By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The eyes of the football (soccer) world were on famed Wembley Stadium last night (November 14th) as an inexperienced England team held the heavily favorited Brazil to a scoreless 0-0 draw in an international friendly as both clubs prepare for the 2018 FIFA Russia World Cup.
Neymar and Co. have been building towards next June in Russia since the club clinched its spot in the tournament way back in March, the first team to do so. They came into the last night’s clash against England on the back of a 3-1 win over Japan last Friday, November 10th.
While the Seleção were at full strength last night, England had been hit by a host of withdrawals, forcing manager Gareth Southgate to rely on a number of younger players to pick up the slack. Southgate could take comfort in the fact that his young squad was coming off a clean sheet against defending World Cup champions Germany last week.
From the outset last night, England adopted a stern defensive posture, with the club conceding ball possession while allowing few scoring chances to their more experienced and skilled adversaries.
Brazi’s first real chance would come midway through the first. But, a sensational pass from Neymar to Gabriel Jesus would do little more than make the post-match highlight reel as the Manchester City striker was offsides.
After a scoreless first half, it looked as if the visitors would get on the scoreboard right out of the gate in the second, but Philippe Coutinho was denied from close range by England keeper Joe Hart.
At the 76th minute, it would be the goal post that would deny Brazil as Fernandinho had a low shot ricochet off the base of the post.
Brazil continued to turn up the heat in the second, pinning England to its half for most of the period. But, as the game wound down, England’s defense continued to frustrate and stunt the Seleção’s offensive momentum.
It wasn’t until the final minute of regulation that the hometown team would finally see a scoring chance of its own.
England’s Ashley Young crossed from the left and found Dominic Solanke who paused for a split second before taking the point-blank shot, giving keeper Alisson just enough time to close and smother the shot.
Following the scoreless stalemate, Brazil manager Tite, praised his club while attributing the lack of scoring to the clash in styles between the two teams.
“[T]wo different schools and different objectives…Come attack me, and I will counter-attack, if you make a mistake, I will make the goal,” said the Brazilian manager. “With these characteristics, there are diminished opportunities…I do not remember, very few opportunities of danger from England.”