England and Brazil could not be separated in a dull encounter at Wembley Stadium, as Gareth Southgate’s side played to a drab 0-0 draw against the early World Cup favourites.
A familiar scene at Wembley
The Selecao started with flare and pace, causing the inexperienced England defence to create unwelcome space for Brazil early on, but the South American visitors often at times tried to showboat too much in the final third, allowing the hosts to regroup and concentrate on the danger.
Brazil’s struggles continued for most of the first half, with England essentially parking the bus against the nation going into Russia 2018 as the favourite to lift the World Cup, and the hosts made it hard for themselves to create chances.
From bad to worse for Southgate
Whilst Ruben Loftus-Cheek looked creative at times, the Chelsea midfielder picked up what looked to be a thigh injury half-an-hour in, forcing the on-loan Crystal Palace player to be replaced by Jesse Lingard.
With no Loftus-Cheek on the pitch, Southgate’s side found it extremely difficult to find a way past a sturdy and experienced Brazilian back line. Marcus Rashford looked dangerous in patches throughout the first half, but ultimately, neither side could find an opener in the first half.
Brazil come to life
Tite’s side almost got off to the perfect start in the second half, as Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho came inches away from giving Brazil the lead. The winger was slipped through on goal by his Premier League counterpart, Gabriel Jesus, but, Coutinho’s pea-roller of a strike was well saved by Joe Hart.
The introduction of Willian and Fernandinho to the Brazil squad allowed the five-time World Cup champions to exploit the wings more frequently, with Ryan Bertrand looking troubled down the left wing.
The Manchester City player almost punished England, as the ball-winning midfielder was allowed to stroll through the English defence with ease, and take a shot from distance. But his strike flew just wide of the post.
Both sides had chances to find a winning goal, but ultimately neither side could find a winner.
Three at the back looks wasted with England
Since the 3-4-3 revolution that turned Chelsea from Premier League strugglers to champions, every team in across the country has had a crack at trying to adopt Antonio Conte’s impressive tactic, including England. And tonight proved that three at the back simply doesn’t work for Southgate’s side.
Southgate decided to opt for a three at the back again for England, and although the formation does have its benefits defensively, going forward and looking creative is what England loose when utilising this formation.
The formation limits the use of creative wingers that England could seriously use with utilising further up field, and only using Loftus-Cheek as your creative outlet simply doesn’t work.
Brazil are the real deal
Tonight also proved that Brazil are serious contenders for the 2018 World Cup next summer. Tite’s side looked impressive all night, and had England not had three layers of defence to defend the ball for most of the night, Neymar and company would have had a night to remember.
An England midfield that lacked the below-par quality made it easy for Brazil to overrun the centre of the park and dominate in possession, and the front three for the aforementioned Neymar, Jesus and Coutinho is one of the most dangerous in international football.
Play them young, and play them now
Although England lacked any sort of creative bone in their body this evening, there were some promising signs from the younger players that Southgate’s side have a promising future beyond Russia.
But in order to obtain this future, Southgate must have the guts to play more kids in the squad rather than average players in their ‘prime’. For the Euro 2020 qualifying games, it would be wise to bleed in some of the kids that won the U20 and U17 World Cup into the England squad.