international football

Second-string England hold Neymar’s Brazil to a draw in friendly

The star-studded visitors tested Joe Hart’s goal only three times as the game finished 0-0.

Neymar and his Brazil colleagues were held to a frustrating goalless draw after a spirited display by a callow England team in Tuesday’s friendly match at Wembley Stadium. Brazil coach Tite was able to name a first-choice starting XI, but despite the presence of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho in the visitors’ line-up, they tested England goalkeeper Joe Hart only three times.

For Gareth Southgate’s England, who were once again without stars such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling through injury, it was a second successive encouraging 0-0 draw following Friday’s stalemate with Germany.

Liverpool forward Dominic Solanke’s appearance as a late substitute made him the sixth England player to have made his debut over the two games. “In terms of heart, resilience and spirit, it was up there with anything I’ve been involved in,” Southgate told ITV. “We’ve played the best two teams in the world and kept two clean sheets, which gives us something to build on.”

While Southgate reflected with pride on his young team’s maturity, it was a case of back to the drawing board for Tite. Brazil have won 13 of their 17 games since he took charge in June 2016, but their failure to unsettle such green opponents raised questions about their prospects of a sixth World Cup triumph in Russia next year.

“One team was proposing the game, trying to exert pressure in a high line and play with the ball,” Tite said. “The other team was defending more, playing more compact and waiting for a mistake to counter-attack.

“In a match like this, we’ll have fewer opportunities. But although we had fewer opportunities than in other matches, we had the best ones. I can’t remember one or two chances for them that scared us.”

Style and little substance

Image credit: England
Image credit: England

Jesus worked Hart with a near-post header from a Dani Alves cross 12 minutes in. Yet for all their back-heels and bravado, Brazil made few inroads, with Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar twice ballooning shots high into the seating behind Hart’s goal.

England worked Brazil goalkeeper Alisson only once before half-time and he had little trouble fielding a rasping drive from Marcus Rashford. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who had starred on his debut against Germany, would last only 34 minutes on his return to Wembley as injury obliged him to cede his place to Jesse Lingard.

Brazil created their first clear chance early in the second period when Neymar’s pass freed Coutinho, only for the recalled Hart to block with his legs. Substitute Fernandinho went even closer with 14 minutes remaining, but after a surging run from halfway, his low 25-yard effort grazed the left-hand post.

A spate of substitutions had the effect of opening up space in the England half, but still the hosts resisted. Ashley Young marked his return after four years in the international wilderness by sliding in to block from Willian seconds after coming on, while Hart stood up well to thwart Roberto Firmino from Neymar’s pass.

Solanke, 20, might have claimed a famous winner at the death when Young’s deep cross from the left found him unmarked at the back post, but Alisson slid out bravely to block.

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