Brazil loses to England for first time in 23 years

Presiding over Brazil’s first loss to England in 23 years caused

Luiz Felipe Scolari little concern. In fact, the returning coach

saw Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat as a good omen.

His first stint in charge of the Brazilians in 2001 also opened

with a loss, and a year later they were celebrating their fifth

World Cup title.

And, all that matters now for Scolari is delivering the sixth

success on home soil next year.

”I’m used to losing the first game, but after this I’m used to

winning games and winning competitions,” Scolari said through a

translator.

”I am not disappointed and I am not sad. As long as we play

against strong teams like England, France and Italy we will improve

our capacity.”

Even the notoriously hard-to-please Brazilian media applauded

Scolari after his first post-match media conference since being

re-hired in November to replace the fired Mano Menezes.

Yet, there was little encouraging news to report back home after

an underwhelming performance against an England side which often

struggles to impose itself on nations without the stature of

Brazil.

It was a game England never looked like losing after Ronaldinho

had a penalty saved on his 100th appearance for Brazil and Wayne

Rooney put the hosts in front midway through the first half.

Although Fred seized on sloppiness in the home defense after the

break to equalize, Frank Lampard restored England’s lead on the

hour, curling the ball off the post past goalkeeper Julio

Cesar.

England now has to produce similar vigorous, composed displays

for the remainder of the World Cup qualifying to ensure that the

return friendly in Brazil in June is the warm-up for another trip

there for the finals in June 2014.

”We’ve got to get to Brazil,” Lampard said. ”But if we

continue with that attitude and get a bit more flow to our game we

should be all right.”

The crucial match is next month against Montenegro, which is two

points above England in their qualifying group.

”I hope that (beating Brazil) gives them belief. We had quite a

young team out there, with players 22 or younger.”

One of them, 21-year-old Jack Wilshere, injected dynamism into

the team as a commanding presence in central midfield.

But his seventh England appearance had started by conceding a

penalty after blocking a cross from Oscar with his hand.

But the penalty was missed by Ronaldinho, whose only high point

after a year out of the squad was receiving a commemorative ”100”

shirt before the match.

The 32-year-old two-time FIFA World Player of the Year, who now

plays for Atletico Mineiro, was replaced after 45 largely

ineffective minutes but was later reassured that he remains in

Scolari’s plans.

England was also marking player landmarks. Captain Steven

Gerrard received a special UEFA cap to mark the 100th one he won in

November, while defender Ashley Cole became a centurion in this

match.

The architect of the opening goal, though, was Wilshere, who is

seen to be central to England’s long-term prospects of winning a

first title since the 1966 World Cup.

”He terrorized the left side of their defense … and there

were so many other occasions when he was within a hair’s breadth of

scoring or creating a chance,” England coach Roy Hodgson said.

Making his first start since June 2011 after a succession of

injury problems, Wilshere threaded a precise pass into the penalty

area for Theo Walcott in the 27th minute.

Although his Arsenal teammate was denied by goalkeeper Julio

Cesar, Rooney seized on the loose ball and slotted it through three

Brazilians to claim his 33rd England goal.

Rooney outshone Neymar, the 21-year-old Santos attacker ranked

by Scolari alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo one of the

world’s finest talents.

But he squandered his best chance to score against England,

sending the ball over an empty net after sliding in to meet Oscar’s

pinpoint cross.

Cesar was one of Brazil’s busiest players, thwarting Walcott’s

shot from a tight angle and blocking Gerrard’s long-range strike

either side of the break.

Brazil briefly imposed itself at the start of the second half

and got its rewards with an equalizer in the 48th.

Gary Cahill dribbled out of the England defense and Neymar

intercepted the ball, which broke forward for Fred to dispatch past

Hart.

It was Hart who was nearly left red faced next.

The Manchester City goalkeeper’s weak clearance allowed Fred to

unleash another shot which hit the bar this time.

”They smelt a bit of blood,” Hodgson said. ”I thought we did

well to survive that period and to get back on track and take

control of the game again.”

The winner came after England ripped through the Brazilian

defense. Walcott went past Adriano and whipped in a cross that was

blocked by Dante. The Brazilians couldn’t clear the danger and

Rooney was able to flick the ball on to the substitute Lampard, who

curled the ball off the post into the net to claim his 27th

international goal.

”We dealt well with the problems and questions asked of us,”

Hodgson said.