England vs. Brazil: Scoring the Key Battles
England welcome the Samba kings of Brazil to Wembley on Wednesday night for what should be an entertaining international friendly.
Brazil have remarkably slipped down the 18th in the world rankings, while—perhaps even more surprising—England still reside inside the world's top six. Despite this, it's the Selecao who go into the match as favourites.
Both sides will undoubtedly want to win, but the game also provides a useful opportunity to blend different players together and introduce certain new methods against quality opposition.
Here's a look at some of the key battles in the Wembley showdown.
Roy Hodgson vs. Luiz Felipe Scolari
First up, it's the managers.
Roy Hodgson pits his wits against a man who's continually been a nemesis to the English national team, Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Scolari is back in charge of Brazil for the first time in 11 years and will be looking to improve his already impressive resume against England.
He masterminded his nation's 2-1 win at the World Cup in 2002 and also guided Portugal past England at Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006. Not a bad track record.
He now has to manage his nation's considerable expectations for the pending World Cup—on home soil—and will want to start his latest term in commanding fashion.
Against him, Roy Hodgson is tasked with the taxing process of integrating youth with the last few members of England's golden generation.
He will be heavily worked trying to keep Brazil's flamboyant attackers at bay while committing enough men forward to challenge their defence.
Joe Hart vs. Julio Cesar
Not a direct battle on the field, but tonight's clash sees two elite-level goalkeepers with glowing reputations at opposite ends of the field.
After a slump in form, Julio Cesar is back to his best at QPR, where's he's been hugely overworked. In contrast, Joe Hart's been far from busy at Manchester City, but not quite the imposing presence fans have been used to seeing over the past few years.
Hart is especially important at international level in giving his defence a calm, confident aura behind them; a facet that's been lacking in England's goal for several years.
With Brazil's intricate approach and ornate interplay, he will have to be as vocal as ever as the opposition mount their attacks.
Cesar is equally integral to his side, given their tendency to overload men going forward and leave fewer bodies at the back.
Both goalkeepers should see plenty of action, and whichever dominates his area better should have a large bearing on the outcome.
Neymar vs. Glen Johnson and Phil Jagielka
The reason two players are included in this heading is due to the likelihood Neymar will attack from a left-sided start, running into a central zone.
He may well initially play between the channel of centre-back and right-back, looking to cause confusion over who is meant to track him. This is something Glen Johnson and England's right-sided centre-back (most-likely to be Phil Jagielka or Gary Cahill) will have to monitor carefully.
Glen Johnson enjoys attacking in an England shirt and Neymar will almost certainly want to exploit any space left behind him, dragging a centre-back over to stretch England's line.
With so many attacking entities on display, it's important Brazil's most lethal weapon, Neymar, is well prepared for and given special attention.
Wayne Rooney vs. David Luiz
Thiago Silva is a huge loss for Brazil at the back.
The PSG defender has formed a solid partnership at centre-back alongside Chelsea's flashy, but sometimes erratic, David Luiz.
In his place will come either Atletico Madrid's Joao Miranda, or Bayern Munich's Dante, for what would be a fairly late international debut at the age of 29.
For England, it's unclear whether Wayne Rooney will be leading the line or adopting a slightly deeper role, as he's done during recent international outings.
In whichever role he features, he will fancy his chances of pulling onto David Luiz and drawing a mistake from the Chelsea man, especially now he's paired with a less experienced companion.
Rooney managed two goals playing against him at Stamford Bridge last season and will hope for more of the same in this game.
Steven Gerrard vs. Ramires
Finally, we look at the midfield battle, which promises to be a fascinating contest.
At the heart of it should be England's captain, Steven Gerrard, facing off against the industrious, energetic skills of Ramires.
The Brazilian is perhaps one of the more underrated players in the Premier League, perfectly suited to the English domestic game, which makes him a dangerous adversary tonight.
In the twilight of his international career, Gerrard has been steady as captain but will have one of his toughest challenges gaining midfield supremacy during this match.
If England can emerge with a decent amount of possession and recycle it well enough to launch sufficient attacks, they should trouble Brazil, especially if they can effectively counter-attack.
If they continually cough up the ball, as they did at Euro 2012 against Italy's midfield, Brazil will be camped in the final third of the field.