Walcott wants to take strike against Brazil

Arsenal player is hoping to play in his preferred role as a striker when England take on Brazil in a friendly today

Theo Walcott hopes injuries to strikers Jermain Defoe and Daniel Sturridge will give him a chance to spearhead England’s attack in today’s prestige friendly with Brazil at Wembley.

Having been handed opportunities to play as a central forward by Arsenal this season, Walcott has responded with 18 goals to become the club’s leading scorer.

The 23-year-old has scored just four goals in 30 games for England, but he believes his club form could persuade national coach Roy Hodgson to hand him the central striking role he covets.

“Things are going quite well for Arsenal on the right but Daniel and Jermain are both out so there is an opportunity (with England),” he said.

“That is the manager’s choice. I trained up front today with Wayne (Rooney), so you never know.

“I will play anywhere for England and Arsenal but I do believe I’m a striker and I’m sure in the next few years I’ll be playing (there) a bit more regularly,” he added.

Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has also withdrawn from the England squad through injury, although he was not likely to start the game.

Ashley Cole is in line to become only the seventh England player to receive 100 caps, after Peter Shilton, David Beckham, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Billy Wright and Steven Gerrard.

The Chelsea left-back has not always been a popular figure with England fans, but Walcott says he remains a hugely influential member of the changing room.

“Ashley is massively important. He is so experienced and has won many things. A lot of players look up to him,” Walcott said.

“He is a strong character. He can deal with anything. It is all about the game. Nothing fazes him. He is very concentrated,” he added.

Today’s game forms part of the celebrations to mark the 150th birthday of the Football Association and will be England’s first outing since a 4-1 friendly loss to Sweden last November.

The trip to Wembley will be Luiz Felipe Scolari’s first assignment in his second spell as Brazil coach, after he replaced the sacked Mano Menezes in November.

With Brazil already assured of a place at the 2014 World Cup as hosts, Scolari’s task is to shape a team capable not just of winning the tournament, but of winning in the swashbuckling style with which Brazilian football is synonymous.

There is certainly plenty of creativity in the squad he has named for the game against England, with young talents Neymar, Oscar and Lucas Moura included alongside the recalled pair of Ronaldinho and Luis Fabiano.

Scolari, who led Brazil to their fifth World Cup title in Japan and South Korea in 2002, called up just one uncapped player in the form of 29-year-old Bayern Munich centre-back Dante.

Bayern have conceded just seven goals in 20 league games this season — a German record — and having successfully marshalled some of the Bundesliga’s most dangerous forwards, Dante is keen to get to grips with Rooney.

The last encounter between the teams saw Brazil snatch a 1-1 draw thanks to an injury-time equaliser by Diego in the first England international at the new Wembley Stadium in June 2007. 

Ronaldinho surprised by Brazil recall
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 today. 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. “It wasn’t in my plans,” he told reporters.

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