Neymar, Ronaldinho and co. take on Roy Hodgson’s men in Ashley Cole’s 100 appearance for the England national team.
Roy Hodgson has confirmed that Ashley Cole will start in Wednesday’s friendly against Brazil, on the night he becomes the seventh player to win 100 caps for England.
Cole, 32, will join Peter Shilton, David Beckham, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Billy Wright and Steven Gerrard in making a century of appearances for his country.
Current captain Gerrard reached the milestone in England’s 4-1 loss to Sweden in November and both men will receive their caps prior to kick-off at Wembley against the five-time world champions.
Asked if Cole will start against Brazil, Hodgson said: “Yes, he will.
“It’s important, with Steven here, that they’ll be able to go out onto the field together. He (Cole) will start and I’ll have to see what I do with Leighton Baines.”
However, the England manager dismissed suggestions that Cole would be allowed to lead the team out as captain.
“I don’t think there’s any reason why the captain should let someone else lead the team out,” he told reporters at Tuesday’s pre-game press conference.
“You know Ashley does his talking on the football field. He’s never pushed himself forward as a potential captain and he’s just happy to be a key player.
“I’m pretty certain he won’t be trying to rip the armband off Steven tomorrow (Wednesday).”
Cole has not always been popular with England’s supporters, but Gerrard says the Chelsea left-back deserves respect for what he has achieved in the colours of his country.
“The fans just need to see what Ashley has given England over the last 12 years — desire, commitment,” said the Liverpool midfielder.
“He’s given everything in his body to bring England success and he deserves a good reception.”
Wednesday’s game is the latest step on a road that Hodgson hopes will lead to a successful showing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Eliminated in the quarter-finals at Euro 2012, England are currently ranked sixth in the FIFA world ranking, but Hodgson says his side can only prove their credentials by performing on the pitch.
“I think the players are confident and we’re on the right track,” he said.
“We’ve got good belief that it’s within us to achieve our target of qualifying and then keep working together to get that little bit better.
“But to win a tournament, you need a functioning team, a team that has confidence in itself, and you need a few results behind you. To do that, you have to play a lot of games and get that confidence going.
“Let’s see what tomorrow brings. We’ve not chosen an easy task for ourselves, but you sometimes learn more from the difficult tasks in life than the easy ones.”
Ronaldinho admits he did not expect to be recalled by Brazil, but says he believes the squad he has returned to possesses sufficient quality to win the 2014 World Cup on home soil.
After a year in the international wilderness, the 32-year-old forward is expected to feature in Brazil’s friendly game against England at Wembley on Wednesday.
He has been handed a recall by new Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who has returned to the role 11 years after leading the Selecao to their fifth World Cup crown in Japan and South Korea in 2002.
Ronaldinho surprisingly joined Atletico Minero in June last year and was one of the stars of the Brazilian championship as the side from Belo Horizonte finished runners-up behind Fluminense.
His performances saw him named in the team of the season, alongside Brazil team-mates Neymar, Paulinho, Lucas Moura and Fred, but he says his return to the national set-up still came as a surprise.
“It wasn’t in my plans,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“I played a very good season last year so I was hoping for it and I’m very glad that it came true.
“There’s great pedigree in our team. I think we have all possibilities to win the World Cup. We have a mix of young players and experienced players.
“I’m the most experienced, so I’ll do everything to help my team to win the World Cup.”
Brazilian fans hope to see Ronaldinho deployed in tandem with Neymar, and the former Barcelona star believes the 21-year-old Santos virtuoso is destined for the highest heights in the global game.
“He’s definitely among the best in the world,” Ronaldinho said.
“It’s a great pleasure to play at his side and I’m sure he will be the best pretty soon.
“Football is very quick. Nowadays there’s (Lionel) Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo. Neymar is still a very young player but we all have a lot of confidence that he’ll be the best in the world pretty soon.”
Playing Brazil is normally regarded as the toughest test an international team can face, but England manager Roy Hodgson’s biggest concern ahead of Wednesday’s friendly is who to leave out of his side.
Hodgson has now been in charge of England for nine months and although their Euro 2012 campaign highlighted limitations in his squad, there have been consistent signs of progress since then, notwithstanding a friendly defeat in Sweden in their last fixture when Zlatan Ibrahimovic stole the show.
Even a quick glance at the current Premier League season, however, is enough to reveal a high number of teams fielding a core of English players, and a string of England internationals in encouraging form.
The return of Jack Wilshere to Arsenal’s side after injury, for instance, has provided England fans with hope, together with a rapid improvement by Theo Walcott, who has scored 18 goals already this season.
Liverpool have given a lifeline to striker Daniel Sturridge and Manchester United can field almost a whole team of English internationals including Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young.
The biggest dilemma for Hodgson is at left-back, where Chelsea’s Ashley Cole is due to win his 100th cap against Brazil despite a serious challenge from in-form Everton man Leighton Baines.
“It’s a difficult one,” admits Hodgson.
“In a friendly, you can give them 45 minutes each. But there will come a time when both are fit and raring to go and we have an important match and both want to start and I will have to disappoint one of them.
“But if I’m to be honest, that’s how it should be if you are the manager of a top footballing nation. A country like ours should have a couple of good choices in each position. The Brazilians certainly do.
“I’m looking at their squad and there’s probably another 10 or 12 that we could name that could easily have got in there. We want the same.”
Midfield is one area where Hodgson is spoilt for choice, with Wilshere, Carrick, captain Steven Gerrard, Tom Cleverley and Frank Lampard all fighting for central places.
“The fact is they are all stars in their own right,” admitted Hodgson.
“Lampard is to Chelsea what Gerrard is to Liverpool, what Wilshere could become for Arsenal, what Carrick is to Man United.
“You are not exactly comparing small clubs there. We’ve got to accept that and I’ll expect the players to accept that.
“I’ll make my decisions as honestly as I can and it certainly won’t be through lack of respect for the one I leave out.”
Hodgson has confirmed he will field his strongest possible side against Brazil, who are one of a string of high-profile friendly opponents lined up this year to mark the Football Association’s 150th anniversary.
That could mean Gerrard and Wilshere being paired together for the first time.
“There’s no reason why that can’t work,” Hodgson said.
“I watched them play against each other for Arsenal and Liverpool recently. You can’t force relationships on people, but I thought that their performances were exactly what you would want to see from two top players.
“I thought they were respectful. There was not one foul.”
Wednesday’s match at Wembley sees Brazil’s new coaching team of manager Luiz Felipe Scolari and technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira take charge for the first time since replacing Mano Menezes at the helm.
“We’re talking about two people who know what it’s like to be a Brazil manager, who know the country, who know the culture, who know the press and the mass media and what the fans expect,” said Hodgson.
“I think they’ve given the job to two very good pairs of hands. But of course it’ll be a big night for them.
“I reckon Phil and Carlos Alberto will be thinking ‘We could have had an easier start than England at Wembley.’ So it’s our job to ensure they don’t get an easy start. We think this is going to be a great occasion.”
England vs Brazil Head to Head Stats
GAMES PLAYED: 23
ENGLAND WINS: 3
BRAZIL WINS: 11
ENGLAND GOALS: 19
BRAZIL GOALS: 31
England to win 2/1 at 22/1: England vs Brazil Betting
Ashley Cole to score at anytime at 19/1: England vs Brazil Betting