International: Why Jack Wilshere Was England's Star Performer Against Brazil

Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Jack Wilshere of England (L) battles for the ball with David Luiz of Brazil during the International friendly between England and Brazil at Wembley Stadium on February 6, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Jack Wilshere's full return to the England lineup was worth waiting for.

Arsenal's much-loved midfielder was the star performer in the 2-1 win over Brazil, outlining his importance for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers with an exciting display.

England fans have waited since June 4, 2011, to see Wilshere start an international match. Similar to his Premier League return, the 21-year-old asserted his influence immediately.

After halting the likes of Ronaldinho and Neymar across the opening 10 minutes, Wilshere began initiating neat interchanges with Steven Gerrard and Tom Cleverley. He picked the ball up deep, provided a short pass to one of his midfield partners and burst forward with a surge of pace.

England—who are so often hampered by a lack of incision—suddenly looked dangerous.

With 20 minutes gone, Wilshere's confident start threatened to disintegrate. Ronaldinho's cross crashed off the Englishman's hand, providing the Atletico Mineiro veteran an opportunity to open scoring with a penalty.

Joe Hart's brilliant double save foiled Ronnie's bid to score another goal against the Three Lions—and in many ways—highlighted a disappointing first half for the visitors.

Buoyed by the miss, England's impressive counter attack took seven minutes to break through the Brazilian defence. Wilshere's pinpoint pass fell to Theo Walcott, whose driven shot was pushed into the path of Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United forward finished the simple chance and gave Julio Cesar no chance with the follow up.

Wilshere's smart control and distribution created space for the onrushing attack. His ability to plop into the whole behind Rooney's centre forward position added extra pressure to a Brazilian back four that played too casually throughout the night.

Into the second half, Wilshere's importance continued to grow. He was bullied for the first time of the night when Dante shouldered him off a rebound from Gerrard's shot. Even so, the tiny midfielder got a toe to the ball that had no right to be his.

Gary Cahill's defensive lapse let Fred equalise shortly after the restart. Brazil suddenly gained momentum, forcing the Wembley crowd to nervously accept the inevitability of what was to come. Fred crashed a stunning shot off the bar—but Roy Hodgson's side picked up their feet and dug deep.

As Fred zoned in to shoot once more, Wilshere's fine tackle halted his progress on the edge of the box. With a shimmy and a smart pass, momentum shifted once more. Luis Felipe Scolari's team grew in confidence as the encounter progressed, but England's doggedness kept them comfortable during the latter stages.

All of the game's pre-match build-up focused on the Samba Boys coming to town. Neymar—the hottest young footballer on the planet—was going to show England exactly why they can't compete at the Rio de Janeiro World Cup in 2014.

Brazil is a team of match-winners, England is not (via The Telegraph).

It's ironic that an effective team performance saw England beat Brazil for the first time since 1993—especially when you consider Neymar's useless individual showing. Wilshere's name amplified around Wembley for the Man of the Match announcement, suggesting the future is bright for Hodgson's men.

Reaction needs to be grounded from the English press. This was a great display against an improving team. Wilshere was the star performer, but he faces more important tests in the country's bid to qualify for the next international tournament.

If he produces a match-winning display against Montenegro? Well, England will surely lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy in 16 months' time.

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