5 Things We Learned from England vs Brazil
1. This is a poor Brazil side
This Brazil side is, at best, distinctly average. They may have brought back their 2002 World Cup winning manager in Luiz Felipe Scolari, but they cannot bring back the players who formed a juggernaut on their way to glory in that tournament.
You'd be hard pressed to find too many from Sunday's game against England who would have started for Brazil in 2002, apart from possibly Neymar. Brazil currently look a world away from a team capable of taking next summer's home World Cup by storm. It's going to be a stressful 12 months for Big Phil.
2. Joe Hart is Vital for England
He may not have had the best of seasons for Manchester City, but one thing you can say about Joe Hart is that he does not shy away from his mistakes.
It was not the perfect performance. His distribution was utterly woeful (as it generally is for most players as soon as they pull on an England shirt), but his stature in the box, aerial presence and shot stopping were second to none. For much of the first half he kept England in the game.
3. Theo Walcott Cannot Run with the Ball
Walcott is undoubtedly a threat, but unfortunately he is a very limited threat. At Arsenal he has just had the best season of his career, but Arsenal have found a way to make the most of his attributes, something England need to do to get the best out of him.
If you give the ball to Walcott 20 yards from goal, as the likes of Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta have this season, he can beat a man without thinking and fire in a quick cross or shot. Give Walcott time and space to think and England's opposition will have the ball back fairly quickly.
There is no real point giving him the ball 50 yards from goal. He can run onto the ball, he can not run with it.
Think of it as the "Walcott five-second rule". He will only be a threat if he has the ball for less than five seconds.
4. England Need Energy in Central Midfield
Wayne Rooney is not the best at holding up the ball. James Milner and Theo Walcott are neither especially technically proficient, nor the best at retaining possession.
So if England are going to play with only one striker they will need energy in midfield to connect their midfield bank of three with their attacking bank of three.
Against Brazil in the first half, Phil Jones was England's most energetic midfielder. However, he was far more energetic off the ball, chasing Brazil's midfielders around the pitch in a destroying role, without being especially effective on the ball.
As soon as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on in central midfield he had an instant impact, using his energy and vibrancy to connect midfield and attack, as well as scoring a brilliant goal. It is no surprise his introduction led to England's best spell in the game.
The Ox looked more comfortable for half an hour in the centre of midfield than he did at any point on the left against Ireland in England's previous friendly.
5. Gary Cahill is England's Most Important Centre-back
The quality of England's central defensive options is slightly worrying. During the 2006 World Cup England had the best defensive quartet in Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Sol Campbell and Jamie Carragher. Against Brazil, Roy Hodgson had the far less impressive trio of Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott to call upon.
Jagielka and Lescott are both excellent defenders in the classic "last-ditch tackle" sense, but both lack quality and composure on the ball. Other options such as Chris Smalling and Steven Caulker are promising but unproven, Phil Jones seems destined for a central defensive role with England, but is deemed unready for it as of yet.
Therefore, this leaves Cahill as England's only genuine, established and experienced central defensive option. This is slightly concerning considering England's strength in the position in years gone by. He was unfortunate to miss the last European Championships, but will be England's most important central defensive option at next summer's World Cup (if they make it of course).
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