LONDON (Reuters) - 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 was beat out by their 5,000 fans, the men in the famous yellow shirts failed to light up a cold night.
England manager Gareth Southgate probably learnt 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, who cruised through their South American qualifying campaign to reach next year’s World Cup, hardly threatened in the first half with their best chance coming late on when Fernandinho grazed the post.
England, whose starting 11 boasted 208 caps to Brazil’s 454, had a few flurries of their own with substitute Dominic Solanke spurning a late chance for glory.
England have only won once in their last 11 matches against Brazil, but manager Southgate said it had been another important building block for next year’s finals in Russia.
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’s callow defence in which Joe Gomez started for the first time.
It was no surprise then that England spent most of the match watching the ball being pinged around, although for all Brazil’s intricate patterns they were disappointing in the final third of the pitch where Neymar and Jesus barely had a sight of goal.
England keeper Joe 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 England striker Marcus 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 then came late on.
First substitute Fernandinho’s daisy-cutter from 25 metres brushed the post and six minutes from time Paulinho was played in by Neymar’s clever pass but his powerful shot from a narrow angle was pushed away by Hart.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris