England ready for Brazil acid test
England manager Roy Hodgson admits he is relishing the chance to test out his England team against the best when they play Brazil in a friendly international at Wembley on Wednesday.
The match is part of the plans to celebrate the Football Association's 150th anniversary, with a rematch scheduled for Rio de Janeiro in June.
Hodgson said he was looking forward to matching his wits against new Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, but also to seeing how his side can handle themselves against one of the world's top teams.
"It is a game I am really looking forward to. It is always a momentous occasion when you play Brazil," Hodgson said.
"To play them twice in one year is exceptional. It is a great thing to have on your CV."
With World Cup-winning coach Scolari recently returning to lead the national side as they build toward hosting the World Cup in 2014, Hodgson said he had no doubt England would be given a stern test of their credentials.
"It is Scolari's first match in charge and Brazil don't like losing matches," he said.
"Looking at their last five or six matches, it is quite frightening how well they have done. They will be out to impress their new management team.
"There are six who play in Brazil and a couple of others who aren't that well known in England."
Hodgson will have to rethink his striking options, though, after Jermain Defoe and Daniel Sturridge both suffered injuries playing for their clubs at the weekend.
That leaves Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck as the only out-and-out strikers in the squad, though Arsenal's Theo Walcott, who wants to play up front, could step into the void.
The match will also be notable for the 100th appearance of full-back Ashley Cole, who will become only the seventh Englishman to join the elite "100" club.
Hodgson said Cole will definitely play, despite Everton's Leighton Baines pushing for a starting place, and praised the Chelsea player for his commitment.
"Reaching 100 matches is an incredible milestone, so he deserves an enormous pat on the back," Hodgson said.
"Hopefully he will celebrate his 100 games in the same way Steven Gerrard was able to against Sweden (in November).
"I am looking forward to congratulating him. He has been a pleasure to work with and a really good professional. It goes to show how consistent he is as a performer."
Hodgson also hinted that the match could see the return to the midfield of Fran Lampard, who at 34 has regained his place in the Chelsea side after injury.
"He has been doing extremely well since he got back from injury," Hodgson said. "We always believed he belongs in the squad.
"We missed him during the Euros and a couple of games since. When he has not been with us, it has been because he has not been available."
England and Brazil have met 23 times, including four times in World Cups, where Brazil won three of the matches and drew the other.
Of the 19 other games, England have won just three, with Brazil coming out on top in eight and the other eight being draws.
England's last win over Brazil came at Wembley in 1990 while Brazil won their last encounter in 2009.
Scolarti has recalled veteran Ronaldinho and the Brazil squad also features 29-year-old newcomer Dante, a centre back who has got plenty of attention since leaving Borussia Moenchengladbach for Bayern Munich in summer.
"I always believed in the moment," Dante said. "I don't know if I will play, but of course it would be nice to get a chance to play."