England needs to do more

England’s Jack Wilshere (left) works the ball away from Brazil’s David Luiz during their international friendly match at Wembley.-AP England’s Jack Wilshere (left) works the ball away from Brazil’s David Luiz during their international friendly match at Wembley.

England’s 2-1 victory at Wembly came against a Brazilian side very much in the making, only just taken over by the World Cup winner Big Phil Scolari, writes Brian Glanville.

After the euphoria, the realism. Historically and statistically there was all sort of significance about the first England win over Brazil for 23 years. I was, in fact, present at that victory in Rio which featured a superb individual goal by John Barnes, cutting in from the left and beating man after man. Though, admittedly, the victory was gained against just about the worst Brazil team seen since the debacle of the 1966 World Cup, top heavy with elderly, ineffectual players.

The 2-1 victory at Wembly came against a Brazilian side very much in the making, only just taken over by the World Cup winner Big Phil Scolari, who emphasised afterwards that his players had yet to find form. It should, however, be emphasised that physical condition was surely the least of their problems since the majority of those used are playing regularly for European clubs. It should also be noted that the future World Cup hosts will be playing only friendlies and most of them for the immediate future at European venues. Such as the coming game against Russia scheduled for Chelsea’s ground.

England are by no means sure of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. They were most unimpressively held to a draw by Ukraine at Wembley in the qualifiers, and were arguably somewhat fortunate to get away with a draw in Poland. The friendly against Sweden was a disaster in which the mercurial striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic toyed with a fragile English defence and scored all four Swedish goals.

For England, the undoubted star of the show at Wembley was the splendidly precocious Jack Wilshere, at long last back for club, Arsenal, and country after injury. As both his international manager Roy Hodgson and club manager Arsene Wenger emphasise, he is immune from pressure. If any English player has the so-called Big Match Temperament, it is surely he.

But as Wenger has suggested, it is depressing to see that Wilshere, like Wayne Rooney further forward, is the exception who proved the rule. The one and only playmaker, general, schemer, call him what you will, to emerge from the ranks of highly-paid English footballers since poor Paul Gascoigne, whose supreme talents alas — as of late we have been reminded all too clearly — have never been matched by his mind.

The supremely well-judged pass with which Wilshere set up the first England goal, ultimately tapped in by Rooney set the seal on a creative performance which outstripped anything provided by a Brazilian midfield which once boasted such wizards of distribution as Didi, Gerson and Rivelino.

Neymar, supposedly the latest jewel in the Brazilian crown, wandered about the attack to little ultimate purpose. Though, at least, he did not incur the derision of the crowd as one has watched him playing for his team on the Arsenal ground, with his frequent unconvincing dives.

To qualify for Brazil, England must make sure to drop no points against a solid and efficient Montenegro side, whom they must now meet twice. They have also to visit Ukraine, who embarrassed them at Wembley. It was in Montenegro that Rooney impulsively got himself sent off, thereby missing England’s first two qualifying group matches in the ensuing European Championship finals. Against Brazil, employed as a single spearhead, he worked hard, efficiently and unselfishly, giving Frank Lampard — still so regular a goal-scorer at 34 and now all too belatedly offered a new contract at Chelsea — the pass that facilitated his goal. But Rooney, as a lone striker, makes immense demands on him and limits the efficacy of the attack.

It might make more sense to align Danny Welbeck, a natural centre-forward, beside him or just in front of him, rather than to waste the young Manchester United’s attacker out on the left where he is clearly uncomfortable — and where he missed a good chance — as Hodgson inexplicably tends to do. It would surely be rational to play with a genuine left-winger. Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon, much experienced at this level, can serve on either flank.

In defence, John Terry, now returned from international football, is still palpably missed, not least for his positive influence on those beside him. Gary Cahill’s blunder led to the Brazilian goal even if later on he almost scored himself. There’s still a case for recalling Rio Ferdinand whom Hodgson, on a tube train, so indiscreetly described as being past his prime. In goal Joe Hart made that splendid double save from Ronaldinho, a subdued figure. But the ’keeper was seriously rash when Ibrahimovic scored his spectacular goal and three days after the Brazil game allowed the ball to run embarrassingly through his arms and legs to give Southampton a goal against a feeble Manchester City.

In midfield, Tom Cleverley made modest impact. Tottenham’s Parker whom I watched soon afterwards may not be inventive, but now, free from injury, he has the energy and drive to act as a decent foil to the irreplaceable Wilshere. Though, even he won’t score Gazza’s goals.