On Wednesday February 6 England took on Brazil in a friendly at Wembley Stadium, with their first match of 2013 ending in a 2-1 victory for Roy Hodgson's side.
Even though this was a friendly, neither team wanted to lose - you only had to look at the team sheets to see that. Brazil welcomed back some old faces into the team with Ronaldinho, Luis Fabiano and Julio Cesar in the starting XI. Chris Smalling was perhaps the surprise pick for England pairing up at the back with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill.
When I saw the England line up I think it was the first time I totally agreed with all the players selected. There was just the right amount of experience in Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole mixed in with the youthful upcoming England future players that are Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley and Chris Smalling.
In my opinion it was a very balanced English team, and I think the three in the middle are the perfect combination for England’s midfield. Gerrard is a great inspiration and captain to play alongside with, he commands the team from a deeper more defensive role playing in front of the back two, allowing Cleverley and Wilshere to press the opposition and get involved in the attacking play.
Wilshere likes to bring the ball from deep and start the attacks off, if we compare him to Cleverley he plays more decisive passes and is always looking to go forward while Cleverley likes to hold on to the ball and conduct the play around him. None of the three are defensive midfielders but they are not afraid to get stuck in and make tackles. Most importantly they are very comfortable on the ball so as long as they keep the ball there is no need to defend, right?
When England played Brazil they played a 4-3-3 system with Welbeck and Theo Walcott on the flanks, with both are very contrasting players in the way they play. There is Welbeck who looks to receive the ball, hold on to it and from there make his attack and then there’s Walcott who prefers to run on to the ball and is all about pace and a lot more direct. Welbeck combines well with Rooney allowing his Manchester United colleague to drop off or to cut deep when he feels like it to get more of the ball.
The centre of defence is probably the weak point in this England team after losing the very solid partnership of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. At the beginning of the second half the centre backs were very nervy, so much that an error from Cahill led to the equaliser and another error, this time from Smalling, almost gave Brazil the lead.
The pairing was a bit shaky from there until Frank Lampard scored what would be the decisive goal and then from there they were able to keep the Brazilians quiet.
On the other hand our fullbacks are another story. Ashley Cole got his 100th cap for England and looks good enough to play for a few more years and Glen Johnson is so comfortable on the right it looks unlikely to see him lose his position at the moment, even if Kyle Walker is breathing right down his neck.
So even though England are nowhere near ready to win anything right now and might not have as much quality as the likes of Spain and Germany, at least the likes of Welbeck, Wilshere and Cleverley are showing that they are capable of playing at the highest level. And with them England are actually starting to play football and are not just defending and heaving balls up field for 90 minutes.
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