De­liver a re­al­ity check

The Guardian - Sport - - Football International Friendlies - Ney­mar shows beauty and craft but does not have it all his own way

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.

Sachin Nakrani

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

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