England recorded a morale-boosting victory at Wembley as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s second stint in charge of Brazil ended in a 2-1 defeat.
Marking both their Football Association’s 150th anniversary and a 100th cap for Ashley Cole, England boss Roy Hodgson will have been delighted by an encouraging England performance ahead of a crucial World Cup qualifier against Moldova next month.
Brazil missed an early opportunity to get in front as Joe Hart saved the returning Ronaldinho’s penalty, before England grabbed a deserved opener through Wayne Rooney. Brazil were much improved by their substitutions after the break and leveled through Fred, but England were not to be denied only their fourth ever victory over the Selecao as Frank Lampard struck the winner on the hour mark.
After some recent disappointing performances, England were slow to get going at Wembley. Neymar almost profited from Glen Johsnon’s attacking instructs as he broke down the left, but after shifting the ball inside Oscar blasted over the bar.
With 18 minutes gone, the visitors should have taken the lead. Jack Wilshere was perhaps harshly adjudged to have handled the ball from Ronaldinho’s cross and the referee pointed to the spot. But the Atletico Mineiro man missed the chance to cap his comeback with a goal as Joe Hart saved the penalty low to his left before recovering and denying Ronaldinho once again as the ball dribbled across the goal line.
The incident was to sum up Ronaldinho’s latest attempt to prove he still has a future with the Brazil team. With him in the side, Brazil lacked a proper shape as the former Barcelona man epitomized the lack of pressure on the ball and failure to track back of too many Brazilians in the opening 45 minutes.
England took full advantage as their greater numbers in midfield enabled them to take control of proceedings. Wilshere ran the show for England, moving forward with the ball and playing consistently incisive passes in a manner rarely seen from an England player in some time.
The first of a number of chances created by the Arsenal midfielder was wasted by Danny Welbeck as the forward poked high and wide of the near post.
It was no surprise that Wilshere had the key part to play in an opening England goal. Theo Walcott was the beneficiary of an excellent through ball form his club mate, but couldn’t provide the finish as Julio Cesar rushed out to make a fine block. Fortunately for England, the ball ran straight into the path of Rooney, who struck with conviction past the covering Brazil defenders and into the net.
Despite playing on the right, Walcott was often the furthest man forward and, with Rooney dropping deep into the midfield and Wilshere always with his head up, his pace was a constant threat. Walcott again came close to getting a goal as his shot across goal was beaten away by Cesar.
Despite England’s superiority, Brazil should have gone into the break level. From a poor kick out by Hart, Oscar was able to take possession and sprint past Chelsea teammate Cole before whipping in a delightful low cross that Neymar should have done better with than send into the stands at the back post.
As is custom in friendlies, there were several substitutions at the break, which were to have a significant effect on proceedings.
Brazil’s changes instantly improved them as the ineffective Luis Fabiano and Ronaldinho were taken off and in their place Fred and Lucas Moura gave the side a much better shape with and without the ball.
The changes also enabled Brazil to press England properly in possession and it had instant dividends.
Gary Cahill over ran the ball 30 yards from goal then tried an ambitious pass that was well blocked, allowing Fred to take up possession on the edge of the box and strike a ruthless left-footed strike past Hart form the edge of the box.
England, and in particular their defense, were not coping well with Brazil’s increased intensity and could have been behind within the first five minutes of the restart. This time it was Chris Smalling who got caught in possession and Fred was again the beneficiary. This time, however, his fine curled shot struck the cross bar.
After the initial barrage, England gradually steadied again. Cahill came close to redeeming himself with a header from a corner that was well tipped over by Cesar.
In a five-minute burst, Walcott tormented Adriano down England’s right to lead to the game winner. The first time the Arsenal speedster knocked the ball past his Barcelona counterpart and raced past him, the cross was blocked by the Brazil goalkeeper.
But when Walcott befuddled Adriano with the same trick moments later, Brazil were not so fortunate. The visitors should have cleared the cross but Rooney was able to win the ball back on the edge of the box and knock it back to Lampard who cushioned the bouncing ball with his side-foot to send it into the back of the net off the post.
Further substitutions came thick and fast and, despite the best efforts of Neymar, who ran the game for Brazil in the second half, England were able to hold out for a well-earned victory.