Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

England 2 Brazil 2

Hodgson's men finish up with a draw at the Maracana

England's Phil Jones and Brazil's Luis Gustavo Dias (right) battle for the ball 
during the International Friendly at the Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
England's Phil Jones and Brazil's Luis Gustavo Dias (right) battle for the ball during the International Friendly at the Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
England's Leighton Baines receives a pat on the back from manager Roy Hodgson as he is brought off during the International Friendly at the Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
England's Leighton Baines receives a pat on the back from manager Roy Hodgson as he is brought off during the International Friendly at the Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Brazil fans show their support in the stands before kick-off during the International Friendly at the Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Brazil fans show their support in the stands before kick-off during the International Friendly at the Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Superb strikes by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wayne Rooney rescued some dignity for England after Brazil had handed out a footballing lesson at the Maracana.

After toiling against Brazil's dash and panache, two moments of brilliance saw England take an unlikely lead before Paulinho's excellent volley gave the hosts a draw at the official re-opening of their famous stadium, the very least they deserved.

The strikes by Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rooney, following Fred's opener for the home side, were not quite of the same standard as John Barnes' legendary solo goal in this stadium 29 years ago.

Nevertheless they will provide much-needed encouragement for Hodgson ahead of the autumn's World Cup qualifiers.

If England are to harbour hopes of returning to this venue next summer then Hodgson will need such quality, and for his missing players such as Jack Wilshere and Steven Gerrard to be both fit and in form.

The growing confidence of Oxlade-Chamberlain is a boon for England however. The 19-year-old was omitted from the starting line-up despite having begun in midweek against the Republic of Ireland as Hodgson went with a predictably cautious XI, and Rooney as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation.

The first half-hour was painful watching for the 1,000 or so England fans who had made the trip to Rio, with the shot count 13 for Brazil and a big fat zero for Hodgson's side.

Indeed the outstanding player on the pitch was the England keeper Joe Hart, who produced sprawling save after heroic block.

Dani Alves, from 30 yards, was the first to threaten and then Neymar seized onto a chance but the Manchester City keeper blocked the shot at close range.

The 21-year-old Neymar, whose transfer to Barcelona was completed this week, ran the show in the first half and he twisted into space on the edge of the box before bending a lovely effort just wide - much to Hart's relief.

Hart was then called into last-ditch action again to scramble the ball away from the feet of Neymar and Luis Filipe.

Oscar was the next to threaten but again he found Hart in the way, before Hulk gave the England keeper some respite by slicing his effort over the top.

Neymar tried the unexpected, slotting a shot through Glen Johnson's legs but Hart anticipated it well.

England had to wait until the 35th minute for their first attempt on goal, and it was hardly worth the wait. Rooney found half a yard of space and tried his luck but found David Luiz in the way.

Five minutes later there was a better attempt to end the one-way traffic when Johnson's neat ball found Theo Walcott and the Arsenal man hit a rising drive that Julio Cesar saved well.

How the half remained goalless was baffling, and in the second half when Fred volleyed home the rebound after Hernanes had rasped a long-range effort against the angle, it was just reward for Brazil.

Suddenly however, England sparked into life. Oxlade-Chamberlain's appearance with an hour to go was a turning point, and six minutes after he came on a neat one-touch passing move between skipper Frank Lampard and Rooney ended with the ball being laid off for the teenager to drill a low strike from 20 yards past Cesar to level the match.

Wonder soon turned to sheer amazement as James Milner showed some Brazilian-like trickery to put Rooney into space, and the Manchester United striker cut inside before curling a magnificent effort into the top corner with the aid of a slight deflection of Fernando for his 36th England goal.

It would have been harsh in the extreme for Brazil to lose this one after putting on such a show, and Paulinho's volley at least restored some sense to the scoreline.

England will long remember these two great goals - but they must not forget the lesson.

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