WELL, at least Brazil cannot say they weren’t warned.
No less an authority on the world game than Neymar described the Three Lions on the eve of last night’s 150th anniversary celebration match at Wembley as a “one-man team”.
The solitary danger within the English ranks was, according to Neymar when dismissing Roy Hodgson’s side as a possible threat at next year’s World Cup, Wayne Rooney.
And as if to underline just how prescient the thoughts of the hugely-talented Santos forward can be, it was the Manchester United man who set England on their way to a first win over the boys from Brazil in nine attempts with a drilled finish on 27th minutes that bisected two defenders on the line.
Fred may then have drawn Brazil level just after the interval but the hosts were not to be denied a historic win as Frank Lampard curled an exquisite winner past Julio Cesar on the hour.
The veteran midfielder’s 27th international goal clinched a heartening win to go with an impressive performance that made a mockery of Neymar’s dismissive pre-match assessment.
England were anything but a one-man team with Jack Wilshere underlining, on his first international appearance at Wembley in 20 months, just why the nation has been so keen to see him fit and back in the international fold.
Not only was it the Arsenal midfielder’s incisive pass that ultimately led to the night’s opening goal but his neat and tidy play throughout ensured Brazil were given plenty to think about.
Theo Walcott, so often the beneficiary of Wilshere’s vision last night, also showed the kind of attacking threat that will worry opposing teams at Brazil 2014, while Joe Hart’s double save after initially getting a hand to Ronaldinho’s first-half penalty was of the very highest order.
Plenty, therefore, to be cheerful about from an England perspective ahead of next month’s crucial World Cup qualifying trips to Group H leaders Montenegro and San Marino.
Brazil, meanwhile, were left with plenty to ponder, not least how even the bold approach of Luiz Felipe Scolari was not enough to bring the win that the noisy 3,000 travelling fans craved.
Scolari opted to keep two, and sometimes three, players up field even when England had possession deep in the opposition half. However, while such an approach was admirable, by the end it proved fruitless as the Three Lions claimed a first victory over Brazil since 1990.
In fact, the biggest problem England had last night was showing too much respect to the five-time World Cup winners during an opening quarter that Brazil were allowed to dominate.
This tendency to stand off the visitors allowed the Samba beat to flourish and Hart’s goal came under intense pressure as, first, Neymar tried to wriggle through and then Oscar fired wastefully wide from 18 yards.
A harsh penalty award by referee Pedro Proenca on 20 minutes – the official adjudging Wilshere to have handled a cross fired at him from two yards away – then suggested Brazil’s early enterprise would be rewarded.
That was, however, until Hart blocked a poorly-hit penalty by Ronaldinho, who then raced in to try and convert the rebound only to again be denied by the England goalkeeper with a brave block.
The job of protecting the home goal was then completed by Tom Cleverley with a perfectly-timed slide tackle that put the ball behind just as Neymar shaped to shoot.
It was a big let-off but one that galvanised England, who within seven minutes were ahead when Rooney swooped to drill a shot beyond two covering defenders after Walcott’s initial effort had been blocked by Julio Cesar.
The finish was pinpoint but the striker, in taking his tally of international goals to 33, would be the first to admit that the goal owed everything to a stunning through ball from Wilshere that allowed his Arsenal team-mate to scamper clear.
Falling behind was harsh on Brazil and they responded admirably.
Neymar fired over after sliding in at the back post to meet a cross and then Glen Johnson had to bravely head clear from under his own crossbar to keep out a looping Luiz Fabiano effort.
From the opening exchanges of the second half, it was clear manager Scolari had sent his side out to press their hosts further up the field.
And the tactic paid instant dividends as an awful mistake by Sheffield-born Gary Cahill was seized upon.
Fred, one of three half-time substitutes made by Scolari, then did the rest with a fine finish that gave Hart no chance in the home goal.
The England goalkeeper was left similarly well beaten by a shot from Fred that clipped the top of the crossbar before Lampard restored the home side’s lead with a wonderful shot that bounced into Cesar’s net off the inside of the post.
It meant the Three Lions had scored twice against Brazil for the first time since 1984 when John Barnes jinked his way through a host of yellow shirts to score in Rio and, come the final whistle, the 87,453 crowd rose as one to salute what had been a hugely heartening night for English football on its special anniversary.
England: Hart; Johnson, Cahill, Smalling, Cole (Baines 46); Gerrard, Wilshere; Walcott (Lennon 76), Cleverley (Lampard 46), Welbeck (Milner 61); Rooney. Unused substitutes: Walker, Butland, Jagielka, Lescott, Osman, Lennon, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Brazil: Cesar; Alves, Luiz (Miranda 79), Dante, Adriano (luis 70); Oscar, Ramires (Arouca 46), Ronaldinho (Lucas 46), Paulinho (Jean 62); Neymar, Fabiano (Fred 46). Unused substitutes: Alves, Castan, Hulk.
Referee: P Proenca (Portugal).