LONDON, England, February 7 – Jack Wilshere was lauded as more “Brazilian than the Brazilians” in one of several tributes paid by the British press after the midfielder’s key role in England’s 2-1 friendly win over the South Americans.
Wednesday’s Wembley success was England’s first victory against five-times world champions Brazil, the 2014 World Cup hosts, in 23 years.
Although goalkeeper Joe Hart’s save from Ronaldinho’s penalty kept the game at 0-0 before Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard scored for England either side of Fred’s equaliser for Brazil, it was the all-round display of 21-year-old Arsenal starlet Wilshere that caught the eye of the British media.
“In Jack Wilshere, England had a midfield player who at times looked more like a Brazilian than the Brazilians,” said Thursday’s edition of The Times.
It was a point echoed by James Lawton, the Independent’s veteran sports columnist, who wrote of Wilshere: “How many English footballers ever looked as though they might just be comfortable in a Brazilian shirt?
“Jack Wilshere looked as if he could play for anyone, and yes, that included the world’s greatest football nation.”
The tabloid Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling daily newspaper, said Wilshere, not United striker Rooney, was now the key figure in England’s bid to win a first major trophy since they lifted the World Cup at Wembley back in 1966.
“There is no getting away from it. Jack Wilshere is the key to England’s future… The truth is that with the young midfielder, England can compete with the BEST. Without him, they cannot.”
Henry Winter, football correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, was impressed by Wilshere’s demeanour in what was only his seventh England appearance.
“The England shirt does not act like a straitjacket on Wilshere as it can do to others,” Winter wrote. “He certainly played with a hunger as if the term ‘friendly’ was an alien concept.”
England, currently second in European qualifying zone Group H, continue their quest to feature at Brazil 2014 away to leaders Montenegro next month and Winter said Wednesday’s win would “undoubtedly lift England’s spirits” ahead of a “testing trip”.
Wilshere was named man-of-the-match by the host broadcaster and someone who saw Thursday’s headlines coming was Roy Hodgson, the England manager.
However, a once wary Hodgson backed Wilshere to remain level-headed.
“I was trying to protect him from the pressure, but he doesn’t need it,” said Hodgson in a post-match news conference.
“You (the media) can crank up the expectation as much as you like, because he seems comfortable with it.
“As long as he’s comfortable, why should I worry about it?”