Soccer

England beats Brazil for first time in 23 years in friendly

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Associated Press
2/6/2013 8:04:36 PM
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LONDON -- 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 defence 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 defence ... 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 defence 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 defence. 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.

England celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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