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  • Writer's pictureJourneyman

It's Just Like Watching...

England 0-1 Brazil (Friendly)

It was May 2000 and one of England's last ever appearances at the old 'Twin Towers' when I excitedly took the journey south to watch the Three Lions for the very first time, take on Brazil.


The team Kevin Keegan assembled, Seaman, Neville, Neville, Campbell, Keown, Beckham, Ince, Scholes, Wise, Owen & Shearer. Subs used for England, Parlour, Fowler, Phillips, Barmby... Whilst for Brazil, Coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo went with Dida, Cafu, Aldair, Antonio Carlos (nope, me neither??), Sylvinho, Cesar Sampaio, Emerson, Ze Roberto, Amoroso, Franca and Rivaldo... Subs used Roberto Carlos, Denilson and another chap called Emerson, although I'm not entirely sure which was which?


I do however remember the beers in JJ Moons, the packed crowds down Wembley Way and Owen scoring for England before Franca levelled on the stroke of half time. Stand out players were Beckham, Shearer, Scholes, for Brazil I couldn't help but be blown away at the sheer fitness levels of Cafu, the most energetic footballer on the pitch by some way, last man defending, furthest forward in attack, a modern-day full back who I still admire as one of the greatest I've ever seen.


That game has long been locked into my memory and it still feels like it was yesterday, now 24 years ago, that's what England v Brazil can do to a young 22 year old football enthusiast.. in awe of the rolling names of superstars on show, It's not just the best game an England 'fan' can attend at Wembley... Ask a footballer who they 'want' to play international football against... They'll 'all' say Brazil.


That's why I was pleasantly surprised when this latest game between the two nations was announced last year. Even the wife wants to come to this one and she doesn't like football.. although she does enjoy a day out and the tickets I get these days, at this wonderful renowned stadium, will often include a bite to eat with the prawn sandwich brigade.


So we'll make a night of it. I'm stopping at the Fox & Goose Hotel on Hanger Lane, we've had a quick drink ahead of our Uber which picks us up with a good three hours to go and I specifically ask the driver to take us down the North Circular, traffic is always a nightmare for England games and getting on to Harrow Road takes us a good fifteen minutes, but we finally pull up at the Wembley Triangle and make the walk up Wembley Hill Road and onto South Way where I spot a bar I've not previously noticed called Sixty Six. A year which will be forever remembered as England's finest.

The Venue


It's huge but these days only appears behind the growing number of high rises, the arch seeming through the gaps in between buildings, people stopping at the foot of Olympic Way to get a photo, we go straight for the lower levels where there's a newly done up Club Wembley entrance, I pass the old metal detector test as the wife has her bag checked, through the barriers and up the escalators to the third level and the venue restaurant.


We're sat in between a couple of Pompey fans to the left, a couple of Villa fans to the right, the banter is good as the wine is poured, a three course help yourself style buffet, the food always first class, you feel far from being at a football game, no after dinner speakers or rowdy tables of drunks, just upper echelon football fans talking football and business over the tightly packed twin tables as the waiter fills up the flutes with more prosecco and brut.


Well fuelled and filled we head down towards our seats at around 6:45pm, a Wembley light show is keeping the masses entertained as I go through the glass doors to the middle level, behind the goal at the East side of the stadium, pitch covered in flags ahead of 7pm kick off, a roar is heard as the players enter before silence, and a moment to reflect on the passing of former England manager Terry Venables, who’s face is also on the front cover of tonight’s match program.


The Game


England have given a debut to Newcastle winger Anthony Gordon who starts in positive vein whilst Foden and Bellingham show elegant touches before being hacked down as Brazil’s midfield looks to clamp down early on England’s golden boys.


The South Americans control possession, quickly passing between themselves, it’s swift, silky, fluid, they are by far not at their best these days but technically are still superior to England who instead look to have size and strength on their side.


Bruno Guimaraes lifts a ball over the top to the rapid racing Vinicius Junior in attack, he takes a touch away from the defence and passes towards the net past Pickford but Kyle Walker gets back and clears away, Paqueta then hits a post before Maguire’s short back pass lets Raphinha in to shoot wide, England’s best attempts in an underwhelming first half for the hosts, Watkins and Chilwell both blazing over.


The Score


We’re back up to our seats at the Venue Restaurant where there’s a beer waiting although I have to remind the waiter to fill up my wife’s glass of prosecco, by the time the second half has kicked off we’ve missed a few minutes but nothing of the action, the second period is without a shot on target and by now the loudest cheers are for a smaller than usual bout of paper aeroplanes which manage to make it onto the pitch, thrown from the stands above.


It all looks like ending in a stagnant stalemate, Gareth Southgate has made his substitutions including 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo for a debut as Brazil trump even that, 17-year-old Endrick replaces Rodrygo and immediately looks busy, England are caught out defensively and Vinny Junior is away again, his shot deflecting off Pickford into the path of Endrick who bundles home into the empty net, and thus becoming the youngest men’s international goalscorer at Wembley, a superstar in the making? Perhaps.


Endrick rushes away to celebrate with the Brazil fans in the corner, a goal that they have more than deserved, the better team on the night, in the lead, but you can’t help but feel it was a lead given to Brazil by England’s failings, rather than a well worked opportunity created through some samba magic.


That winner coming after Southgate shuffles his pack, ensures England have no more cards to play, and the visitors comfortably see out victory on what is a pretty underwhelming evening, but fortunately I’ve still got an hour and half’s free drinking to do, which helps me drain my sorrows slightly.


The Stars


Endrick is the star of the show with his late cameo, the Palmeiras striker has reportedly already agreed to join Real Madrid, short and tubby looking he’s been likened by the experts to Romario, a natural centre forward who sniffs goals, his first international one in just his third cap will certainly be one of many more to remember.


Brazil’s superstars of 2024 may not be as highly regarded ‘yet’ as those of years gone by. Vinicius Junior however was a real threat with pace and dynamism, a positive player who you feel feels responsible for making Brazil better again, Rodrygo another with ‘potential’ to forge a decent career at the highest level. Paqueta and Guimaraes more familiar to English fans, offering a workmanlike midfield with a touch of class.


For England, Jude Bellingham didn’t have his best night but is one that stood out who looked to have wiry ability to make things happen. Elsewhere it wasn’t one to remember for many, Kobe Mainoo, Anthony Gordon and Ezri Konsa aside, as all three made their national team debuts.


The Verdict


It’s all a bit underwhelming. England perhaps proving they aren’t as good as we think they are. Brazil are probably a little better than first thought, but players were missing, no Neymar, no Kane, so no conclusions need to be made from a Saturday night practice in the park. Just a shame Gareth Southgate didn’t show a little more ambition with his substitutes. He used five centre halves in the game and left Toney & Maddison on the bench. A freebie to entertain and he didn’t even bother to do that! Little wonder why the England manager often divides opinion.

The Teams

England: Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker (Ezri Konsa 20), John Stones, Harry Maguire (Lewis Dunk 67), Ben Chilwell (Joe Gomez 67), Declan Rice, Conor Gallagher (Kobbie Mainoo 75), Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham (Jarrod Bowen 67), Anthony Gordon (Marcus Rashford 75), Ollie Watkins.

Brazil: Bento, Danilo, Fabricio Bruno, Lucas Beraldo, Wendell (Bremer 89), Joao Gomes, Bruno Guimaraes (Douglas Luis 79), Lucas Paqueta (Andreas Pereira 71), Raphinha (Savio 78), Vinicius Junior (Pablo Maia 90), Rodrygo (Endrick 71).

7:00pm Kick Off. Saturday 23rd March 2024, Wembley Stadium, London (att 83,664).

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