This was England's first win over Brazil since 1990... I know, you have to see it to believe it! The Three Lions put in an all around great performance, the Chelsea players on the field played pivotal roles for their respective sides, showing us just why they are part of our star studded roster.
Before I go any further, I feel Jack Wilshere deserves some recognition for the way he dominated the midfield, wow he is some player! His performance was matched only by Oscar on the night who put in a similarly awesome display, especially when he was moved into the middle of the park for the second half.
If you wish to see the highlights, click here
First of all let's look at how Chelsea's players lined up in the Brazil starting 11;
Dani Alves, David Luiz, Dante, Adriano
Oscar, Paulinho, Ramires
Ronaldinho, Luís Fabiano, Neymar
The bushy haired eccentric centre back had a very good night at the heart of the defence, he didn't put a foot wrong all game. He was getting in good challenges, putting Wayne Rooney and co. under immediate pressure, not letting England settle on the ball, winning headers, sweeping up behind the back 4 and as a bonus looked calm and assured on the ball. All in all he looked like the defender we all knew he could become. It seems more and more that he is cutting the mistakes out of his game and that can only be a good thing.
The Blue Kenyan is usually the driving force in the heart of the Brazilian midfield, he picks up the ball from deep and pushes forward into spaces with his lightning pace. He had an uncharacteristically quiet first half in all honesty, he only got 1 chance to burst into space through the midfield but was quickly fouled to halt his progress (that is the only way to stop him once he gets going). Didn't put a foot wrong but didn't do anything much of note, was withdrawn at half-time for Santos midfielder Arouca.
Oscar was the star of the show for Brazil and but for the loss would have undoubtedly been man of the match. In the first half he was often switching positions with the front 3, one minute he would be on the left wing, the next on the right wing, then in the middle, he was everywhere, popping up into spaces that defenders hate to be pulled into. He was utilized most on the right wing in the first 45 because of Ronaldinho's lack of pace, he gave Ashley Cole plenty to think about in the first period of the game.
He combined excellently with Neymar early on, perfectly executing a first time 1-2 pass to free up the Santos forward down the right flank. The Chelsea midfielder was always looking to free up players and push the killer ball in behind, there is little any midfield can do to stop him when he is in that kind of mood as England found out the hard way. Just a few minutes later, right on cue he popped up in the centre of the field and played an inch perfect 40 yard lofted pass over Cahill and Smalling, but Neymar's touch wasn't up to the standard of the pass and it trickled harmlessly through into Joe Hart's grateful grasp.
His next contribution was to take in a pass from Neymar on the edge of the box and take a well shaped shot with the outside of his boot, which soared a foot over the top left corner of the goal. The Chelsea midfielder had a role to play for the penalty conceded by England, he laid the ball off for Ronaldinho to make the cross on the left flank, which inadvertently struck Jack Wilshere's outstretched arm.
After the penalty save and England's goal, Oscar sprung into life again down the right wing and created Brazil's best chance of the game. Capitalizing on a poor clearance from Joe Hart, he took the ball on his chest and pushed it past the out of position Cole all in one movement, he then played in a sublime ball across the 6 yard box which the underwhelming Neymar failed to convert at the back post. A few moments later he created another chance for Brazil, selling Ashley Cole a dummy then playing the ball low into the near post, which was extravagantly flicked on but nothing came of it.
The start of the second half saw the introduction of PSG player Lucas Moura who replaced the out of sorts Ronaldinho. Lucas was pushed out to the right wing giving Oscar a more fixed role in the middle of the park, rather than the interchanging role he had previously. Straight from the off Oscar was showing his enthusiasm and energy by harrying the England players in possession, which paid almost instant dividends. He closed down fellow teammate Gary Cahill, this led to the England centre back making a rushed pass that was subsequently cut out. The mistake gave Brazil substitute Fred the opportunity to fire home a wonderful finish across Joe Hart from the edge of the penalty area. Just 3 minutes later Oscar was again in the right position to punish an England mistake, Hart slipped when making a clearance which ricocheted off of Cahill into the path of Oscar, who fed the ball into Fred, but the goalscorer could only hit the bar with a right footed curling effort.
After seeing his teammates miss the multitude of good chances he laid at their feet, Oscar decided to take matters into his own hands during the last 15 minutes. He was drifting around England's back 4 finding spaces and getting his shot away in dangerous positions, unfortunately for him and fortunately for England, he couldn't find his range (the kind of range that Gigi Buffon has nightmares about).
Throughout the game he demonstrated his extraordinary ability of finding spaces that can create instant danger for the opposition, his footballing IQ is phenomenal and he is such a great player. On top of that he showed his willingness to defend, to put in tough challenges and get into the face of the opposition. For a little guy he isn't afraid of a good tackle!
He has proven with his national team more than once that he is capable of playing in a midfield 3, and can do so extremely well. It is time he is given the chance to shine in a deeper midfield role.
Now let's have a look at England's starting 11;
Johnson, Smalling, Cahill, Cole
Walcott, Rooney, Welbeck
What a great occasion it was for Ashley Cole, a win against Brazil coinciding with his 100th cap for England! He truly is an all time great, becoming the first ever black player to reach 100 caps with England. The ever consistent defender put in his usual shift of quality defensive play as well as an attacking threat down the left wing. The only time he was beaten was when he was doubled up on by Oscar and Neymar, plus Joe Hart's error which wasn't down to him. He made a mazy run mid way through the first half ending in a shot and fairplay to him for that. The left back was obviously looking for that crowning jewel on the 100th cap (a goal against Brazil), but it wasn't to be. You have never been a goalscoring defender Ash! Surprised you didn't get a nosebleed!
In all seriousness, he has been a great servant for both club and country and fully deserved the warm welcome the crowd gave him, especially after not always being everyone's favorite footballer.
His injury niggle at half-time would be the only dampener on his evening, but he was taken off as a precaution rather than a necessity, the player himself saying he could have carried on.
Since his arrival from Bolton, Cahill has stepped up to the plate and shown he can mix it up with the best players in the world, including the likes of Messi, Iniesta, Robben, Ribery and Gomez. His next challenge was the Samba legend Ronaldinho and his apprentice Neymar. All in all he did very well against the both of them, not giving them a sniff all game (apart from his 1 mistake). He put in quality challenges against Neymar, including a very strong sliding tackle, introducing the young Brazilian forward to the typically tough defending he will no doubt face in the future from English defenders.
Cahill's blunder at the start of the second half could have cost England the result, but credit to him he showed great resilience to get over his mistake and move on with the game, that is the mark of a great player. This was the most positive sign from his performance, not only that he can defend against some of the most creative dribblers in the game, but that he can bounce back after a cataclysmic error and not let it effect him during the remainder of the match.
The icing on the cake was the showcasing of his determination and ability to attack the ball in the oppositions box, forcing a wonder save from Brazilian & QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar. David Luiz looked distinctly worried when having to defend against his fellow club-mate at the corner, opting to man handle him to put him off his header. Cahill's reaction after Cesar's save tells you all you need to know about the man, about his passion for the game and his determination to win.
Super Frank came on as a second half replacement for Tom Cleverly, making his 94th appearance for England (let's hope he also becomes a centurion before his England time is up!). It took him a while to feel his way into the game which is always a problem in friendlies after changes are made. The disruption to the side the substitutions caused didn't seem to last too long as Frank scored what turned out to be the winning goal on the 60th minute, and what a strike it was.
Don't underestimate just how incredibly difficult that chance was, the ball arrived on the bounce, under his feet and he didn't have a chance to move towards the ball at all. It is safe to say that most wouldn't have even considered that as a half chance! The power Frank managed to generate on the shot from a standing start was crazy, and the placement was perfection, caressing the ball past the outstanding Julio Cesar.
No matter how old Chelsea's number 8 gets, he will never lose that ability to be at the right place at the right time and finish off opportunities on the edge of the area. He showed he still has a lot to offer when he is playing as the attacking midfielder of a midfield 3, again posing the question to Rafa; why haven't you tried a 4-3-3?
Overall it was a good night for England and a good night for Chelsea! Even though he was on the losing side, Oscar was simply outstanding and David Luiz also had a solid game. Ramires was unusually quiet but didn't put a foot wrong and thankfully there were no Chelsea injuries. Lampard did what he always does and that's scoring important goals, Cole was consistent as ever and Gary Cahill showed great character after making a horrid mistake.
I think the main thing to take out of this game was that it showcased Ramires, Oscar and Lampard playing in midfield threes, come on Rafa, pay attention please!
* On a side note, Chelsea's John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses and Kenneth Omeruo made it to the final of the African Cup of Nations with Nigeria after a 4-1 semi-final win against Mali. They face Burkina Faso in the final this weekend.
Mikel put in a completely dominant performance, he was all over the pitch, making tackles, winning headers and spraying accurate 40 yard diagonal passes into the forward players. I have never seen Mikel do this for Chelsea, but it seems like he has no shackles in the Nigerian team and is allowed to pass freely, either that or he just doesn't get the time and space to do it in the Premier League.
Mikel vs Mali: 1 Shot, 1 Assist, 7 chances created !, 93% pass completion, 84 touches on the ball. #Class
— Chelsea Statto (@ChelseaStatto) February 6, 2013
I recommend that Chelsea fans watch the AFCON final this weekend to see how Mikel plays, he is like a completely different player for his country!
Here are the highlights for the Nigeria v Mali semi-final if you wish to watch them;
Click here for Nigeria v Mali
Article by Martin Smith
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Carefree & KTBFFH