“Honours even again.Not bad for the average Joe” Match Report. England 0 Brazil 0

Expectation was high. A match which promised so much alas ultimately failed to deliver the exciting calypso football that the large Wembley crowd were hoping for. 

The game never really flowed, being punctuated by numerous stoppages, tedious  fouling and both sides, particularly Brazil, being unusually careless in possession.
The Brazilian ‘golden boys’ excited sporadically but were distinctly off colour and were never really able to break down the resolute English backline. A long range low skidding drive from Fernandinho, which grazed the post, and a close range shot from Paulinho in the closing stages, which bounced off Joe Hart’s chest, was the closest that they came. Neymar, all dancing feet, could not find his range, several attempts on goal finishing closer to Row Z than Hart’s goal.
Maybe things would have been different if this was tournament football.  At times it did resemble a practice match, clearly lacking the intensity that a ‘proper’ match commands. After all, a friendly is just that.
However, England will not mind too much. They can only play what is in front of them and, in the space of five days, they have held the two best sides in the world to a draw. On both occasions they have fielded a vastly more inexperienced team than their opponents and have more than held their own.
Southgate was bold in selection and his ‘young guns’ did him proud. His decision to throw the youngsters in was more than justified and it has to be hoped that he continues with this policy of youth going forward and to the World Cup.
Whilst Friday night’s star, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, gingerly left the field after half an hour with a back injury, his fellow new boys stepped up to the mark. None more so than Joe Gomez, who was rightly named man of the match, for an extremely polished performance, showing much poise and time on the ball as well as an excellent reading of the game in defensive situations.
Harry Maguire was exceptional too and their elevation to the senior side possibly marks the end of the international careers of the likes of Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling. John Stones, organising matters from the centre of the new back three formation, is now a certainty in his position for many years to come.
From an attacking perspective, England will be disappointed not to have scored in either game and maybe the return of captain Kane will assist in this regard in the summer. In his absence, Jamie Vardy has proved a willing runner and always gives his all. He makes a nuisance of himself, making up for his sometimes uncertain touch with bags of effort and endeavour. It is unlikely that he will ever become the complete international striker, albeit he is a good man to have in and around the squad.
Tonight Marcus Rashford posed England’s most potent attacking threat. A few swivels and turns had the crowd gasping and the Brazilians grasping, at thin air. Yet for all his promise, he was unable to quite create a clear opening for himself, but he can feel proud of his efforts against such a proven Brazilian defence.
There was just time for another Southgate debut, this time for Dominic Solanke, fresh from a goalscoring performance for the under 21’s on Friday night. Like the other debutants in these two games, he slotted in seamlessly, as if he had been playing senior international football for years. With no fear, he executed a perfect turn and run within moments of entering the field of play and had the crowd purring at his audacity. Another prospect with possibly a big future ahead of him and further proof of the success of the ‘pathway’ that Southgate and the FA are trying to create through the corridors and on the fields of St George’s Park.
As the crowd drifted off into the night, Southgate and the powers that be at the FA can feel well satisfied with this autumn double header. Two decent team performances, where the ‘young guns’ have been let off the leash, bodes well for the future. To Russia with hope.

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