Six things we learned from England's Wembley win over Brazil

England should still be capable of topping their World Cup qualifying group

A failure to win two of their opening four qualifying matches has left England in a tricky position in Group H.

They trail Montenegro by two points, and are only three points clear of third-placed Poland, with the Poles boasting a game in hand.

Next month's trip to the Montenegrin capital Podgorica is hugely important, although the group is likely to come down to the final two rounds of matches, which see England hosting Montenegro and Poland in the space of four days in October.

Wednesday's performance proved England are capable of matching anyone on home soil, with the vibrancy of their attacking auguring well given the need for victories in their remaining six group games. For all that Montenegro cannot be discounted, Roy Hodgson's side remain favourites to claim the automatic spot for Brazil.

Jack Wilshere has developed into the finished article at international level

He is only seven games into his England career, but Wilshere has already emerged as the squad's pivotal performer.

He has displayed glimpses of his abundant ability in the past, most notably in 2011's away win in Wales' Millennium Stadium, but a succession of serious injuries have prevented him realising his obvious potential in an England shirt.

Crucially, this season has been a largely injury-free campaign, and after repeatedly catching the eye in big games with Arsenal, Wednesday's friendly finally saw the 21-year-old dominate proceedings against a major international opponent.

He provides much of what England have been missing in recent years, with his box-to-box energy complemented by an impeccable technique and a fine eye for a pass.

Wayne Rooney should not be moved from his role as the central striker

Rooney has been moved here, there and everywhere during his England career, with a succession of managers believing his best position was in a withdrawn role playing off another striker.

Perhaps it still is, but if the likes of Jermain Defoe, Andy Carroll and Daniel Sturridge are the leading candidates to be that other striker, it makes no sense to lessen Rooney's impact by dropping him deep.

He filled the central attacking role on Wednesday, with Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck playing on either side of him, and there was a purpose and focus to his play that has not always been apparent when he has appeared in an England shirt.

Rooney has matured greatly over the last few years, and now appears disciplined enough to lead the line as a central striker. That should be his role for the remainder of the qualifying campaign.

Perhaps it was too early to write off Rio Ferdinand's international career

With John Terry retired and Ferdinand seemingly cast into the wilderness, Hodgson has overseen a radical changing of the guard in the central defensive positions.

However, on the evidence of Wednesday night, he is still some way from assembling a defensive unit that can be relied upon in moments of pressure.

Gary Cahill's error-prone display was a major cause for concern, while Chris Smalling boasts precious little Premier League experience at centre-half. Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka were on the substitutes' bench, but the former can't get a game at Manchester City and the latter has struggled to hit top form with Everton this season.

Ferdinand has been persona non grata ever since he was left out of the squad for the European Championships, but his experience and unflappable temperament could be crucial if things get tight towards the end of the qualifying campaign.

The lack of a natural holding midfielder remains a cause for concern

I know this sounds like a stuck record, but England continue to suffer from the lack of a naturally defensive midfielder capable of protecting the back four.

With Wilshere and Tom Cleverley given licence to attack, Steven Gerrard appears to have been earmarked for the deep-lying role and, in the last few months, the England skipper has adapted his game at club level to focus on more defensive requirements.

However, he is still liable to go missing as he pushes forward, and there were a number of occasions, particularly in the first half, when Neymar and Ronaldinho dropped deep to great effect.

The incidents didn't lead to a goal, largely because Brazil's attackers failed to find their target with most of their passes, but it is not hard to imagine England leaving themselves much too open in the future, particularly if they are chasing a game.

Brazil are suffering from a lack of competitive action

Their FIFA world ranking of 18 might be much too low, but these are troubling times for Brazil as they prepare to host the World Cup in the summer of 2014.

A lack of competitive action is a headache for any host nation, but its effect on Brazil appears to have been exacerbated by the national federation's desire to squeeze as much money as possible out of the national team.

Brazil are in the middle of what effectively amounts to a 'World Tour', staging friendly matches in Europe and the Middle East, regions their sponsors are aggressively targeting, rather than hosting games in Rio or Sao Paulo.

The effect has been to diminish the competitive importance of Brazil's matches, a process not helped by Luiz Felipe Scolari's raft of second-half substitutions at Wembley. If the hosts are to triumph in 2014, the sooner they start playing matches that matter, the better.

**

CHAMP OF THE WEEK
MOUSSA SISSOKO
The French midfielder enjoyed a magnificent home debut little more than a week after joining Newcastle. He scored twice against Chelsea, writing his name into Geordie folklore with a dramatic last-gasp winner.

CHUMP OF THE WEEK
PETER ODEMWINGIE
What on earth was the West Brom striker thinking of in the closing hours of transfer-deadline day? His unsuccessful dash to Loftus Road was either stupid, ill-advised or, more likely, both.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
ITALY'S SIX NATIONS WIN OVER FRANCE
Tipped by almost everyone to claim the Wooden Spoon, Italy crowned a fine opening weekend of the Six Nations with a dramatic 23-18 win over France. They have now won two home games in a row against the French and demand respect whenever they appear in Rome.

TIP OF THE WEEK
The death of leading hurdler Darlan has made it a horrible week for Nicky Henderson, but things will take a slight turn for the better if his supremely-talented novice My Tent Or Yours (7-2) wins tomorrow's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

Comments (2)

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10:52am Fri 8 Feb 13

Ian James says...

It is good that England beat Brazil the other night, but we always seem to do well in daft friendly games, which don't mean nothing. And, the reason I think for this, is because their is no pressure on our players to secure a victory. Because, when we do need to win and its critical we need a result, we can never do it, coz our player's dont have the bottle to do it, when it matters, coz they are not used to winning on the big stage. And, its torture for us, England fans to watch them take penalties in quarter n semi -finals and we miss and get beat everytime and thats why I dont take much notice of the England games nowadays, coz thro the years of watching them, I am sick of being let down n disappointed by their poor performances and these days Ive got a life n got better things to do, than to watch a load of over-paid, dings, win nowt!! lol.
It is good that England beat Brazil the other night, but we always seem to do well in daft friendly games, which don't mean nothing. And, the reason I think for this, is because their is no pressure on our players to secure a victory. Because, when we do need to win and its critical we need a result, we can never do it, coz our player's dont have the bottle to do it, when it matters, coz they are not used to winning on the big stage. And, its torture for us, England fans to watch them take penalties in quarter n semi -finals and we miss and get beat everytime and thats why I dont take much notice of the England games nowadays, coz thro the years of watching them, I am sick of being let down n disappointed by their poor performances and these days Ive got a life n got better things to do, than to watch a load of over-paid, dings, win nowt!! lol. Ian James
  • Score: 1

11:22pm Fri 8 Feb 13

spragger says...

I'm not sure we learned a lot, other than what we already knew

England won the WC in '66, nearly 50 yrs ago and we look like we are still 50 yrs away from the next one
I'm not sure we learned a lot, other than what we already knew England won the WC in '66, nearly 50 yrs ago and we look like we are still 50 yrs away from the next one spragger
  • Score: 1

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