So, I admit that I don't like international friendlies very much. But today... today was pretty good. Most of the Chelsea boys in action -- nevermind the Nigerians who advanced to the Africa Cup of Nations final -- had excellent days, some earning important milestones, some providing standout performances and some scoring key goals. Yeah, the games didn't matter, but they were pretty fun.
Ashley Cole earned his 100th England cap starting against Brazil at Wembley, becoming just the seventh player to do so, and is in line for an impressive-looking ceremony the next time the Three Lions play at home. He only stayed on the pitch for a half, departing at the interval for Leighton Baines with a minor knock, but he put in the perfectly competent display we're all used to seeing. And for once, he wasn't booed. Although the match itself was uneventful, as far as Cole was concerned, this has to rank as one of the prouder moments of his rather illustrious career.
Gary Cahill had a mixed game. He made two awful errors just after halftim, one of which resulted in Fred's equaliser, but otherwise he was very solid. He ate up Neymar whenever the Santos star dared run at him and nearly scored from a corner with the match still at 1-1. Frank Lampard, meanwhile, was the first Englishman to score a winning goal against Brazil since Gary Lineker 23 years ago. It looked like this:
So yeah that was pretty good.
Oscar was the best player on the pitch, despite the official man of the match being awarded to Jack Wilshere. More inventive that Neymar and Ronaldinho combined, the youngster was the heart of everything Brazil did going forward. He was deeply unfortunate to be on the losing side and should have had two assists. In the right circumstances, Oscar can run a game, and he certainly showed himself to be one of football's brightest young talents today.
Ramires was... yeah he wasn't good. Wilshere blew by him for Wayne Rooney's equaliser, and he was withdrawn at halftime after a middling 45 minutes. David Luiz, on the other hand, was majestic as Selecao captain. He pulled off some timely tackles, defended intelligently, and played excellent passes from deep all night. If Dante was auditioning to take David Luiz's spot as Thiago Silva's partner at centre back, he failed rather spectacularly -- the Bayern Munich star looked completely impotent next to the Chelsea man.
Cesar Azpilicueta got his first cap in Spain's 3-1 win against Uruguay, and played the full 90 minutes. He did a reasonable job keeping the right flank quiet, and he even contributed intermittently to the attack. He's not far off Alvaro Arbeloa at this point. Juan Mata only played a half, thankfully, and he looked like his usual amazing self. Juan Mata is good, y'all.
Eden Hazard is good too. Chelsea's ballboy-murdering star won and scored a penalty as Belgium beat Slovakia 2-1. Also featuring in that match were Kevin de Bruyne, who was withdrawn for Dries Mertens after an hour, and Romelu Lukaku, who came on at halftime.
Tomas Kalas didn't get any time as the Czech Republic beat Turkey 2-0 in Ankara, but Branislav Ivanovic was on the pitch for half of Serbia's 3-1 win against Cyprus. Yossi Benayoun, meanwhile... well I honestly have no idea if he even played. With Benayoun, I think that's the way it's supposed to be.
Anyway, congratulations are in order to Cole and Azpilicueta for some important landmarked, to Lampard on scoring a key goal, and to both David Luiz and Oscar for showcasing their talents superbly on a very big stage. They did their countries -- and Chelsea -- very proud tonight.