Wilshere shines brightest as England beat Brazil

The Northern Echo: THE FUTURE'S BRIGHT: Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere impressed in England's 2-1 win over Brazil at Wembley THE FUTURE'S BRIGHT: Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere impressed in England's 2-1 win over Brazil at Wembley

Final Score: England 2 Brazil 1

FRANK Lampard might have scored the winner, and Steven Gerrard might have hogged the pre-match limelight as he received a honorary cap to mark his 100th international appearance, but it was England's future midfield star that lit up Wembley as Roy Hodgson's side blunted Brazil.

Jack Wilshere provided a tantalising glimpse of what he could offer the England side for much of the next decade as the hosts triumphed over Brazil for the first time in 23 years.

Wilshere has been hailed as England's emerging star for a while now, but a succession of serious injuries have prevented him making a sustained impact on the international stage.

Last night's game pitted him against two established defensive midfielders in the guise of Corinthians' Paulinho and Chelsea's Ramires, yet he dominated the central area from the off, with his driving runs and incisive through balls sparking a series of England attacks.

His slide-rule pass helped set up Wayne Rooney's first-half opener, and while Brazilian substitute Fred levelled the scores at the start of the second half, Lampard's 60th-minute strike secured a morale-boosting victory ahead of next month's crucial World Cup qualifiers in San Marino and Montenegro.

Wilshere will surely start both, and while he might only boast seven caps, he already looks perfectly at home in an England shirt, with his dynamism and thrust providing a welcome contrast to many of the more ponderous midfield performances that have characterised recent England displays.

The 26th-minute through ball to release Theo Walcott for the shot that led to Rooney's opening goal was exquisite, and while Lampard and Gerrard have had their moments at the heart of the England midfield, it is a while since the national side were able to call on a player boasting the vision and technique required to unlock an opposition defence with a single pass.

Wilshere, who has been in superb domestic form with Arsenal, is such a player, and he was the hosts' key creative outlet all night, although Walcott and Danny Welbeck also caused problems on either side of Rooney, who played as the central striker.

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Welbeck came close with a rising drive that rounded off a slick first-half passing move, and four minutes later, his Manchester United team-mate Rooney was able to celebrate his 33rd goal for his country.

Wilshere started the move, releasing Walcott into the left-hand side of the area for a low shot that was saved by Julio Cesar. The rebound fell to Rooney, who threaded a low shot past two covering defenders.

Wilshere's emergence has occurred just as Gerrard's career is entering its twilight phase, and although the pair could well have a few years of playing together, it is shame their peak periods have not coincided.

Gerrard won his 100th cap in November's friendly against Sweden, and he was followed last night by Ashley Cole, who became England's seventh centurion.

Cole, who was substituted at half-time, has endured a chequered relationship with the England team, and more particularly the England supporters who jeered him repeatedly during a World Cup qualifier with Kazakhstan in 2008, but in the last five or six years, he can justifiably claim to have been the most consistent player in the national squad.

Whether he remains the country's best left-back ahead of Leighton Baines is a moot point though, and Baines made a better fist of curtailing Oscar's attacking runs in the second half than Cole had managed in the first. It will be interesting to see who Hodgson selects for next month's double-header.

The make-up of the entire back four remains a work in progress, and while there was much to admire in England's attacking play last night, the defensive jitters that reared their head on a number of occasions provided a cause for concern.

Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill played alongside each other at centre-half, with Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka on the bench, but neither looked particularly secure.

Neymar, who lit up Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium when Brazil beat Team GB in an Olympic warm-up game, forced Cahill into a hurried early block, and the Chelsea defender was pulled out of position during the 18th-minute move that led to a penalty when Ronaldinho's cross struck Wilshere's arm.

Ronaldinho took the penalty himself, but his side-footed effort was saved by Joe Hart, who did brilliantly to scramble to his feet to prevent the 32-year-old succeeding with a follow-up effort.

Rooney's goal rocked Brazil back, although Neymar wasted a glorious opportunity to equalise eight minutes before the interval, failing to find the target with a sliding shot after Oscar found him unmarked at the back post.

Three minutes into the second half and the visitors were level though, with Cahill making a major contribution to England's downfall.

The defender attempted to dribble his way out of trouble in his own half, but overran the ball and was dispossessed by Luis Fabiano. The ball broke to half-time substitute Fred, who drilled a crisp low shot past Hart from 20 yards.

Suddenly, the England defence was panicked, and when Hart drilled a hurried clearance straight at Cahill, Fred curled an instinctive first-time effort against the crossbar. No matter what the setting, England can still be masters of their own downfall.

To their credit, they recovered their composure quickly though, and after Cahill headed Gerrard's corner over the crossbar, they regained their lead via a reliable source.

Lampard might have lost his starting spot for both club and country recently, but he remains a potent goalscoring presence and last night's goal was his 27th in 94 appearances for England.

The ball broke kindly after Rooney's enthusiasm forced an error from the Brazilian defence, and Lampard calmly drilled home a crisp low strike via the inside of the right-hand post.

Brazil's best chance of a second equaliser fell to Fred seven minutes from time, but the striker lost his footing as he shaped to shoot.

Comments (2)

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10:44am Thu 7 Feb 13

Lnorthcoop says...

Am i missing something here? thought it was Cole that received a honorary cap to mark his 100th international appearance, not Gerrard
Am i missing something here? thought it was Cole that received a honorary cap to mark his 100th international appearance, not Gerrard Lnorthcoop

2:32pm Thu 7 Feb 13

Site Editor says...

Just to clarify, the opening paragraph is referring to the presentation of a commemorative golden cap by Peter Shilton to Steven Gerrard on the pitch prior to kick-off to mark his 100th appearance, which came while playing away against Sweden in November.
Just to clarify, the opening paragraph is referring to the presentation of a commemorative golden cap by Peter Shilton to Steven Gerrard on the pitch prior to kick-off to mark his 100th appearance, which came while playing away against Sweden in November. Site Editor

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