By Ewan Roberts
It may only have been a friendly, but England’s 2-1 victory over World Cup 2014 hosts Brazil – just their fourth win in 24 attempts – hinted at a coming of age for the Three Lions.
England thoroughly deserved the win, with most of the team performing well, though there were a few hairy moments along the way, particularly in defence.
So who was good and who was bad? Goal.com examines the winners and losers of Wednesday night’s action and how their performances will have affected their standing in Roy Hodgson’s thinking…
JACK WILSHERE: England’s win over Brazil was a victory for technique as much as the usual reserves of endeavour and heart, and the primary contributor to the Three Lions’ more patient, cultured style was Wilshere. The Arsenal midfielder was the best player on the pitch, leaving even the much-hyped Neymar drowning in his shadow.
The 21-year-old gave a precocious performance, oozing maturity, and conducted proceedings for the home side. He was always showing for the ball, finding space, and had the vision and ability to thread the eye of a needle on countless occasions. International matches are won with the ball, and Wilshere will be key to a more possession-conscious England’s hopes at Brazil 2014.
FRANK LAMPARD: Chelsea’s 34-year-old midfielder gave a virtuoso cameo off the bench against Brazil and scored the winner with a typically audacious strike from long range. Lampard proved that, despite his advancing years, he still has something to offer England – his experience and composure were vital to the Three Lions holding on to the win with such control – while his partnership with Steven Gerrard even looked pretty good not terrible.
But Lampard, despite his evergreen performance, could just as easily have fallen into the ‘Losers’ column judging by Roy Hodgson’s post-match comments. “I hope Frank stays in Europe,” said the England manager, referring to Lampard’s yet-to-be-decided future. “If he does follow David [Beckham] it complicates things.”
GLEN JOHNSON: One of just a handful of players whose place in the England team is virtually guaranteed now, Johnson gave another fine performance against Brazil. Not so long ago there were hordes of right-backs vying for the spot – with recent competition coming from Kyle Walker and Phil Jones – but the Liverpool right-back has fought off all contenders.
Johnson linked extremely well with Theo Walcott down the right flank, used the ball well and was rarely, if ever, exposed. The 28-year-old found the perfect balance between attack and defence, galloping up the touchline and adventuring into the final third but alert enough to keep Neymar under wraps and even head Paulinho’s goal-bound effort off the line.
THEO WALCOTT: The 23-year-old was a constant threat against Brazil and should have ensured his starting berth against San Marino next month. Walcott didn’t start a single match under Hodgson during the European Championships, but is quickly becoming one of England’s most exhilarating players (having recorded 18 goals and 10 assists for Arsenal this year).
The Gunners attacker reproduced his club form in a Three Lions jersey, and in patches looked to be able to beat Brazil left-back Adriano at will, bursting past him with incredible acceleration. That said, Hodgson will now likely see Walcott as a winger, which reduces his chances of lining up in his preferred position through the middle.
ASHLEY COLE: He may have become only the seventh England player to reach 100 caps for his country, but the 32-year-old still hasn’t been accepted, let alone embraced, by Three Lions supporters – both Steven Gerrard and Ronaldinho’s milestones drew louder cheers from the Wembley crowd.
Cole looked a weak link in the first half, with much of Brazil’s threat coming down his flank. Oscar managed to burst past his Chelsea team-mate just before the break, but Neymar couldn’t covert his delicious cross. Leighton Baines’ solid performance in the second half, where the Everton full-back bombed forward while also reducing the influence of Oscar, might have earned him a start at Cole’s expense.
GARY CAHILL: Undoubtedly the worst of England’s performers, the Chelsea centre-back gifted Brazil a goal and exuded a general air of nervousness. In a flurry of errors he first overran the ball, presenting possession to the Selecao and allowing Fred to equalise for the visitors, then he failed to control Joe Hart’s (albeit heavy) pass before the Fluminense forward fired against the crossbar.
Cahill was outshone both on the ball and off it by the more inexperienced Chris Smalling, while the likes of Tottenham’s Michael Dawson and Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross may have spent the evening watching the match from the comfort of their own sofa, but they could well have entered Hodgson’s thought process after Cahill’s suspect performance. As could a certain Rio Ferdinand…
DANNY WELBECK: One position very much up for grabs in Hodgson’s team is the left wing – oh for Gareth Bale to have been born in England! Welbeck, a striker by trade, lined up on the flank but struggled to make an impact on the match – understandably, given that he was facing off against the brilliant Dani Alves.
The Manchester United forward was peripheral throughout and easily tamed, while the one chance that fell his way was wastefully spooned high and wide. Welbeck is clearly not the answer to England’s left-wing dilemma, and his abject performance will have opened the door for Ashley Young, James Milner – who gave a more effective, all-action display after replacing Welbeck – and perhaps even Tom Ince.
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