So let’s start at the beginning. After the mess that was Wednesday night Roy Hodgson started with a formation that might actually prove to be some use. They reverted back to 3 in midfield with 2 men wide with Rooney through the middle on his own. I wasn’t optimistic but at least there were reasons to at least think England could make a decent contest of it. Besides the last time England played Brazil in the Maracana John Barnes scored that goal and England won 2-0 so according to ITV that meant they were in with a chance. Er… not quite.In the 1st half England were awful. And I mean awful. The best player for the men in red was goalkeeper Joe Hart. That should tell you everything. This is not to say that Brazil were fantastic, contrary to popular belief they haven’t been for years, they were just quite a bit better than England. England constantly gave the ball away inviting pressure, and their 1st real attempt on goal didn’t come until the 39th minute when Walcott had a shot well saved by Cesar in the Brazilian goal. On the whole England once again seemed incapable of stringing 3 passes together and had begun aimlessly clearing the ball from the edge of their area rather than trying to pass it to a teammate. And even though Hart had so far been the best English player his continued poor distribution meant that the ball just kept coming back at him. Brazil had been on top and had had chances but entertainment was at a premium.
Those of us watching the game on T.V were in danger of missing the 2nd half as the live feed apparently wasn’t working and we were left to wonder what was in the mysterious rucksack that had appeared next to Arian Chiles. (My money was on Lee Dixon)Was that the God’s trying to tell us something? At the start of the 2nd half there was an improvement in tempo from England but not an improvement in quality. In fact nothing much of anything was happening. Things only livened up when the Brazilian fans rose as one to vent their frustration at the substitution of Oscar, for Lucas Mora. But then much to the relief of everyone involved the game sprung to life. Hernanes picked the ball up 25 yards from goal and curled a superb effort against the crossbar and while the English defence stood and admired his effort Fred pounced to slot away the rebound. But their lead would last all of 10 minutes. Oxlade-Chamberlain had been brought off the bench causing a bit of a reshuffle, and despite my low expectations it actually worked.Chamberlain received the ball from Rooney on the edge of the area and fired into the bottom corner of the net. England had their equaliser and Chamberlain had scored on the same ground where his Dad had represented England 29 years earlier. You may have been forgiven for thinking that this was going to be as good as it got for England but how wrong we all were. Rooney picked the ball up half way inside the Brazilian half and in some sort of flashback to 2004 he ran at the heart of the Brazilian defence and his deflected shot found its way into the top corner. Chants of ‘Rooney, Rooney’ echoed around the Maracana. No, I didn’t expect to be typing that either.
However just as England fans were beginning to think that somehow they were their way to victory Paulinho was left all alone to volley home a Lucas Mora cross from 15 yards out. Well, they always say that it’s the hope that kills you. Brazil pressed for the remaining minutes but could not find a winning goal. England had just held Brazil in the Maracana but it had nearly been so much more. But, before we all get a bit carried away sadly it’s my job to bring a little realism to proceedings.
The only reason England got close to Brazil tonight is that Brazil aren’t very good. I mean they aren’t hopeless by any means but they are far from world beaters. England may have got a draw but all of the old flaws remain. Glenn Johnson is still a liability at right back, Hart’s distribution is still poor and as a team they still seem to think that if they keep the ball for more than 30 seconds at a time it will explode. Although having said that, it was an improvement on Wednesday night, not that that was difficult.Before I go I’ll leave you to ponder this… England just held Brazil in Brazil while having some key men out injured. The World Cup has got to be in the bag right?