England 0 - 0 Brazil
The big picture for Gareth Southgate is that over two games against the highest-ranked football nations in the world he gave out six debuts to young Englishmen, who might at times have found themselves schooled by the superstars of Germany and Brazil – but were not beaten.
The year closes on England with another 0-0 draw this time against Neymar and his outrageously gifted Brazilian team-mates, a side who, like Germany, will most certainly be challenging in Russia to end the summer as world champions. That moment might have come too early for Southgate’s new generation but there can be no question that he is forging ahead with them nonetheless with a sixth debut of this international break for Liverpool’s Dominic Solanke, a second half substitute.
Next March, the last games before he picks his final 23-man squad will come against Holland and Italy, two nations successful at international tournaments in the modern era - at least compared to England - who will not be in Russia. Neither will any of the home nations or the Republic of Ireland and while the England team can be depended on to frustrate with every year that passes, at least there is a World Cup summer to look forward to and the possibility of a new bloom of players.
Against Brazil, the English saw very little of the ball but demonstrated some qualities nonetheless, with John Stones the pick of the bunch, Joe Gomez the fans’ man of the match and Joe Hart also reassuringly alert to the relatively few chances that Brazil got on target. Marcus Rashford was the most effective attacker and if nothing else then the home team saw close up the standards that will be required of them if they are to win anything in their international careers.
What any team playing Brazil has to get used to, and this goes for even the very best, is that this current side will take the quality of a game right up to the limits of what their opponents are comfortable with, and often far beyond that.
It was the first lesson that Southgate’s team had to get to grips with against Fifa’s top-ranked nation, that if they were loose with a touch or off-beam with a pass then the ball was going to be taken away for them and it might be some time before they got it back. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho are one thing to contend with, but it was the wall of three midfielders behind them that posed another problem.
Renato Augusto, of Bejing Guoan, and Paulinho, newly of Barcelona, matched with Casemiro of Real Madrid are a formidable force. They are a defensive block who are comfortable on the ball starting attacks and it would be fair to say that Southgate’s team never found a way around them in the first half.
The England manager selected a back three but that was quickly a back five with Kyle Walker and Ryan Bertrand pinned back by Dani Alves and Marcelo, the two masters of that particular position. England’s full-backs barely crossed the halfway line before the break while their two Brazilian counterparts hardly ventured back into their own half. Yet each time the ball came to Jamie Vardy or Marcus Rashford the pair were quickly surrounded by yellow shirts.
Southgate made the decision not to press Brazil and that meant that for much of the first half they had a free pass right over the halfway line. It was not until Jesse Lingard came on for Ruben Loftus-Cheek on 35 minutes that England seemed to get after Brazil. The 21-year-old midfielder had suffered a blow to his right hip and by the time he came off was barely moving, the highlight of his night being a drag-back past Jesus early on.
Otherwise, the first half entertainment came courtesy of Brazil who probed away at an English defence without creating any major chances. Jake Livermore was the victim of a brutal Neymar nutmeg. Vardy took matters into his own hands and kicked the Brazil No 10, and in fact England found themselves committing a lot of fouls. Harry Maguire passed the ball straight into touch after 28 minutes, seemingly just so unaccustomed to having the ball that he was not sure what to do with it.
Joe Hart was equal to the shots that England did get on target and John Stones had an excellent first half, getting head and foot in when necessary at the centre of the home defence. Rashford was the most confident attacking player, cutting in from the left on his right foot past Casemiro to have a shot on goal. It was not much to speak of in normal circumstances but then this was not normal circumstances or a normal opponent.
The possession count in Brazil’s favour was somewhere around 69 per cent and it bore heavy on England even if there were still not the chances to go with it. They got another two minutes into the new half when Jesus slipped in Coutinho and the Liverpool man, who seemed off his best all night, struck a shot straight at Hart.
The only pity was that just as Brazil looked like they might be tiring with around 70 minutes left, and having brought on Willian and Fernandinho of Manchester City, so it seemed that England might be struggling too with the monumental task. There were moments when they might have broken on Brazil but here was just not the power to do so and it was then that Southgate looked at his options.
Rashford had made use of the little space and time he had on the ball to beat his man or get a run in on goal. Of all the attacking English players it will have been the boy from Manchester United whom the Brazilians will have been the most impressed, and at the back it was Stones.
The replacement of Rashford and Vardy with debutant Solanke and Tammy Abraham was Southgate’s final message of the international break that he young ones would be given their chance. Solanke’s direct running won him a free-kick that Dier could not keep on target. Hart made a good save from Paulinho and by the end England created a few chances themselves.
Gareth Southgate seems quite proud of his youngsters
"In terms of heart, resilience and spirit, it's as good as anything I've been involved in. Young players digging in... we just couldn't get hold of the ball. We showed resilience and some outstanding defending.
"We had the best defensive record in qualifying, we know we need to be better with the ball, we were a bit anxious. I think Joe's performance tonight against top players... all of the defending was outstanding but to come into a game like that was outstanding."
Ben Rumsby's player ratings
Here's what our man thought of England's players:
Joe Hart 7,
Joe Gomez 7, John Stones 8, Harry Maguire 7, Kyle Walker 7, Ryan Bertrand 7
Eric Dier 7, Jake Livermore 6, Ruben Loftus-Cheek 5
Jamie Vardy 6, Marcus Rashford 6
Jesse Lingard (for Loftus-Cheek, 34 minutes): 6.
Dominic Solanke (for Vardy, 75 mins): 5.
Tammy Abraham (for Rashford, 75 mins): 5.
Ashley Young (for Bertrand, 81 mins): 5.
Joe Gomez and Joe Hart says
JH: "100 per cent we were playing the best team in the world, they were brilliant. We had to adapt on the pitch, and as much as they had, the defensive back-line did really well. Joe, I can't tell you how well he did."
JG: "For me it's a great experience to play against someone like Brazil and we're happy with the cleansheet. Defensively we put in a good shift and I'm happy with that.
It's special for me, a great honour to play for England at this level. I've just got to try and improve and hope more opportunities come."
Gomez has clearly been media-trained to the high hills. His answers are stock responses.
A deserved draw and England will have learned a lot from this tonight. Brazil struggled to create but you sense that were this the real thing, nerves in England defenders could well have yielded better chances.
90 mins +3 - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
A chance for England in the dying seconds! Walker has the ball wide right, looks up to see Abraham making his run into the box and plays the ball low but aims towards the back post when Abraham is attacking the middle. Walker has his head in his hands - he knows that should have gone central.
90 mins +2 - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Lingard loses possession by taking way too long on it. Neymar steals, gets to the box and shoots low and wide. That could have been the game undone.
90 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
CHANCE FOR ENGLAND! That is brilliant from Solanke! He has two defenders tight to his back and nicks the pass between both to start a counter-attack in Brazil's half then sprints forward to join in. Lingard finds Young on the left, Young puts it on his right foot and curls towards the back post towards Solanke. It's close to the goalkeeper and he can't stab it behind him before he's tackled.
88 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Stones keeps the ball while he looks for a pass and his teammates stay still staring at him. That is how accidents happen. Gomez is the only one in defence who appears to realise but he can't go anywhere as he needs to cover the space he's in. Southgate has work to do yet.
Dier gives the ball away sloppily in the centre-circle, again. He's not had his best game this evening.
After this performance, Gomez might well have played himself into the England first team. Glenn Hoddle has actually just given him MOTM, which is a nice validating coincidence.
86 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Marcelo has just hit the best pass of the night, on his right foot, from near the centre-circle. It rips the England defence apart and Willian sprints onto it with only the goalkeeper to beat... but is offside. Not for me, Clive.
The game is opening up a bit now, Brazil are finding space in England's half and they're doing it by keeping the wide forwards wide. Coutinho and Jesus were central.
Neymar darts forward, plays in Paulinho who shoots with power inside the box and Hart saves. With his chest...
Paulinho heads over from the corner.
83 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
England play from the back and are pressed by four Brazilians. Stones has to turn back with two chasing, plays it to Maguire, who finds Hart, who keeps it low for Gomez, who wins a throw in from Neymar.
Brazil come forward and England look slightly rattled all of a sudden. Young is on for Bertrand and his first involvement is to track Willian's run into the box and block superbly at the near post. That could well have been Brazil's big chance.
Abraham links well with Solanke, with both naturally moving into space but Brazil clear. Great play by the youngsters and then Gomez is composed at the back to pick his pass, turn back and keep it safe with Hart at the back.
80 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Dier and Bertrand stand over the set piece. Dier can shoot, Bertrand can cross... Alisson comes all the way to the left of his goal. I'm not sure how I'd hit this one.
Bertrand steps over it... and Dier takes his time to place the shot in the bottom left but puts it wide. Needed more curve or a better angle.
78 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Rashford and Vardy off, debut for Solanke and a second cap for Abraham. What a game to make your international debut!
Brazil take Jesus off for Firmino. That Brazil squad is ridiculous.
Dier's lost it! Fernandinho breaks! From 25 yards he strikes it low to the bottom corner, Hart is beaten... but it hits the outside of the post and goes wide.
Dier has picked up a knock from that passage of play where he gave up the ball.
Solanke gets his first touch, holds off two players, turns, wins it back and runs away, goes through Fernandinho's legs with the nutmeg - wowowow - and wins a free-kick. What a start to his international career!
75 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Hart hasn't bought into the 'build from the back' thing yet and hoofs the ball forward without challenge. Brazil, of course, win possession and look to get the passes going. England need to keep patient and hold their shape here - it's been 75 minutes of hard work but they need to keep it tight to secure a metaphorical point.
But here come Brazil! Forwards dash into the area... and go down! Do they want a penalty? The referee doesn't care and the ball is pinged up to Vardy!
But Vardy takes forever to make a decision and is caught on the ball. Brazil win it back.
72 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Rashford turns his man on the left, keeps possession with the defender sticking tight. Livermore receives, plays the pass and gets it back... then runs out of ideas. Maguire steps up and switches play with a chipped pass to the right wing, Walker controls, moves inside... and passes straight to the defence. Brazil counter quickly but England cope and absorb the attack.
69 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
That's Rashford turning Miranda inside out. Fernandinho and Willian on, Coutinho and Augusto off. As far as I can tell, England don't have anyone ready to come on either. Is Southgate taking this friendly seriously? It's all about creating a change in mentality for him, so ensuring this game isn't just a way to award free caps is probably a smart move. It's Brazil, after all.
67 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Dier's pass back to the centre-backs is awful and Stones is under real pressure here! Will he boot it out... or this one of 'those' moments?! He hits it hard out to the left... and Bertrand takes it down on his chest. Absolutely fantastic defending from Stones. But Bertrand's given it away! Brazil have three forwards... but end up conceding a free-kick on the edge of England's box. Chance gone.
64 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
And Jesus is back. Weird.
A long ball over the top to Vardy forces Alisson off his line... but Vardy is offside anyway. Walker wins a free-kick in the centre-circle, Rashford tries some more trickery on the wing and keeps the ball superbly.
Lingard shows great close control to take the ball down, flick it over a challenge and win a free-kick. England are growing in confidence. Gomez shows a turn of pace with a smart move around Neymar and then Vardy turns his man! Ole! But Brazil win it back.
61 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Jesus takes a knock while trying to do a sombrero over Gomez's head. I'm not entirely sure where the pain has come from there because Gomez barely even touches him. Maybe cramp? In... the ankle? I'm no doctor but that doesn't sound right to me. He started off by rubbing his shin. Now the physios are looking at his knee.... and he's alive. But hobbles off the pitch.
58 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
England's defenders and midfielders want to keep the ball and pass it short, Vardy and Rashford want to go direct and over the top. It's making it a little difficult thtne for England to keep the ball in the final third.
Rashford dribbles past one player, nutmegs Marcelo OH MY WORD HE'S BEATEN ANOTHER but now he's been tackled. That was exciting though! Rashford showing some samba football flair.
56 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Meanwhile, over in Ireland, it's 4-1 to Denmark. Not good for the boys in green. Over in England, there's not an awful lot happening.
Alves is booked for a foul on Bertrand. England are managing this one well and haven't really been troubled. That said, they haven't done an awful lot at the other end of the pitch.
54 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
England win a free-kick wide on the left wing. Rashford hooks it in, Maguire attacks at the back post and is perplexed to have given away another free-kick. He was climbing on the last man
Livermore is completely binned by Neymar's stepovers and knocks him to the floor. Yellow card.
51 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
England are pressing at the halfway line, sat deep in their own half and Augusto is surrounded, hitting a weak pass into Rashford's path. He plays it to Livermore and sprints forward looking for the ball over the top... but it doesn't come and the chance goes.
Jesus plays a no-look pass to Coutinho inside the box, the ball bounces off Coutinho's ankle in the six yard box while he lines up the pass... and goes behind for a goal kick.
48 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Rashford might be in here! No. No he's been blocked out of it. Brazil survive and work the ball up the other end.
Neymar carries it through the middle, Augusto is sprinting into heaps of space on the left! He must be in! Neymar doesn't pass, turns inside and threads a ball through the middle instead. Absolutely brilliant from Neymar. Jesus and Coutinho get in each others' way and Hart saves.
Alves howls in pain after a challenge from Livermore and lashes out with a kick then stands up to confront him. Livermore pulls him in for a cuddle to prevent an actual fight.
We're back! Jesus starts the second half.
"We're not holding the ball enough" is the general consensus among the ITV pundit crew. Ryan Giggs says England just aren't passing it well enough, Ian Wright thinks someone needs to take charge of possession. I'm not an ex-pro, but I'd suggest the difference in technical ability between the two is entirely noticeable. Every Brazilian looks to be able to control a ball dead as though it were second nature. In the first half, Bertrand had about two seconds to measure a long pass and his first touch made it bounce a few yards away. England can't ping quick passes around if players aren't moving into space constantly, and can't risk making those moves if they aren't able to control the ball under pressure at high speed. A conundrum!
England look absolutely fine here. I wonder how they'd fare were this a knock-out competition game though when the nerves make legs do strange things. The biggest thing to note in that half was poor Loftus-Cheek who has been substituted with what seems like a muscle injury.
45 mins +1 - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
England are trying to play the short passes through midfield that Man City are very good at, firing it first time at the next man in space. The problem is that they manage a sequence of two passes and then nobody is available to take the ball for the third... and they stay still or have to go backwards.
Brazil work the ball around England's half but can't get inside the final third thanks to a solid, organised shape from England.
43 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Since the change of shape England have been able to get onto the ball and keep it for a bit. Brazil are having to actually defend for the first period in the game.
41 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Lingard has been England's best player since coming on. He's looking to keep the ball in midfield, is dropping into space and linking play, while also making forward runs at pace.
Dier, who is meant to be the holding central midfielder, turns up on the right wing to cross into the box. Brazil win possession and attack but Neymar - who doesn't seem to be enjoying himself - is on a different page to the player making the last pass.
39 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Augustin clips Lingard while chasing him at pace and isn't happy about it. This will give Rashford a chance to shoot from about 30 yards, with that knuckle-ball style he's rather good at.
It's actually a cross into the middle and both Stones and Maguire attack the back post. Stones has to be strong to keep his feet as he puts the header back across goal but he's ruled to have fouled while doing so.
36 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Jesse Lingard comes on for Loftus-Cheek, which will probably mean a change of shape. He heads over to Rashford to - I think - explain the tactical switch. That'll probably be a 3-4-3? At the moment it looks like Lingard is the right-sided forward.
33 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Jesus is played clean through with a smart bit of play but is offisde. Loftus-Cheek is clearly struggling here and will have to come off. That's such a shame - right after the highlight of his career, he's set for a spell on the sidelines. Potentially, of course.
England attack down the left, the ball is swung in, headed back to Rashford... he needs to shoot but has his back to goal! Can he turn? No... pass... no... shoot... no. He passes backwards and Brazil win the ball, getting it forward rapidly and stepping up to control the pitch again. England can't keep the ball.
30 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Maguire intercepts but rushes his pass and puts it out for a throw - that's usually a sign of panic. England could well be starting to feel the stretch - how much longer can they keep Brazil shooting from long range?
And right on cue, Neymar puts another long range shot into orbit. Dreadful effort.
27 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
That's Gareth Southgate pictured trying to control his England players with the power of his mind alone.
John Stones has landed awkwardly, jolting his knee on landing. Then he kicks his foot above his head to clear away from Neymar inside the box and is down again... he won't want to go off. And Loftus-Cheek is having treatment from the physio as well.
24 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Brazil have had 71 per cent of possession so far tonight apparently. And they're using it well!
Neymar beats the entire defence with an unbelievable pass off the outside of his left foot. It chips over Dier's head and puts Jesus through on goal. Hart comes off his line, Jesus goes around him... but is offside.
22 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Paulinho, who Glenn Hoddle says is one of the worst players he's ever seen at Spurs, shoots from 20 yards on the outside of his foot but puts it high and wide.
Mistake by Marcelo! England nick it back, Vardy feeds Loftus-Cheek on the right, who keeps the ball from three defenders and dribbles/passes to keep it moving. I think he gets lucky there but it's a lovely bit of dribbling. Brazil win it back.
England have adjusted their defensive line a bit, starting a little higher forward to try and stop the constant waves of Brazil attack.
19 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
RASHFORD! Great effort! It's really good buildup play from England who work the ball from Hart all the way to Rashford. He cuts inside and leaves his man, using the little space he gets to fire a dipping knuckle-ball shot at goal. It bounces right in front of the goalkeeper at Formula One speed but is too close to him to cause real panic. Alisson holds. Forward thinking and a flash of skill by the Man Utd player there!
16 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Great defending by Gomez, who keeps possession while being closed down and heads back to Hart.
Brazil are pressing high up the pitch and winning the ball back extremely quickly, forcing a hurried long pass which hands the ball back to the defenders. Livermore reads a pass, chases the deflection down and then pushes Alves, who waits to see if he should go down... and then does.
14 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Brazil look faster, more creative... and just better. There is a gap in talent here. England keep giving the ball away by trying to make forwards chase it high up the pitch - and then they can't control the ball. Walker manages to concede possession from a throw-in deep in Brazil's half.
11 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
The England crowd sounds very young this evening. The roars are pretty high pitched and they peak as Rashford waits for a ball to bounce for him as he heads towards goal. Alisson comes off his line to claim under pressure.
Marcelo has just scooped the ball behind himself down the left wing with a brilliant bit of trickery but Neymar ruins the chance by punting the ball wildly out of play. It flies out of camera shot and Clive says "it's still rising".
8 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
This game has started at a really high tempo. Brazil look a little bit more comfortable on the ball, England sitting back looking to hit balls over the top of the defence. Neymar tricks his way into the centre of the pitch but does a little too much.
It's all Brazil right at the moment, with England defending in a five.
5 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Paulinho ghosts past a tackle and plays Jesus in, who crosses over to Neymar, who shields the ball well. Or he does until England win the ball back and send Vardy away on the counter! He races down the right wing and has Rashford inside but his cross is too early and a little too far ahead of his partner.
Alves gets forward and tries a shot from 25 yards but he mis-hits and puts it way wide.
3 mins - ENG 0 - 0 BRA
Rashford attacks and is tackled near the Brazil box, Hart takes his time with a kick near his own goal and gets the crowd worked up as that time is extended right up til the point Neymar closes him down. Dani Alves has gone down after a 50/50 with Vardy, who goes in aggressively and catches him accidentally. He looks to be in a bit of pain on his right knee.
And here we go! Eric Dier gets the game started. Brazil's strip is just so lovely.
Which means it's time to listen to the greatest football song of all time:
Pre-match long read
This by Rob Bagchi is an excellent read.
Tite - revivalist, revolutionary or reactionary? How Brazil recovered from national humiliation
Brazil in 1970, wrote the great Uruguayan essayist and epigrammist Eduardo Galeano, “played a soccer worthy of her people’s yearning for celebration and craving for beauty”. It has become commonplace to argue ever since their grisly campaign to defend the World Cup in 1974 that the subsequent five decades have been spent in a kind of aesthetic wilderness, betraying the credo and paradigm of ‘the beautiful game’ in grim pursuit of defensive robustness to counterbalance the seemingly ad-lib attacking ingenuity. A fear of being overrun by unyielding, ruthless opponents should Brazil return to first principles as they did under Tele Santana in 1982, the hypothesis goes, has reduced them to sacrificing the poetic for the prosaic.
"At the moment they're the best team in the world. It's brilliant to test ourselves against the best.
"Before some of the pullouts we might not have played (Loftus-Cheek) in the first game.
"We've now got to dream of what's possible, not think about what might happen if we lose. Collectively that might take them above the level they're at now.
"To have success next summer we've got to beat these probably."
Southgate's new assistant manager
Have you ever seen Millwall look as glamorous as this?
Do you remember Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain?
A great England international of a forgotten time:
Jason Burt: We should applaud Southgate for courage of his convictions
I loved this piece from last night by Jason Burt on Southgate's strong-minded opinions reflecting a real attitude for change.
Here's the first bit:
If he is fit then Nathaniel Chalobah will be in the England squad for the World Cup. The 22-year-old is recovering from fracturing a kneecap and the hope is that he will be back playing for Watford by the end of March, if not before.
If that happens then Gareth Southgate can be expected to take Chalobah as part of his 23-man squad, even though the midfielder will have played only a handful of Premier League matches and is yet to be capped by the senior England team.
Why? Because he fits the vision. He fits the plan. He fits the way England will play. Because, in Southgate, England have, in fact, the boldest manager in recent times, the boldest, since Terry Venables back in the mid-90s. Venables was such a strong influence on Southgate, who played under him at Euro 96, and the way he wants his England to operate.
Neymar just hanging out
Lee Dixon is scared of Brazil... from the warm-up
"If that warm-up is anything to go by... we're in trouble. It was awesome watching them."
All the goalkeepers
That young chap on the right is Angus Gunn, who is currently playing very well for Norwich in the Championship. He hasn't played a single Premier League game for Man City, who own him, but that hasn't put Gareth Southgate off bringing him into the squad. I think it's great that Southgate actually treats the Under-21s as a stepping stone and doesn't just pick whoever happens to be famous at the time.
Brazil starting lineup
I can't find a teamsheet anywhere for some reason but this is what I believe to be the starting XI from various bits of online research. Harry Maguire is going to be defending against Coutinho, Jesus and Neymar this evening. It'll be fun to watch.
Alisson; Alves, Marquinhos, Miranda, Marcelo, Paulinho, Casemiro, Augusto, Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Neymar
Greetings everyone and welcome to our liveblog for tonight's international exhibition, as it would be referred to in ISS 98. That's a 90s video game reference for you there.
In more relevant news, here is the England team.
Joe Hart keeps his place in goal, while Joe Gomez - who was excellent against Germany - starts this time in place of the injured Phil Jones. Loftus-Cheek gets another chance to make that number 10 shirt adjust to his frame and does so in behind a front two of Vardy and Rashford, which suggests this is a team built for the counter-attack. That is fast.
Hart; Gomez, Maguire, Stones; Bertrand, Livermore, Dier, Walker, Loftus-Cheek; Vardy, Rashford.
Gareth Southgate was bold and loud with his thoughts on how highly England players should regard national (football) duty, taking aim at those who pull out of friendlies like this one at short notice:
“Coutinho hasn’t played for a few weeks for Liverpool, but he is there for Brazil. I imagine part of that is because he is thinking ‘if I’m not there and I’m not playing and someone else goes in, do I get the shirt back?’
“Maybe we haven’t had that, but I think moving forward we will have and I think that will affect people’s approach, definitely.”