Lampard’s 27th international goal, taking him level with David Platt at No 11 in the all-time scoring lists, came from a lay-off by Rooney. Lampard’s shot clipped Cesar’s post and went in. Even a goal of such class by Lampard could

not prevent Wilshere claiming the headlines.

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