PSG’s superstar flickered in spells at Wembley and the five-time World Cup winners are not going to find the going easy at the tournament next summer
Much has been written about Brazil’s return to form, the resurgence of Jogo Bonito and the possibility of Tite leading the national team back to World Cup glory.
This was a chance then to demonstrate for the first time in front of a European audience that Brazil were worth considering as a threat in Russia 2018 following their 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Germany in the semi-finals on home soil three years ago.
There was no doubt that they dominated the game against England at Wembley but they still remain short of a crucial spark – Neymar apart – to consistently unlock teams at the top level.
He had a couple of sensational passes and one barely-legal nutmeg on Jake Livermore but his shooting was mostly of the skyward variety.
Brazil – and Neymar – will be stepping up several levels come the World Cup and any issues in breaking down doughty defences better be sorted out now.
England have discovered a nascent confidence in these last two friendly encounters against Germany and the Brazilians here and gave Brazil a good sparring test as they tune up for next summer.
Even without such talents as Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling, Gareth Southgate’s side were resolute and hard to break down.
Man-of-the-match Joe Gomez did well alongside John Stones in the heart of defence while Joe Hart was ready when called upon.
However if Brazil have serious designs about reclaiming the trophy next summer they need to be able to solve puzzles like this.
The issues would appear to stem from the midfield sector where a capable – but all too workmanlike – trio of Paulinho, Renato Augusto and Casemiro operate. What Tite gains in solidity and protection against penetrating counter-attacks he lacks in a playmaker.
That may sound greedy for a team containing both Neymar and Philippe Coutinho but Brazil could perhaps do with a central rover – either the Paris Saint-Germain man starting centrally or else for Coutinho to be deployed there with Roberto Firmino coming into the attack.
As things stand the team could be split in two between the three players tasked with scoring goals and the rest of the side keeping them out.
While support is offered by Marcelo and Dani Alves on the flanks, Brazil still find it difficult to get behind and create clear-cut chances for Gabriel Jesus – the kind he has become used to at Manchester City.
Brazil’s qualification campaign was nearly flawless with only one defeat in 18 matches but maybe they are suffering the effects of playing the same kinds of teams over and over.
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Their friendlies under Tite have come against Argentina and Colombia – CONMEBOL neighbours – and Australia and Japan who – with all due respect – any aspiring World Cup contenders should be looking to beat.
More will be learned in games like this where Tite has got to find a better balance. The Mineirazo against Germany will be revisited in March for the next friendly and by then we should have a better idea of Brazil’s standing.
Right now they look reliant on magic from Neymar and that is a lot to ask game by game for even the very best.