England’s draw with Germany last week saw an encouraging all round display but this always looked a sterner test for England’s experimental side. Whereas Joachim Loew used his Wembley friendly to experiment and fine tune his squad, Brazil manager Tite picked his strongest 11 (Jurgen Klopp may take a dim view of Coutinho starting the match) as Brazil attempt to pile up victories in order to enter the World Cup as favourites.
The pattern was set early with Brazil dominating possession and England attempting to counter, they almost did on 2 minutes when Jamie Vardy broke free but over hit the cross for Marcus Rashford. Neymar was mesmerizing whilst their high intensity pressing saw England struggle to retain possession. An outrage chipped pass from Neymar on 22 minutes almost unlocked England’s backline but Gabriel Jesus marginally offside.
The first half progressed with Brazil probing and creating but Joe Hart remained largely a spectator as Brazil struggled to break down a well drilled England backline. On 34 minutes Ruben Loftus-Cheek was substituted due to injury, a particular disappointment given his impressive debut on Friday night. Brazil had 72% of possession in the first half but few clear cut chances to show for it as the half ended scoreless.
The second half started with a bang with Marcus Rashford breaking well but Brazil winning the ball back and Neymar setting up Coutinho and forcing a smart stop from Hart.
Rashford continued to provide an outlet for England- drawing fouls and keeping the Brazilian defence on watch- most notably with a jinking run on 56 minutes. As the game wore on Brazil continued to entertain however England caused them enough trouble with their pace but consistently struggled to find the pass to open Brazil up.
A defensive error from Ryan Bertrand after 63 minutes almost gifted Jesus and Neymar another chance but for some excellent defensive play from Joe Gomez.
England started to build more considered attacks in the final 20 minutes but struggled for clear-cut openings as Dom Solanke made his debut. But the best chance fell to Fernandinho when Dier lost the ball and the Man City midfielder hit the right post, at the other end Solanke showed an immediate liking for senior football by beating 3 Brazilian defenders and winning a free kick.
Amongst the youthful England side Ashley Young returned to the fold and moments after coming on denied Willian a clear-cut chance with an excellent tackle.
Brazil pushed for the winner in the closing stages with Marcelo almost springing the offside trap with a beautiful cross field ball and Paulinho forcing Hart into a sharp save. But England almost had the last laugh with Young crossing and Solanke not quite able to take his chance and at the death Kyle Walker almost played in Tammy Abraham.
It finished nil nil, Southgate spoke of his pride at the efforts of his young side whilst Tite bemoaned England’s defensive tactics, but the last week has shown England move forward from a turgid qualifying campaign.
Joe Hart 7/10- Three good saves, Hart is proving there is substance to him keeping Jordan Pickford out of the side, for now.
Kyle Walker 6/10- Unable to get forward as he would like- understandable when he was up against Marcelo and Neymar down the England right flank.
Ryan Bertrand 5/10- Disciplined but poor on the ball- will be anxious for his place if Luke Shaw gets a move in January.
Joe Gomez 8/10- Comfortable on the ball, excellent in defence- might just have got himself a World Cup place.
John Stones 7/10- England’s premier centre half with the ball is now a commanding presence without it- paramount to his teams hopes next summer.
Harry Maguire 6.5/10- Didn’t do much with the ball but competent in defence, still a borderline case for inclusion.
Eric Dier 6/10- Marshalled the side well but needs a more expansive partner in midfield, Harry Winks perhaps?
Jake Livermore 5/10- Another night of hard tackling and ponderous possesion from Livermore- Will struggle to make the cut
Ruben Loftus Cheek 5/10- No slight on him, his low mark is purely down to leaving the game so early- how England could have used him when the game started to open up.
Jamie Vardy 6/10- Caused problems with his pace but ultimately a frustrating night for Vardy.
Marcus Rashford 8/10- Took the game to Brazil and showed why he could be the key player for England next summer.
Jesse Lingard 6/10- Got up and down well but rarely a creative threat.
Tammy Abraham 5/10- Still finding his feet at this level.
Dominic Solanke 6/10- Looks right at home at this level, providing England with a focal point in the final third.
Ashley Young 6/10- A great tackle and solid in the closing stages.
Danny Rose N/a- Got on in the 90th minute.
Football fan, follower of England, Leeds and will watch any game possible (between raising twins!)