England play host to the Samba stars of Brazil at Wembley Stadium following their impressive battling display against an experienced Germany side on Friday night.
Gareth Southgate’s experimental side stood toe-to-toe with Joachim Low’s world champions, putting on a commendable display of resolve and team spirit against the Germans, who themselves fielded a rotated side.
Whilst the context of these international friendlies eliminates any significance of such an encouraging result for Southgate’s men, the level of opposition certainly provides cause for optimism. Not to mention a rekindling of nostalgia and pain from the past.
With Brazil up next, only one game comes to mind.
The 2-1 defeat which Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazilians inflicted on an England side with Sven-Goran Eriksson at the helm still looms large in the context of any match against the South Americans. At the grand stage of the 2002 World Cup Quarter-final, Brazil condemned the English to one of their most painful defeats in recent football history.
Whilst now-legendary football icons such as David Beckham, Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Rivaldo, Michael Owen and Ronaldinho roamed the field in that match, the context for Tuesday’s game centres rather more on who may step into the limelight for each side ahead of next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia.
Following the battling efforts of a young England side who impressed in most departments against Germany at Wembley, it was Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 21, who came in for individual praise for his standout performance.
Instigating attacks and leading from the hub of his team, it was an accomplished performance for a young player making his international debut.
Against Brazil, Loftus-Cheek has the chance to further stake his claim as the man England have been missing to add dynamism and penetration to England’s attacking platform.
Everton’s Jordan Pickford, who played the full 90 minutes against Germany, may be given a further opportunity to prove to Gareth Southgate that he is not only the natural long-term successor to Joe Hart in goal, but that he is more than ready to establish himself as England’s no.1 ahead of the World Cup next summer.
Whilst Brazil boast an all-star squad heading into this game which features the likes of Neymar and Philippe Coutinho, there are numerous other prospects in their ranks who are yet to become household names to look out for.
Gabriel Jesus has already introduced himself with aplomb to Premier League spectators through his goal-scoring exploits for Manchester City. Here, his ability to transfer such form onto the international stage will come into view.
Jesus will be hoping to form a partnership with Neymar, potentially as formidable as Ronaldo’s once was with Ronaldinho, to spearhead Brazil’s upcoming World Cup campaign.
Brazil may also finally have a goalkeeper who is truly worthy of their prestigious no.1 jersey. Manchester City’s Ederson has made a hugely impressive start to the season for his new club, and his starring role as Pep Guardiola’s no.1 in City’s push for the Premier League title this campaign will only strengthen his chances of securing a place in Tite’s selection for the national team.
With Roma’s Alisson having started ahead of him against Japan on Friday, expect Ederson to be handed his chance to impress from the start at Wembley.
Prediction: England 1-3 Brazil