England still have much to learn

By Nick Howson
Photo: Paul Blank

Photo: Paul Blank

England 0 – 1 Brazil

Since England’s qualification for the 2010 World Cup finals next summer Fabio Capello would have been looking to learn as much as he can about his players during the run of friendlies before he finalises his playing party for the tournament in South Africa.

However the Italian manager would have discovered very little about his depleted England team, who succumbed to yet another bout of hesitation at the back as they were beaten 1-0 by Brazil in Doha.

A beautifully directed header by Nilmar just 90 seconds after half-time sealed the win for Dunga’s side, who also saw Luis Fabiano sky a penalty after yet more deliberation in the England defence.

Wes Brown, who was certainly at fault for the 56th minute penalty award which saw Nilmar ghost in behind the defender and be eventually caught by Ben Foster, has done nothing to assure the manager that he can ably step in at full-back ahead of Glen Johnson.

In the final third things hardly improved as England looked totally devoid of ideas, frustratingly lacking a final ball when they did carve out any half chances, with Shaun Wright-Phillips and James Milner the worst offenders.

It was Milner in fact, who had England’s best chance of the match, when he careered a volley over the bar after Wright-Phillips eventually found an England player from one of his more effective crosses.

The likes of Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott will be licking their lips after seeing a poor performance from both of England’s wing-wizards and a repeat showing from either of these players in an England shirt will all but end their chances of making the plane to South Africa.

You do have to however feel sorry for the partners of Wayne Rooney — Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe — who saw a lack of service affect their ability to impress in the humidity of Qatar.

The Sunderland man, who is playing catch-up in trying to make the squad for next summer, will be more hurt by his performance than Defoe, who knows his two-goal salvo in Holland will linger in the mind of Capello when he chooses the final 23.

Elsewhere it’s difficult to find many more positives from England’s performance on Saturday. Wayne Rooney’s guile and effort was very much in vein, Gareth Barry’s passing was unusually inept and Jermaine Jenas will come away from his showing thinking he’ll need yet another injury-stricken squad to find himself in an England team.

It was slightly disjointed from Brazil as well however — there was none of the free flowing football that we’ve come to expect. But with more steel and a higher intensity off the ball, much of England’s failure in the final third was down to the pressure on the ball from both Gilberto Silva and Filipe Melo — an added string to the Brazilian bow.

But Brazil showed the perfect trait of any top quality side though, and that was to capitalise upon their opponent’s shortcomings — something that can go a long way in a major tournament.

One positive aspect for England though was that they kept Brazil down to just a one-goal win, with just two players who could boast to being first choice in Capello’s team starting the game. And you’d have to think both team’s performances would have been different had England been able to call upon their star-turns.

It’s a slim but important point to take from this latest friendly, and until March the player’s league form will have to do the talking.

But after the heat of Doha, that alone may not be enough to seal their place in South Africa.

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