Brazil 2-2 England
A late Paulinho goal thwarted England’s chance to make history as Brazil earned a draw in the new redeveloped Maracana.
The exterior of the stadium and parts of the interior, is still a work in progress in preparation for the World Cup next year. This almost led to the game not even going ahead due to safety fears. However some frantic work from construction crews meant Brazil vs England was a go. The searing temperatures in South America also provided another test for England’s tired, energy drained squad to conquer, on top of a long and frantic season.
The ‘Temple of Football’ around 3/4 full still generated huge amounts of noise but in the first half practically all of the noise was from the home faithful. Leighton Baines blocking an early acrobatic effort from Neymar, and Dani Alves shot just wide from distance.
Neymar at only 20, orchestrated most of Brazil’s attacking play, his quick feet, nimble technique and injection of pace teased England throughout the first 45. But he had competition, in the form of Joe Hart. The first battle came when Neymar controlled a 40 yard pass from Alves after a Glen Johnson slip but Hart saved. In addition Hart made brave double saves to deny Hulk and Filipe.
Neymar then curled an effort wide, it got worse for England’s desperate defence when Baines was replaced by Ashley Cole. England mustered their first effort on goal after 40 minutes, Glen Johnson’s reverse pass finding Walcott who could only strike against Julio Cesar.
England looked better towards the back end of the first half, Frank Lampard tested Cesar again but Brazil had complete control of the game. Somehow England went into the break at 0-0.
The second half gave England some much needed possession but it was the hosts who deservedly took the lead. Hernanes’s shot cracked off the bar but no England player reacted and Fred knocked in the rebound on 57 minutes for 1-0. Roy Hodgson then brought on Oxlade-Chamberlain. This transformed the game. James Milner had a shot deflected wide and Rooney also sent a header wide.
And Oxlade-Chamberlain’s time arrived after 67 minutes when Rooney headed Lampard’s ball into his path and he drilled a powerful low finish past Cesar for the equaliser. The Arsenal teenager’s father, former Stoke winger Mark Chamberlain, played in the Maracana when England secured a famous 2-0 win on their last visit in 1984. A fantastic moment for the family.
England remarkably took the lead on 79 minutes. Given all of Brazils’s dominance this was truely against the run of play. Rooney collected a long ball before cutting inside and unleashing a stunning curling effort which deflected off Fernando and past Cesar. But England’s lead was just 3 minutes, Lucas Moura’s cross was expertly volleyed home by Paulinho.
However England fans can be happy with a very spirited and gutsy performance from the Three Lions, who showed character under the circumstances to leave the famous Maracana with a draw. A result which will give England confidence in securing their qualification to next years’ World Cup.