Saturday 24 March 2018

Wilshere shines as England lead Samba stars merry dance

England 2 Brazil 1

Henry Winter

Jack Wilshere gave England more hope for the future, more belief that they can live with more technical opponents. Still only 21, Wilshere played with remarkable authority, keeping possession and inspiring England to a rare victory over famous opponents at Wembley last night.

This was only England's fourth win 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 Co were disappointing, but this win mattered to England.

Wilshere was exceptional, being involved in the build-up to Wayne Rooney's opener. Rooney (right) also impressed, so did Steven Gerrard, whose understanding with Wilshere will have pleased Roy Hodgson.

Old flaws briefly surfaced, notably Gary Cahill losing possession and presenting Brazil with a chance to equalise through Fred, but Frank Lampard struck another of his measured specials.

To Hodgson's delight, the first half had belonged to Wilshere. Playing with his head up, looking all around for team-mates' positioning or angle of runs, the Arsenal midfielder drew plenty of applause and doubtless a few sighs over how much England had missed him through injury.

He helped create England's first-half goal, dribbled forward constantly, showing a belief and invention not always associated with England.

This was what Hodgson had been hoping to see; after giving Gerrard and Wilshere 13 minutes in tandem in Stockholm in November, he was rewarded with substantial evidence of the strength of their partnership.

Ronaldinho was presented with an early penalty chance after his cross was deemed to have been handled by the jumping Wilshere, who seemed to be trying to move his arms away from the ball. Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca pointed immediately to the spot.

If the expectation was that Neymar might take responsibility for the penalty, Ronaldinho was wanting to celebrate his 100th cap (although only 95 were in official games). Joe Hart guessed Ronaldinho's intentions, diving to his left to stop the kick. The ball was loose, scarcely two yards from the line and Ronaldinho was sliding towards it. Again, Hart saved well.

England were fortunate that Proenca failed to notice Cleverley's foul on Neymar.

Reprieved, and grateful to Hart, England went down the other end, striking with a fine move.

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. Exchanging passes with Rooney, Wilshere continued upfield.

Full of vision and technique, Wilshere drilled the ball low behind Adriano, for Walcott run on to. The quality of the pass and the pace of Walcott created the opportunity but Julio Cesar did superbly to save the shot.

The ball rebounded and there was Rooney, calmly sliding the ball past Dante and Cesar.

England's enduring concerns at centre-half later materialised. A mistake by Cahill gifted possession to Fred, who beat Hart with ease.

Cahill almost made amends with a header from a Gerrard corner pushed over by the excellent Cesar.

Cometh the hour, cometh the midfield goalscoring man called Lampard. His shot clipped Cesar's post and went in. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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