Theo Walcott stunned by Brazilian kids' football skills

Theo Walcott (red shorts) watches Brazilian kids show off their silky skills in Rio. Photo: PA

Theo Walcott was stunned to see even the kids on the Copacabana producing skills that are beyond him but insists England can hold their own against Brazil on Sunday.

England's players went onto Rio's famous beach for some exercises and were fascinated by the youngsters playing volleyball with their feet, heads - and shoulders.

Some of those players wearing the green and gold of Brazil who line up at the Maracana Stadium - the match will take place at the venue despite uncertainty this week - learned their skills on the Copacabana and for the England players this trip will be an important experience if they can ensure qualification for next year's World Cup.

Walcott said: "As soon as you come here you realise just what a football place it is.

"We had a stroll on the beach and seeing some of the kids who were six or seven using their shoulders and everything to play beach volley. - I can't even do that myself. It shows technically they have got it out here.

"It is going to be spectacular to just be out here in Brazil itself and to experience different parts of Brazil."

Walcott was speaking after a visit by England players and coaching staff to a Sport Relief-funded football project in a deprived part of Rio, where the teenagers taking part displayed their own skills.

But England were themselves impressive against Brazil at Wembley, in an open-match that ended 2-1, and Walcott believes the hosts are not as intimidating a force as they once were.

He said: "It was probably the best performance at Wembley we have had for a long time. When you play against the best that seems to bring something out of you a bit more.

"It will be tough, they will want to show the crowd what they can do. Playing against England is always a great spectacle. I think Brazil aren't the team they used to be. In a couple of years they could be very good, but I look forward to challenge. It will be a good one."

Walcott is open about his desire to play as a striker for Arsenal, and finished the season as the second highest English goalscorer in the top flight, behind Frank Lampard, despite having "limited opportunities" to play up front.

Walcott played as a forward in England training for a spell but given manager Roy Hodgson's limited options in midfield may have to settle for his usual role on the wing.

"I don't know - it would be fantastic," said Walcott when asked about playing as England's main striker.

"People say I've played up front but I have had limited opportunities this year - I've played on the wing and got most of my goals from there. Playing for England in any position is a dream. The manager picks the team and whoever plays will go out and do a job and hope to win. I have had a go in training so we will see.

"My confidence is good. I will play anywhere for club and country and the goalscoring side of things have got much better."

England's style against the Republic of Ireland in midweek was condemned as being from "the dark ages" by Gary Lineker, while Rio Ferdinand reignited the debate today by saying English players' technical abilities rank poorly compared to foreign players.

However, Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe - who will be rivalling Walcott for a place up front on Sunday - insists that England have a good mix of players.

He said: "There have been some great moments, games and team performances with England. We have a good mix of senior and young players and it takes time but let's qualify for the World Cup and see where that take us.

"Everyone has their opinion, it's part and parcel of sport. We enjoy playing for our country and while we are here we want to enjoy it.

"I respect Gary Lineker as a forward, he's a legend, he's a Spurs man.

"If that's going to hurt you then you're a weak person. As group we stick together and try to win football matches.

"Again no problem [with Ferdinand]. I'm not having a row with Rio - he's my mate, he's my friend and I love Rio.

"If he feels that way then he does."