England's limitations exposed

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The Independent Online


reports from Wembley

England 1 Brazil 3

England found honour in defeat at Wembley yesterday. They also rediscovered shape, movement and bite. But, more than anything, they acquired a sense of perspective.

England played well against Brazil, as well as they have all season, yet they suffered their first loss under Terry Venables and their heaviest home defeat in 23 years. The World Cup winners lived up to their billing, showing England just how far they have to go to compete with the very best.

Juninho masterminded this victory, scoring one goal and making a second before David Batty's enthusiastic attentions finally forced him off the pitch.

Batty was one of England's strongest performers, and his aggressive approach did much to unsettle Brazil during the first-half. England just shaded that period and deserved their half-time lead. It was earned by a 38th-minute volleyed goal from Graeme Le Saux which any Brazilian would have been proud of.

Brazil secured the Umbro Cup by virtue of quality finishing as England's inexperienced defence was thrice sliced apart in the second half. From a free-kick, Juninho equalised after 54 minutes. Ronaldo, the 18-year- old, put Brazil ahead on the hour and Edmundo tied up victory with 15 minutes left.

England began boldly, perhaps inspired by events in South Africa earlier in the day. The biggest Wembley international crowd since Venables' opening game had established the mood before kick-off with a spirited rendition of their rugby cousins' anthem, "Swing low, sweet chariot".

The footballers quickly took up the baton, with Le Saux dribbling past two Brazilians before being fouled in a dangerous position by Aldair. Unfortunately for England, the over-tolerant Italian referee allowed the advantage and Sheringham, caught by surprise, wasted it.

Some players had cause to be grateful for his leniency later on, especially Batty, who should have been sent off after a dreadful lunge at Juninho after 66 minutes. The Blackburn midfielder had already been booked, and although his tackling added much to England's midfield, he must improve his discipline if he is not to become a liability.

The same could also be said for Edmundo, who should have been dismissed too for aiming a kick at Tim Flowers' head long after the goalkeeper had safely gathered a loose ball. Pierluigi Pairetto settled for booking him.

The first shots were English; Colin Cooper, John Scales and Sheringham all threatening Brazil's goal in an early burst of corners. But Brazil quickly showed greater potency, Roberto Carlos, the left flank powerhouse, drove a shot across Flowers' goal, then Ronaldo hit the inside of the left post.

Brazil slowly began to impose their passing game on England, but the defence stood firm. Then, as the match seemed to be drifting Brazil's way, England scored. Darren Anderton won a free-kick on the right which was headed away by Jorginho. It came to Le Saux, 28 yards out, who chested the ball down and volleyed it into the top right corner. Quite a way to open your England account, and deserved reward for a solid performance on the left side of midfield which gave England a much better shape.

But eight minutes into the second half, England's world crumbled. Batty, seeking to release Le Saux, gave the ball away. It was fed to Edmundo, who drove into England's defence and was fouled by a clutch of players, including Batty and Cooper. The child-sized Juninho made the free-kick look like child's play.

Six minutes later the waif was at it again, finding Ronaldo's intelligently angled run behind Scales with a gentle pass. The first touch took the ball round Flowers, the second put it into the net. Class finishing, and there was more to come. Roberto Carlos's long ball was inadvertently headed on by Stuart Pearce, Edmundo's first touch controlled it, his second poked it through Flowers' legs.

Pearce nearly made quick amends, hitting the bar with a deliberate deflection of David Platt's volley, then Stan Collymore, a late substitute, also went close. As England's last assault intensified, Scales suffered a fractured cheekbone through a clash of heads. However, that should be healed by the time Venables renews his England campaign as, after this performance, will most of their wounds of last week.

ENGLAND (4-4-2): Flowers (Blackburn); G Neville (Manchester United), Scales (Liverpool), Cooper (Nottingham Forest), Pearce (Nottingham Forest); Anderton (Tottenham), Batty (Blackburn), Platt (Sampdoria), Le Saux (Blackburn); Shearer (Blackburn), Sheringham (Tottenham). Substitutes: Gascoigne (Lazio) for Batty, 78; Collymore (Nottingham Forest) for Sheringham, 78; Barton (Newcastle) for Scales, 89.

BRAZIL: (3-5-2): Zetti (Sao Paulo); Aldair (Roma), Marcio Santos (Fiorentina), Cesar Sampaio (Yokohama Flugels); Jorginho (Kashima Antlers), Dunga (VfB Stuttgart), Juninho (Sao Paulo), Zinho (Yokohama Flugels), Roberto Carlos (Palmeiras); Edmundo (Flamengo), Ronaldo (PSV Eindhoven). Substitutes: Giovanni (Santos) for Ronaldo, 76; Leonardo (Kashima Antlers) for Juninho, 84; Ronaldao (Shimizu S-Pulse) for Aldair, 89.

Referee: P Pairetto (Italy).