The funny thing is that until last week it had been seven years since England’s last goalless draw at Wembley, going all the way back to a Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro when Fabio Capello was in charge. They have now had two in the space of four days but that is not necessarily such a bad thing when the opposition both times have been the highest-placed teams in Fifa’s world rankings.
Gareth Southgate can certainly be encouraged by successive clean sheets against, first, Germany and now a Brazil side that thinks of itself as football royalty and will also go to the World Cup with realistic ambitions of winning the trophy. England have managed two creditable results while playing experimental sides. Joe Gomez was named as the man of the match for this one and Dominic Solanke, a second-half substitute, will certainly remember the night he won his first cap. Solanke came on with Tammy Abraham after 75 minutes, meaning Southgate has given half a dozen players their England debuts over the course of these two fixtures.
How many of those players will still be involved when England reconvene in March, with fixtures arranged against Holland and Italy, remains to be seen but Southgate is entitled to think it has been a useful exercise, particularly bearing in mind the nature of the line-up.
Unlike Germany’s policy of experimentation last Friday, this was the strongest team available to Tite, the Brazilian coach. For long, difficult spells England were reminded why it will be so imperative to keep the ball against the best teams in the World Cup, namely because once it is given away it can be a long time before it comes back. That in itself made this a rarity at Wembley: an England game where the opposition dominated possession, with the more refined touches and the swagger of a side that knows they are something special.
Southgate was right when he said it made sense to invite Brazil to Wembley, taking into account the kind of challenges his team might encounter in Russia next summer, but it did also show the imbalance of talent that explains why England
Hart; Gomez, Stones, Maguire; Walker, Dier, Livermore■ (Rose, 90), Bertrand (Young, 80); Loftus-Cheek (Lingard, 35); Vardy (Solanke, 75), Rashford (Abraham, 75).
Subs not used
Pickford, Gunn, Trippier, Cahill, Keane, Cork, Cook.
Referee A Ribeiro (Por)