South­gate’s young pre­tenders show heart and spirit and give Brazil a big fright

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - SPORT - MAN OF THE MATCH NEY­MAR BY JOHN CROSS Chief Football Writer

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

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