Pictures of real promise at an exhibition
Ian Ridley sees the world champions provide a yardstick for England's progress
Wednesday 11 June 1997
It is easy to be intimidated by Brazil, not physically - not since 1974 at least - but by players who treat the ball as lovers rather than mere friends. That and 50 years of the world game's proudest culture and record. Most nations have other diversions, Brazil has its football.
Perhaps it was why England began so tentatively on an oppressive Parisian night. Five Brazilian corners in the first five minutes, amid them Cafu nutmegging Paul Ince, suggested that an England, whose zealous physical commitment at this tournament has been questioned, could well struggle.
Then they caught the mood, as if to show that the barbarians are gradually being driven from the gates of the English game. Paul Gascoigne showed a few of the old tricks, while Paul Scholes, precociously unlikely to be intimidated, produced a back-heel, as did his Manchester United team-mate Gary Neville.
Unfortunately, much of what followed was exhibition stuff. England had already won the tournament, the Brazilians had peaked two days earlier against Italy and have this weekend's Copa America on their mind. When Djalminha carelessly curled a free-kick over the bar, a crass section of England's support chanted: "You're shit and you know you are." You're Dunga and, no, they're not, would have been more accurate.
Though the midfield was often open acreage, with pressing at a minimum, the game did become competitive whenever the defences were called into action. At the back Sol Campbell's development continued apace and two timely tackles on Ronaldo were especially impressive.
Campbell and Martin Keown, unluckily sustaining a broken arm, then Gary Neville largely coped confidently with a potentially outstanding partnership - until Romario darted in for his goal, that was. With R and R - who eclipsed England's SAS - there is precious little rest and recreation.
Just ahead of them Paul Ince confirmed his eligibility for comparison with the best holding midfield players at Le Tournoi. Further forward, Scholes was vibrant for his hour once more. Gascoigne, still short of match fitness, had his moments - but so he should have done in such an indulgent atmosphere.
Brazil, though, had the change of pace when they sensed the moment was right. Roberto Carlos's free-kick early in the second half turned over by David Seaman, on the ground where Nayim embarrassed him from near the half-way line, hinted at what was to come. Romario made it plain. It was good night, England.
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Emirates was the easy option for Mesut Ozil. He needs a leader - and Arsenal don't have them
Ronaldinho dream XI: John Terry, Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele are in as former Barcelona superstar names ideal side
Police want right of veto over 'high risk' Friday night fixtures in wake of new Premier League TV deal
Gareth Bale reveals the two things he hates about Real Madrid: 'Getting nutmegged and Spanish spiders'
Cristiano Ronaldo shows off his dance moves, including the moonwalk
- 1 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 3 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 4 Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...
£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...
£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...
£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...