Jack Wilshere: The heir to Steven Gerrard's England throne

England captain full of praise for the 'frightening' prospect that is the Arsenal midfielder, who is set to play alongside him at Wembley – but tells young Gunner that he's not world-class yet

Asked whether Jack Wilshere might just be a younger version of himself, Steven Gerrard, in one of his more mischievous moods, said that there was one comparison that had to be dismissed straight away. "I'm better looking than him," Gerrard said. "As players? We're different."

Against Brazil, for the first time, they start alongside each other at the heart of the England midfield. For Gerrard, this year marks the final road of qualification for what he envisages will be the fifth and final tournament of his career. For Wilshere, having missed Euro 2012 through injury, he hopes that the 2014 World Cup will be the launch pad for his England career.

It is remarkable that injuries to the two players over the last two seasons have meant that Gerrard and Wilshere have spent just 13 minutes together on the pitch for England. That came in the friendly defeat to Sweden in Stockholm three months ago, when Wilshere came on as a second-half substitute before Gerrard was himself substituted.

Wilshere's first-ever start for Arsenal in the Premier League, the first game of his breakthrough 2010-2011 season, was against Liverpool at Anfield. A 1-1 draw, it was obvious on that sunny day on Merseyside that Gerrard had heard about the reputation of his young opponent and was determined to assert himself. Wilshere, for his part, did not back down.

That game was two and a half years ago, and only really now can we see how the two of them will combine in an English midfield. There will be few more difficult tests than against the country that has won five World Cups but Wilshere has held his own in the past against the likes of Xavi, and Gerrard is, well, Gerrard. Having decided not to step down after Euro 2012, at 32 he is still being voted England's best player and still capable of scoring crucial goals, as Sunday's game at the Etihad Stadium demonstrated.

The older Gerrard gets, the less prepared he is to mince his words when it comes to England and English players. Having listened to his manager Roy Hodgson describe him and Ashley Cole as having enjoyed careers that stood up to the definition of "world-class", the England captain delivered his own thoughts on England's next generation.

Gerrard said: "I think it's vital we don't all put too much pressure on him [Wilshere], and there's not too much expectation. One man can't carry a nation on his own. He needs other players to help. I can only tell him to try and keep his feet on the ground and try and enjoy it. His career will be full of ups and downs, and I think he has the mentality to handle it.

"These players, these young players with huge potential, they have to go out and prove it in big games in the Premier League, Champions League and international level, that they're good enough to compete against other world-class players. Maybe, if they do, the tag world-class can be given out. But I don't like it being given out to young players."

Gerrard did later add that Wilshere's scope to improve, and the kind of player he could become was "a scary thought" but the message was pretty clear from the England captain. You do not allow yourself to be thought of as one of the best in the world until you have proved you are capable of doing it over a long time at the highest level. Simply being the best in an increasingly shallow pool of English talent is not enough.

Against the likes of Neymar and Oscar, Wilshere will get to see how he measures up against those who are currently the very best of his generation. Neymar is little more than a month younger than Wilshere and Oscar, the Chelsea playmaker, is the most senior of the three by less than two months. These are the players whom both countries hope will have a major effect at the next World Cup.

It is a pivotal year for Hodgson too, who must first qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals. The Brazil game is the first of 10 planned so far for 2013, including the remaining six qualifiers and friendlies against Republic of Ireland, another against Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in June and then Scotland in August. There could, of course, be a two-legged qualification play-off in November, but Hodgson will hope England are home and dry by then and able to play another high-profile friendly.

The England manager has selected 44 different players since he took over last May, and there were six debutants against Sweden alone in November, but now the anticipation is that he will build a stable team to see England through to Brazil next summer. He conceded that, even in his long career, this was perhaps the most challenging year of all.

"Maybe. I can't think in those terms. There have been quite a few years [in management], most of the 38, where I think success or failure this year will have an effect on the way I'm viewed. But the only thing you can do is make certain you take your job seriously, do the best job you can, the team is well prepared and you hope you'll get the results. If you do, you hope you'll be highly regarded."

There will be pressure on this group of Brazil players going into a home World Cup next year and with their country not having lost to England in 23 years they will not wish to drop the baton. Brazil's place at 2014 is assured. For England, qualification is achievable but by no means certain, and the hard work starts here.

tale of tape old and new

Kick-off 7.30pm, Wembley Stadium

TV ITV 1 Referee P Proenca (Portugal)

Odds England 11-5. Draw 2-1. Brazil 11-8.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain