England recorded a famous, once-in-a-generation triumph over Brazil at Wembley on Wednesday evening.
Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard scored either side of a solitary but sumptuous Fred strike to delight the 90,000 fans packed inside the stadium as Roy Hodgson rubbed his hands together with glee.
Victory over the Selecao—how did they do it?
England played something pretty close to a traditional 4-2-3-1, and it's pleasing to see Hodgson has learned lessons from his Euro 2012 humiliation. Granted he didn't have a lot of time to change things, but the 4-2-3-1 is more standard than the 4-4-2 now.
It was very noticeable throughout the game that England maintained an excellent shape both on and off the ball.
Steven Gerrard played a little deeper than Jack Wilshere (who was given a freer role), and Tom Cleverley put in a workman's 45 minutes from something close to the No. 10 position.
Theo Walcott and Glen Johnson put in their most convincing displays as a duo yet on the right while Ashley Cole played a very conservative role on the left.
The constant retention of good shape allowed the Three Lions' passing game to flow properly and, after a sloppy start, it looked as good as it has in 10 years. Gerrard's ability to take up the right position at all times had the team in a consistent realignment process that meant they were never short in any area.
Wilshere's presence helped the short passing game enormously too. He's such a talent you can give him the ball with confidence, and even if you over hit the pass he'll take it in and recycle it.
The Arsenal playmaker's vertical presence set the tempo for the team. He never slowed down, so neither did England. Hodgson's side have shown alarming tendencies to slow down and drop off when leading late on, but with Wilshere on the pitch this is almost impossible.
The Frank Lampard Conundrum
Hodgson essentially dodged a very awkward-shaped bullet when Chelsea hero Lampard pulled out of Euro 2012 with an injury.
The timeless debate of whether Gerrard and Lampard can play together in the same XI—commonly answered with "no"—was put to bed on a temporary basis, and when they both made the squad against Brazil the general fear was that yet another England manager would try and fail to bring this partnership to life.
In my preview, I argued in favour of keeping Lampard on the bench and using regista Gerrard and energetic duo Wilshere and Cleverley. Hodgson did exactly this—and impressed even further with his use of Lampard when bringing him on as a substitute.
He kept Gerrard in the regista role and used Lampard further forward (if they were playing a diamond, they would have been tip and base). The positions he took up were scoring ones and he wasn't burdened with any responsibility to contribute to the buildup play.
They never stepped on each others' toes, they worked pretty well together, and it allowed both players to do what they do best.
It's a rare occurence to see Lampard in an England shirt drift into the spots from where he scores so frequently for Chelsea, but that's exactly what he did on Wednesday and drove a sweetly struck effort into the right-hand corner to grab a deserved win.
Food for thought
In polar opposite fashion to the European Championships, England were vulnerable on the counterattack.
They're expressing themselves and moving fluidly up the pitch, and Brazil saw a way to hurt them by drawing Jack Wilshere out and exposing Gerrard's lack of pace and tackling ability.
When Brazil moved forward they did so with searing pace and, to be honest, looked guilty of trying to score the perfect goal in a game they knew wasn't massively important.
As impressive Gerrard was in orchestrating the play, he got caught in no-man's land on numerous occasions. It's not his fault he's on his own, it's just the risk you take by playing a regista.
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