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England vs. Brazil: 5 Things We Learned

Dan FitchFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2013

England vs. Brazil: 5 Things We Learned

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    England beat Brazil 2-1 at Wembley Wednesday night in an entertaining match between two of the biggest names in international football.

    In an action-packed game, we saw a Ronaldinho penalty saved by Joe Hart before Wayne Rooney put England ahead before half-time.

    Fred took advantage of some shocking England defending to equalise for Brazil, only for Frank Lampard to restore the home advantage.

    So what has this game taught us? Here are five things we learned from England vs. Brazil. 

Jack Wilshere Can Be England's Best Player

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    It's fair to say that Jack Wilshere didn't put a foot wrong in this game. Even when he gave away a penalty it was for a hand ball.

    The Arsenal midfielder gave Brazil a taste of their own medicine. It is normally their stars who terrorise the opposition with their surging runs through the middle. Wednesday night it was Wilshere. 

    England haven't really had a central midfielder capable of dribbling past players since the days of Paul Gascoigne. Wilshere gave England an extra dimension.

    In fact, the whole midfield looked well-balanced. Steven Gerrard gave a disciplined performance, while Tom Cleverley again played well. When Cleverley succumbed to injury, Frank Lampard came on and scored a brilliant winner.

    The midfield has traditionally been the area where England have struggled to compete at international level. Wilshere and company look like they can compete with the best.

Oscar Should Be Brazil's Main Playmaker

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    If Wilshere was England's best player, then the standout performer for Brazil was Oscar. 

    The Chelsea midfielder lined up on the right side of the Brazil midfield and delivered some outstanding crosses from the wing and passes from deep.

    What's more, his movement was superb. Oscar is a very intelligent player and has the gift of ghosting away from his marker, only to reappear in a dangerous area.

    On the basis of this performance, Phil Scolari should perhaps consider making Oscar the central playmaker in his new Brazilian team.

Central Defence Is England's Weak Spot

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    It wasn't so long ago that England had an embarrassment of riches in central defence. The likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ledley King, Jamie Carragher or Jonathan Woodgate would all walk into this current defence if they were at their peak today.

    The partnership between Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling looked frail at times. Both are capable defenders, but better alongside a commanding partner.

    Together they didn't convince and were guilty of completely losing concentration at the start of the second half. First Cahill lost the ball, allowing Fred to score. Then he and Smalling were both culpable as Fred almost grabbed a second goal a minute later. 

    The more senior players at Hodgson's disposal such as Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka and Michael Dawson aren't quite up to the standard of the previous and aforementioned generation. 

    Meanwhile, the younger players coming through such as Smalling, Phil Jones and Steven Caulker have yet to hit their peak or achieve consistency. 

    It's anyone's guess who will be England's central defensive partnership come the World Cup in Brazil.

Ronaldinho Should Not Have Been Recalled

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    The big story for Brazil was the fact that Ronaldinho had been recalled by Scolari after a spell in the international wilderness.

    With a presentation made to the former Ballon d'Or winner before the game to commemorate his 100th appearance for Brazil, the stage was set for Ronaldinho to shine.

    He failed to live up to the hype. The 32-year-old looked well off the pace and was substituted at half-time.

    With Brazil boasting the likes of Oscar, Lucas and Hernanes in their squad, Ronaldinho got the prime attacking midfield spot on reputation alone.

    Those young players are only going to get better between now and the next World Cup. Ronaldinho is only going to do the opposite.

Leighton Baines Offers More Than Ashley Cole Going Forward

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    Of all the so-called Golden Generation of English football, it has been Ashley Cole that has lived up to the billing.

    Cole has been a genuine world class performer on the international stage for many years now. Even at 32 years old, he shows no real sign of decline.

    Yet there is a debate as to whether Cole should keep the left-back berth long term. That is down to nothing but the outstanding form of the Everton full-back Leighton Baines.

    If you were to ask people to name the best left-back in the Premier League this season (and maybe the couple before), then Baines would probably get the consensus vote. 

    Cole is the better defender, but Baines is much more effective going forward. The Everton defender put in a thought-provoking performance as a second-half substitute for Cole as he attacked down the flanks. 

    It was appropriate that this performance came against Brazil, because Baines plays like a Brazilian full-back. He gets forward like a winger, whips in dangerous crosses and can bang in long-range free kicks.

    The question for Roy Hodgson is whether he wants defensive stability or an attacking weapon on the left side of his defence.

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