LONDON – England tackle five-time World Cup winners and 2014 hosts Brazil at Wembley today in honour of the FA’s 150th anniversary.
But already some of the shine has been removed from what should be a special occasion with several key England players pulling out through injury.
Three Lions manager Roy Hodgson’s selection plans have been hit with news that Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe, Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick and new Liverpool recruit Daniel Sturridge are all injured.
Defoe is expected to miss three weeks with an ankle injury suffered in Spurs’ 1-0 win at West Brom on Sunday. Carrick has also been ruled out with a hip problem, leaving Hodgson short on resources for the game at Wembley against the 2002 world champions.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers confirmed Sturridge was struggling with a thigh knock which he aggravated in the 2-2 draw with Manchester City.
“I think he will be a doubt. He was with the medics and they will have a check with the England doctors, but he is obviously struggling,” he said.
Sturridge, who was expected to win his fifth senior cap, had been troubled by the injury during the first half before being replaced.
Chelsea’s Ashley Cole will win his 100th international cap against Brazil, but the left-back faces intense pressure from Everton’s Leighton Baines to retain the England shirt.
“If Ashley is fit, he will play on Wednesday (today) and get his 100th cap,” Hodgson confirmed. “But there will come a time when both are fit for an important match and I will have to disappoint one of them.
“They will just have to fight it out and I’m sure the competition between them will be fierce. Then I’ll have to make a decision.”
Meanwhile, Brazil have an impressive record against England having been beaten only three times in 23 internationals dating back to 1956.
England won that opening encounter 4-2 in front of 97 000 at Wembley, but they have since only enjoyed two wins — 2-0 in 1984 and 1-0 in 1990 while Brazil have won 11 times. Former Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari was late last year put in charge of leading Brazil’s dreams of winning their sixth World Cup at home in 2014.
Scolari has already been successful at the ultimate level, guiding Brazil in 2002 to a 2-0 World Cup final win over Germany to clinch their fifth world crown.
The 64-year-old is certainly willing to experiment with the recall of veteran striker Ronaldinho raising a few eyebrows.
The former Barcelona marksman said while the friendly would be a special occasion, his main aim was to guarantee a place at the next World Cup.
“It is obviously a special occasion and a game between two big footballing nations,” he said. “But the thing that matters is that I am back in the Brazil squad. I need to show I can play a big part in the next World Cup.”