KIDS ARE A
Southgate’s young pretenders show heart and spirit and give Brazil a big fright
AT times, they were chasing shadows.
But chase was exactly what England did for 90 long, painful and very educating minutes.
Gareth Southgate’s men have now somehow scrapped and battled their way to back-toback goalless draws against the teams ranked No.1 and No.2 in the world.
They did it with pri d e, England showing real character as they ran until nothing was left in their legs, with Southgate looking on nervously from the touchline.
Brazil turned up in the mood to party and yet the Three Lions turned off the lights, sent them on their way with little chance to samba, and can take genuine confidence from two excellent performances.
England were good against Germany. But th e y we re resolute a g a i n s t Ti t e’s Brazilians, defying one of the hot favourites for next summer’s World Cup.
The samba drum beat in the background and, when Neymar’s name was read out, it was as if a pop superstar was playing at Wembley, rather than Brazil’s football team.
But Southgate’s men refused to let the visitors dance to their own tune, bringing their own bulldog spirit as they snapped and bit at their opponents’ heels.
If the Germany friendly on Friday night was a confidence booster for the manager, t hen thi s of t e n threatened to be humiliating.
Neymar with his nutmegs, flicks, tricks and skills. Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho looked in the mood, and Brazil pinned England back, mesmerising them with their passing and movement.
Ruben Loftus-cheek took a “if you can’t beat them, join them” sort of attitude as he tried a few Cruyff turns of his own, before being forced off early on with a back injury (receiving treatment, below).
You can only feel sorry for 2 1 - ye a r - o l d L of tu s - Ch e e k . Could not get a game at Chelsea, loaned out to Crystal Palace, and now finally gets his chance with England, only to see his night curtailed after 32 minutes.
Jamie Vardy looked lively with his pace and fearless attitude, smashing into Dani Alves with a br utal early challenge, as if to prove he does not respect reputations, let alone get intimidated by them.
But generally England did look a little bit daunted as they watched the Brazilians knock the ball about around them.
There was a priceless moment after 30 minutes, when Neymar turned, nutmegged Jake Livermore, and then sprinted away to set up another attack.
Poor old Livermore. From being a journeyman midfielder with West Brom to trying to chase down the world’s most expensive player. You do not get this at the Hawthorns.
When England did get the ball, they were far too clumsy
RYAN THE MIGHTY Ryan Bertrand fights to tackle Philippe Coutinho, while (left) Marcus Rashford lets fly