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Inexperienced England stifle, earn admirable draw vs. full-strength Brazil

Inexperienced England stifle, earn admirable draw vs. full-strength Brazil
From ESPN - November 14, 2017

LONDON -- Here are three points from Wembley as England and Brazil played out a 0-0 draw in an international friendly.

1. Goalless draw uneventful but not pointless

Two friendlies, 180 minutes, 20 players used and no goals. Those bare facts might lead you to conclude that England's two games over this last week have been a waste of time. That would be the negative spin, but the positive is that Gareth Southgate's severely depleted side have not lost to two of the favourites for next summer's World Cup.

The 0-0 draw with Brazil at Wembley on Tuesday night will perhaps not live long in the memory and did not provide many scintillating moments, but it was another worthwhile exercise for Southgate's men as they prepare for Russia 2018. It's tricky to draw too many conclusions, but there was certainly enough there to provide some encouragement.

Southgate made as many changes from the friendly against Germany last week that his limited squad would allow. Joe Hart returned in goal while Marcus Rashford partnered Jamie Vardy up front, and Joe Gomez made his full international debut at the back.

The early stages had the slight feel of a reasonably competitive exhibition game, with Neymar in particular seemingly very keen to produce something spectacular: in the first half-an-hour alone he aimed for the top corner from way, way out three times, missing by wide margins each time. For England, Rashford looked the most threatening while Ruben Loftus-Cheek, so impressive on his debut against Germany, showed some nice touches before being forced off with injury after around 30 minutes, replaced by Jesse Lingard.

England's young side -- six of the 10 outfield starters were younger than 25 -- showed some encouraging poise and calmness in the face of the expected rapid attacks from Brazil. The three-man defence was almost sliced open a few times, but Southgate's team coped reasonably well in the initial exchanges.

Brazil did much more attacking after the break, and for much of the first 25 minutes after half-time England were pinned back into their own half, the forwards forced to feed on scraps. The plus side for Southgate was that they did actually defend quite well, coping with the attacks with great poise.

In fact, there was not a whole lot of genuine incident. Dani Alves took considerable exception to a relatively innocuous tackle from Jake Livermore and might have been sent off if the referee had seen the kick he aimed at the England man's knees. Substitute Fernandinho hit the post after a driving run from around 25 yards out, then substitute Ashley Young produced a brilliant block after Willian looked to have a clear sight of goal on the left side of the area.

England made a few late attacks, but frankly never really looked like scoring. Neither team could break through, but that does not necessarily mean that this was a pointless endeavour.

2. Inexperienced England show blueprint

Aside from providing a very pleasant top-up for the FA's coffers, this game provided some useful practice for Southgate's side, ahead of next summer's World Cup.

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