Deliver a reality check
Brazil demonstrate their defensive nous
The focus prior to kick-off was, justifiably, on Brazil’s attacking talent but on a night of few chances and sporadic spells of scintillating play, the eye was drawn to the visitors’ defensive capabilities. Tite has made this side more robust, with the two centre-backs, Miranda and Marquinhos, dominant with their front-foot defending and solid with their positioning, while in midfield Casemiro, Paulinho and Renato Augusto were regularly aggressive and disciplined. Brazil’s balance is near perfect and barring a catalogue of injuries, they will be a major threat in Russia next summer.
Loftus-Cheek hands manager a setback
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s early withdrawal was a setback for Southgate and an even bigger one for the player, who would have hoped to build on his decent showing against Germany. There were some nice touches from the 21-year-old before he departed and the question now is whether he will be involved when England play next. By then, Dele Alli and Adam Lallana should be available for selection. However, in general, his call-up to the senior setup has been encouraging and all he can do is continue to impress for Crystal Palace between now and England’s friendly with Holland in March.
Southgate has reason for optimism in 2018
So ends England’s 2017 and overall it has been a positive calendar year for the national team. Yes there were negatives, namely the evening in Paris when they were beaten and outplayed by France, but this was also the year England qualified for the World Cup with ease and Southgate introduced fresh faces to his squad while attempting to implement a more progressive style of play. The sense of renewal is tangible and while it may all come crumbling down next summer, for now there should be measured optimism surrounding England going into 2018.
a midfield duo that would undoubtedly be extremely useful moving furniture out of a van, or manoeuvring a piano up a flight of stairs, but perhaps lacking a little when it comes to guile and delicacy of touch. In front of them Ruben Loftus-Cheek was again delegated all creative midfield duties. England’s manager is diligent, focused, intense but he is unlikely ever to be confused with a cavalier.
England did hold their own though, never at any stage falling prey to the Neymar show, never tempted to sit back and admire. In the second minute Loftus Cheek pressed up so aggressively against Neymar’s back as he wiggled and shimmied in search of space they seemed to be Charlestoning together 30 yards back towards his own goal. Neymar was kicked by Kyle Walker, turned, played a one-two sniping in off the left.
Throughout, and increasingly as time wore on, England showed they do have some flair of their own. For Rashford in particular this was a fine occasion, playing in effect opposite a player on whom he has modelled parts of his game. He played well here, showing his own confidence on the ball, sniping into space on both flanks, not afraid to dribble and twist and take on his man. If Neymar dominated the opening half
Brazil’s main man at times lit up Wembley on a night when Rashford also shone, writes