Toothless Brazil flattered to deceive as the five-times world champions were held to frustrating 0-0 draw by a makeshift England side in a disappointing friendly at Wembley on Tuesday.
Brazil manager Tite fielded all of his big guns, including the world’s most expensive player Neymar, but despite the samba-rhythm that beat out from their 5,000 fans, the men in the famous yellow shirts failed to light up a cold night.
England manager Gareth Southgate probably learned more about some of his fringe players who, as they did in a goalless draw with world champions Germany last week, defended with great discipline, even if the hosts offered little in attack.
Brazil cruised through South American qualifying to reach next year’s World Cup, and had won 13 of their 16 matches since Tite took over, but rarely tested Joe Hart, who became the first England goalie to keep a clean sheet against them since 1990.
The closest they came was when Fernandinho grazed the post.
“They were very tight at the back,” Fernandinho said. “It was hard making chances in the first half. In the second half we created more space but unfortunately we couldn’t score.”
England’s starting 11 boasted 208 caps to Brazil’s 454 but despite being under pressure defenders Joe Gomez, making his first start, John Stones and Harry Maguire all impressed, while Marcus Rashford was a powerful presence up front.
“In terms of heart, resilience and spirit it was up there with anything I’ve been involved in,” Southgate, without several players who will be on the plane to Russia, said.
“We couldn’t get hold of the ball and keep it. Tonight we just showed resilience, guts and some outstanding defending.”
With Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho in a Brazil starting lineup packed with experience and quality, the match had the potential to be a torrid evening for England.
The hosts spent most of the match watching the ball being pinged around, although for all Brazil’s intricate patterns the visitors were disappointing in the final third of the pitch where Neymar and Jesus barely had a sight of goal.
England keeper Hart, earning his 75th cap, enjoyed a quieter evening than he could possibly have imagined.
“I thought the defensive backline were phenomenal,” he said. “Joe (Gomez) played against one of the best players in the world (Neymar) and was excellent. We have played two of the best teams in the world, we didn’t win, but we didn’t lose.”
The second half was slightly livelier, with Rashford bursting through early on before being crowded out before Brazil counter-attacked and Neymar poked a clever pass to Dani Alves who forced a smart save from Hart.
Alves also became involved in a spat with England midfielder Jake Livermore after reacting angrily to an innocuous tackle.
Brazil’s best two chances came late on with Coutinho going close, substitute Fernandinho’s daisy-cutter clipping the post and Paulinho’s effort from a narrow angle pushed away by Hart.
Substitute Dominic Solanke could have won it for England at the death but his touch let him down in front of goal.