The Wembley crowd warm to Ashley Cole at last while Jack Wilshere shows what England have missed
The Football Association obviously didn't trust the Wembley crowd enough to honour Ashley Cole with a presentation before kick-off, but it need not have worried. Even though Ronaldinho was given a little something on the occasion of his (disputed) century and Steven Gerrard was belatedly honoured for reaching the landmark in Stockholm, Cole didn't even make the cover of the Wembley programme.
Instead that honour went to the man who is now pushing him ever harder for the left-back berth and who replaced him at half-time – Everton's Leighton Baines. But as the stadium announcer ran through the line ups , Cole's name was afforded a loud cheer by the capacity crowd. He hasn't exactly been on a PR push – still refusing to talk to the press and instead preferring a pooled arrangement through England's sponsors for an interview to note the landmark – but the warm tributes to his consistent onfield excellence this week from team-mates and the media alike may have finally struck a chord with the Wembley crowd.
While the advertising hoardings reminded you this was part of the "Brasil World Tour" (alongside ads for Brahma and, of course, Nike) – it was clear this was more to Luiz Felipe Scolari and his players than simply another stop on the never-ending treadmill that has recently taken them to Sweden to face Iraq and Poland to play Japan. A full Wembley on the 20th anniversary of Bobby Moore's death and as part of the FA's 150th birthday celebrations leant a sense of occasion. And with the huge pressure of a home World Cup now less than 18 months away, this was a determined Brazilian team keen to impress the new boss (even if he is the same as the old boss). There was little swagger on display. If anything, they appeared a touch nervous.
Jack Wilshere has been missed: His captain might have spent much of the build-up imploring the public and the media not to heap too much pressure on the young Arsenal midfielder ahead of his first England start since injury robbed the country's brightest talent of 12 months. Yet it was hard not to enthuse. Having set the tone in the very first minute with a surging run he was England's brightest, busiest player. It was his incisive pass that led to England's first-half goal and there were at least two or three other moments of slide-rule genius, including a reverse pass to Daniel Welbeck, that were ample reminder of the reasons he was hailed as such a special talent before he took that enforced break. He made Neymar's contention that Wayne Rooney was the home side's only decent player look ridiculous and England's future prospects appear much brighter when he is on the pitch.
One of several Brazilian faces familiar to the Premier League, Chelsea's summer signing from Internacional began his career here with some sparkling performances as one of the Stamford Bridge "three Amigos". Things have proved tougher since, and he hasn't always been a first choice for the interim manager Rafa Benítez as the wheels have wobbled for his club, but here he looked more like the player of August and September. Alongside an otherwise underwhelming Brazilian attack, the neat footwork and cross that Neymar conspired to scoop over the bar ten minutes from half-time was typical. Given licence to roam on the right side of Brazil's attack, the lithe 21-year-old repeatedly unsettled Cole in a marauding first half and faded slightly but remained busy in the second as he repeatedly switched wings in search of the ball. Always eager and wanting the ball, Chelsea will hope he can bring this form to their run-in.
History would suggest not, at least not when it matters. But Joe Hart's early double save from Ronaldinho's penalty, after the Brazilian had seen his cross blocked by the arm of Wilshere, showed admirable presence and at least bred hope that the familiar curse will not strike again. The initial shot was tame but Hart's recovery to beat the ball away as Ronaldinho and Neymar followed up was sharp. The Manchester City goalkeeper has seen his abilities questioned on a number of occasions this season after all the plaudits of last, but here he was a confident presence behind an unfamiliar centre-back pairing of Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill. Surprisingly, there wasn't much need for the spectacular as he faced the massed yellow ranks of Brazil's lauded forwards, but he was typically assured and vocal throughout. The watching Peter Shilton, on hand to honour Gerrard in a pre-match presentation, would surely have approved.