England v Brazil: Manchester United's Phil Jones Is More Duncan Goodhew & Other Observations
Three Things We Learned From Watching Brazil v England
1) Same old ITV, same old England
Starting with the obligatory shots of pretty girls in the crowd, and Adrian Chiles inane questioning – even ITV didn’t believe it was a big game as the studio was in London rather than Rio - the first half was all too predictable. Oxlaide-Chamberlain may have been given licence to come inside, and Rooney will always drop deep to find space or the ball, but Hodgson’s 4-4-2 is not a revolutionary system. At times last night it was more like 4-5-1 with Walcott and Milner coming back. Hodgson’s tactical arrangement, a man who prizes solidity and shape above everything, may not be a step back “into the dark ages” as Gary Lineker suggested somewhat unfairly but it will never surprise opponents. Certainly not when you have a certain Phil Jones chasing shadows on the right of a three man midfield.
It has been suggested in some quarters that United’s 18 million signing from Blackburn is on par with some of the greatest names in the history of Old Trafford. Phil Jones: your distribution and composure under pressure means you’re no Duncan Edwards. When the likes of Theo Walcott and Jermaine Defoe, taking a stroll along the Copacabana ahead of the game, mention in amazement that the games of football being played on that beach are more technically proficient than some matches in the Premiership then you know there’s a problem. When they say they can’t even execute some of the skills showcased there then you really do start to worry. Of course no-one wants to see fancy flicks that don’t lead anywhere (what do you mean you do?) but Theo’s passing in the first half last night was abominable, and even a stalwart like Lampard looked poor at times.
Credit where credit is due however. Hodgson deserves some for pushing England on in what was a highly entertaining second half. Wayne Rooney’s goal was a corker. For a game at the Maracana, the highest compliment you can give is that it wouldn’t have looked out of place if it had been scored at the Copacabana. It was his sixth in his last six internationals and 36th overall for England. He looked industrious and played with intelligence, and even when he was isolated he always looked for the ball.
Yet as ever with Rooney you always feel he should be influencing the game more. Still, at least it laid a marker for next year. The Brazilians and the world have now seen another piece of magic from the self-styled “big man” that will add to his worldwide reputation if not England’s. Even if the reality may be far more prosaic.
The usual positives were that we showed great mental strength, tactically we kept our shape and made it difficult at times for the samba boys – but equally if Joe Hart hadn’t decided to show his true quality, the fact we were out-passed and at times outplayed, and our passing and ball retention so poor, meant we could have been seriously embarrassed.
Talking of seriously embarrassing, did anyone else notice Chiles saying that the Ox “would remember his goal for the rest of his life”, only to be countered by the Arsenal man’s musings that “I couldn’t remember anything about it”.
At least they didn’t cut to an ad break and miss the goals, although praising a broadcaster for capturing goals during a football match is a bit like commending someone’s breathing. ITV and England – will they improve before the 2014 World Cup? On last night’s evidence I wouldn’t hold out much hope.
2) Based On Last Night Brazil Will Not Win The World Cup Either
At times Brazil were sloppy and uninterested, and that was just the good points. Brazil being Brazil of course could still rouse themselves into sporadic moments of creativity and threats but the crowd betrayed the anxieties of the 19 ever position - when “big” Phil Scolari took off Oscar for a more workmanlike Moura to a chorus of boos at a refurbished but strangely un-Brazilian Maracana. (It was so new one reporter even mentioned the fact that the chairs in the Press Box still had their price tags on).
When Fred followed up a rebound from Hernanes you feared the worst. The much lauded Neymar looked fitful and ineffective at times. Although Brazil looked fluent at times with their movement and technical ability – the potential that Oscar shows is frightening - for the seleciao this should always be the bare minimum expected. Yet the fact is that the team looked frustrated as well as having the ability to frustrate. Not long ago Paulinho who scored their second was plying his trade, alone and unheralded in Lithuania. And have you ever seen a Brazil team hit so many long balls from deep inside their own half?
If Scolari wins his second world cup they should name this stadium after him. It will be the least he deserves if he can transform this mostly average squad into world beaters - with the added pressures of the expectation of 200 million fanatical countrymen and women weighing heavily on their shoulders this time next year.
3) Is this Oxlaide-Chamberlain’s Maracana moment – or just a calling card to attract Higuain to Arsenal?
What do you do if you dad has played for England at the Maracana? Simple. Play there yourself and go one better by scoring one yourself. As a kid, the Arsenal winger recalled having to listen to his dad talk about the famous 2-0 win in 1984 when John Barnes scored that goal. Not that it seemed to have impressed Chamberlain senior who was apparently asleep when his son scored his wonderful goal. “It doesn’t surprise me that he fell asleep”, said the Ox, matter-of-factly, in the way that kids are always having to apologise for their dad’s behaviour, “He’ll probably be the last person to get in touch” said the Arsenal man.
Forget the Osbournes, At Home With The Chamberlain’s when young Alex gets back would get my vote every time. “How was your trip to Brazil son, did you make it to the Maracana, I played there in 84?” “Yeah. Managed to score a goal as well. Can’t remember much about it though”. Silence. “Pass the sugar will you?
If Higuain is undecided about joining Arsenal maybe someone should send him a copy of the game and tell him that he can play with Oxlaide-Chamberlain every week. Just make sure Walcott’s and England’s first half performance is deleted.
Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29