Gareth Southgate’s England followed up their stalemate against Germany with another impressive clean sheet as they held five-time world champions Brazil to a 0-0 draw at Wembley.
It was a game short on chances but the Three Lions boss will have been pleased with what he’s seen during the international break.
Before you turn your attention back to the Premier League this weekend, here’s a look at five things we learned from the stalemate under the arch.
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Perhaps mystified as to how on earth he wound up sharing a football pitch with Jake Livermore, Paris Saint-Germain’s big-money summer signing delighted social media when he ghosted the ball between the West Brom midfielder’s legs on the half hour mark.
— Tom Haden (@TomHaden4) November 14, 2017
It was almost like one of those moments on FIFA 18 when the game decides that the computer-operated side is going to score very shortly, and what appears at first to be a well-timed challenge just somehow claims nothing but air. In reality, it was Neymar’s deft touch that just took it away from Livermore and gave him what the ITV commentary team somehow feel is the “honour” of being ‘megged by the forward. “That’s something you can tell you grandchildren about,” they claimed. Erm, yeah.
Hopefully no sophomoric curse for Loftus-Cheek
After an impressive England debut on Friday against Germany, many England fans were hoping for a second straight standout showing from Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Instead, the midfielder limped off in the first half, replaced by Jesse Lingard. We can only hope it was an understandably-premature switch from Gareth Southgate with no reason whatsoever to take unnecessary chances with the players’ fitness in this pair of exhibition games, no matter how high-end the opponents were.
How about that Joe Gomez?
In late 2011, I had the honour of rolling out a brand-new commentary service for Charlton Athletic Football Club, covering their under-18 league games via a telephone hooked up to an ISDN line in a first-floor office overlooking the Sparrows Lane training ground pitch. It was on this inaugural makeshift broadcast that I first laid eyes on Joe Gomez, a 14-year-old given 90 minutes against an Arsenal academy side almost entirely three years his senior, because the Addicks’ second-year scholars had an FA Youth Cup game on the Monday.
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The centre-back had every right to be out of his depth and yet looked like he had been doing this for a decade. That would become the theme of the next six years. But if you had told me back in 2011 that it would culminate in him spending his full England senior debut expertly minimising the likes of Neymar and Gabriel Jesus, even that youth league performance would not have made it any easier to believe. If Gomez is fit next summer, he goes to Russia. It’s as simple as that, surely.
— Kyle Hart (@skinlar) November 14, 2017
0-0 was probably the right scoreline for a game with a decent amount of attacking intention from both sides but nothing that could break the resolve of either back line. And yet, on two occasion in the dying moments, Tammy Abraham was inches away from scoring one hell of a maiden England goal. A couple of minutes before the end of regulation time, Abraham had the ball at his feet but no time to add the final touch before it was scrambled away. Then, deep into added time a low cross from Lingard came ever-so-close to finding him for the simple finish.
Hang on, is this Southgate’s master plan?
Something just occurred to this writer. A pair of goalless stalemates is hardly going to give England fans much faith in their habitually-underachieving national team’s chances of actual glory at the 2018 World Cup. But could run-of-the-mill managerial appointment Gareth Southgate actually be aiming to fly under the radar as much as possible? Let’s face it:
England’s biggest problem is always the sheer volume of delusions of grandeur that manifest just before any major tournament the Three Lions manage to reach. It would at the very least be refreshing to head into one where absolutely nobody expects anything from England. At all. Maybe it’s too good to be true. Maybe this country will always puff out their collective chests heading into a summer tourney, ready to blindly stumble into their latest embarrassment. But England’s young stars looked very mature in holding two nations with nine World Cups between them and plenty of dangerous talent on display. Maybe, just maybe, Southgate’s business plan will help England quietly slink their way over to Russia and, from much lower expectations, at the very least not disappoint the entire nation once more? It has got to be worth a shot, at least.