Boys from Brazil prove Fabio's understudies have lot to learn
Brazil 1 England 0: Questionable enterprise provides little insight for Capello as captain Rooney fails to inspire side
Sunday 15 November 2009
Unused to playing to a largely shirt-sleeved crowd on a mid-November night, a depleted England got what was coming and set off on the seven-hour flight home grateful the damage was no worse. It would have been, but for a shocking penalty miss by Luis Fabiano after Ben Foster, playing in goal in preference to Robert Green, should have been sent off. Brazil, joint favourites with Spain to win the World Cup, may claim to have gained a psychological advantage over a side the bookmakers rate not far behind them, but for all their fluid play it would be wrong to read too much into what was probably the most low-key of the 23 meetings between the countries.
The game was played in sultry rather than searing heat but conditions still seemed to take an awful lot out of England's players in particular. Brazil's, although more used to it, were happy to play at a slow tempo with an occasional spurt. At one moment after half an hour, both sides were strung out down the pitch like Sunday morning park teams, apparently lacking either the legs or inclination to follow the ball. It was unlike anything either side will face in the South African winter in June, which raised another question about the wisdom of agreeing to the fixture at this venue.
Fabio Capello has been keen to test his men against strong opposition, but he continued losing players right up to the day of the game. Manchester United's Michael Carrick was the last to drop out, with an ankle injury, offering a chance to Jermaine Jenas for the first time in 14 months. Jenas was one of many who failed to grasp it, Wes Brown also wasting the opportunity to establish himself as Glen Johnson's deputy at right-back and leaving the manager awaiting Owen Hargreaves' comeback almost as eagerly as Sir Alex Ferguson.
In similar circumstances exactly a year ago, a patched-up side achieved a notable 2-1 win over Germany in Berlin, when John Terry scored a late winning goal. Here the whole of the regular back five was absent, Terry included, which meant Wayne Rooney, taking the captain's armband for the first time, and Gareth Barry were the only first-choice players available.
Capello surprisingly kept his substitutions to a minimum for 80 minutes, even though several players looked as if they would have welcomed a rest. Brazil were not at full strength either, though their list of absentees – including Robinho, Pato, Luisao, Melo and Fabio Aurelio – hardly compared to England's, at least in numbers. In their periodic shifts from the beautiful game to a more Eurocentric style, Brazil have been in a pragmatic phase under Dunga, who replaced Carlos Alberto Parreira after an underwhelming effort at the 2006 World Cup.
After a spectacular light show before kick-off the football was dull in the extreme. Once Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo and Kaka started playing little triangles in midfield, England were resigned to chasing the ball while they were still physically capable of it. Until taking the lead in the 47th minute, Brazil's end product nevertheless amounted to little more than one real chance.
Midway through the first half, an effortless move flowed through Kaka to Michel Bastos, the debutant left-back, who slashed a shot low and beyond the far post. There was one early slip by Matthew Upson, not used to being the senior central defender, conceding possession out by the touchline to the outstanding Nilmar, but Joleon Lescott, not for the last time, was well placed to cut out the cross. No fantasy or wizardry was required to score right at the start of the second half, just a straightforward diagonal ball forward from Elano.
It bisected Upson and the increasingly unhappy Brown, both of whom had allowed Nilmar to sneak behind them, from where he directed a clever header past Foster. For England the early promise engendered by Shaun Wright-Phillips' testing cross, just too far ahead of Rooney, faded. Darren Bent wanted the ball delivered earlier and therefore tended to run offside; he had one scoring chance, a stretching header placed wide from James Milner's cross in the 54 minutes he was allowed before Jermain Defoe replaced him as England's first change.
A minute after that Brazil should have added to their lead. Brown's back-header was far too short for his United colleague Foster, who brought down Nilmar. He ought to have become the second England goalkeeper sent off in three games but the Qatari referee, generously entering the spirit of the occasion, decided a yellow card should suffice. Fabiano leant back and clipped the penalty high over the bar.
With nine outfield players against this opposition in such conditions, England would have been overrun. Instead they might have made a game of it had Milner not volleyed too high from Wright-Phillips' centre. There was no turning the tide, however, and 12 minutes from time Lucio, the defensive giant and captain, strode forward again and shuddered a post from 20 yards.
It all emphasised how well founded are Capello's fears about just how many players he will have in top condition by the end of the English season.
Referee: Abdulrahman Abdou (Qatar)
Man of the match: Nilmar
Match rating: 5/10
Man for man marking: England
Ben Foster 6/10
The customary experience for an England goalkeeper of being left hideously exposed by the men in front of him. Hence he could do little to prevent the goal and gave away a penalty after Brown's poor effort at a backpass.
Wes Brown 4/10
Had a torrid afternoon against Nilmar and can now start to plan his 2010 summer holidays. He never got to grips with the speedy winger, lost possession too easily and in chesting the ball back to his goalkeeper presented Nilmar with a chance, ended by Foster's foul.
Matthew Upson 6/10
With injuries to John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in recent internationals, the West Ham centre-back has become something of a regular for Capello, and after an early mistake formed a decent partnership with Lescott.
Joleon Lescott 6/10
Looked uncertain in recent internationals and is taking time to settle at Manchester City but made a steadier contribution here with good blocks and interceptions.
Wayne Bridge 6/10
Keen to establish himself as Ashley Cole's cover at left-back and did well enough in the first half but tired in the conditions during the second. Just about good enough as an able second choice against a side who never reached top gear.
Shaun Wright-Phillips 4/10
After another stuttering, ineffective performance the Manchester City winger can join Brown in the queue at the travel agents. Was kept quiet by Bastos with some ease.
Jermaine Jenas 4/10
An opportunity spurned by the Tottenham midfielder who was far too invisible and seemed content to let the senior players shoulder the responsilibility while contributing little in attack.
Gareth Barry 6/10
As the senior – and apparently lone – central midfielder the Manchester City man worked tirelessly to get England's attack moving but to no avail. Harassed Kaka and Co but needed help in England's lightweight midfield. With the return of some senior players his place should be secure.
James Milner 7/10
The Aston Villa winger has looked an increasingly good international option on the left wing to Joe Cole and Stewart Downing and again did his prospects no harm at all with an enthusiastic and energetic performance that was only betrayed by some poor crossing from the left. Combined well and was one of the few England players with reason to be satisfied with his 90 minutes' work.
Wayne Rooney 6/10
Captain in place of the injured John Terry, the Manchester United striker was hampered by a lack of service but it might have been different if he had connected with an early cross from Wright-Phillips. But he missed the chance and subsequently so did several of his team-mates. Thereafter he drifted in and out of the match and began to look frustrated but managed to keep a lid on that volatile temper. The responsibility of parenthood and captaincy perhaps?
Darren Bent 4/10
Has not moved ahead of Emile Heskey or Carlton Cole on the evidence of 54 minutes of running and not for the first time he did not look a genuine international player. Granted, the Sunderland striker did not have the best of service, but to take his chance he needed to go a-hunting for the ball and opportunities more eagerly.
Jermain Defoe Replaced Bent after 54 minutes but made no impression whatsoever.
Peter Crouch Came on for Wright-Phillips but his height did not disturb the Brazilians' defence.
Tom Huddlestone Replaced Barry, who had done the work of two. Did nothing in the few minutes allotted him to suggest he is ready for the full international stage.
Ashley Young One Villa winger replaced another when he came on for Milner with little more than five minutes of normal time remaining. In view of the work put in by other young pretenders, Young probably had the better deal.
Man for man marking: Brazil
Julio Cesar 6/10
The Internazionale goalkeeper was rarely tested by England's sporadic pressure and was mostly content to watch shots and headers go high and wide.
A reported target for Chelsea and Manchester City, the Inter full-back had a couple of interesting tussles with Milner as he guarded Brazil's right. Unexpectedly, not as adventurous as his opposite number.
Had a solid match, brightened by a first-half foray that almost reached the halfway line, and a second-half shot from 25 yards that shuddered Foster's left-hand post with the goalkeeper beaten. Kept Bent and Defoe quiet.
Thiago da Silva 6/10
His partnership with Lucio in the centre of defence was never subjected to sustained pressure, but he coped well enough with the small brief flurries of activity that England possession brought.
Michel Bastos 7/10
Not afraid to make progress deep into the opposition's half, as we expect of a Brazilian left-back, the Lyon player flashed one shot past Foster's far post and, after Wright-Phillips' cross in the opening seconds, kept his flank shut tight.
Gilberto Silva 7/10
An important cog in Dunga's organisation, the 33-year-old former Arsenal midfielder won his 84th cap with a typically pragmatic performance, protecting his back four diligently while lurking behind the attacks ready to regain possession.
Felipe Melo 7/10
Was expected to miss out through injury but passed fit to share Gilberto's role as holding midfielder and had a quietly effective match.
Burst dangerously through the centre several times but his threat was kept to a minimum by Barry and Jenas. The Real Madrid midfielder did indeed look like a player struggling to find his role at club level.
Delivered the conclusive pass of the contest when he perfectly picked out the inviting space between Brown and Upson into which Nilmar ran to head in Brazil's goal.
The left-winger's explosive pace and close control was a regular source of trouble to Brown and he used that control to drift in from the wing to head Brazil's winning goal and later to win a penalty which...
Luis Fabiano 7/10
...missed – the only blot on the striker's otherwise impressively skilful and muscular performance. Substituted after a clash of heads.
Dani Alves On for Elano after 64 minutes
Hulk Replaced Fabiano after 66 minutes.
Julio Baptista On for Kaka after 81 minutes.
Carlos Eduardo Replaced Nilmar after 81 minutes.
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