Brazil starlet Endrick scores only goal to dent England’s Euro 2024 buildup | Friendlies

It is the itch that England have struggled to scratch. Rarely do they get very much from Brazil; their record in games with them is worse than that against any other opponent and it was a night when things got worse, adding a worry line or two to Gareth Southgate’s brow.

It was meant to be different, a friendly to fine-tune for the European Championship in the summer, even as Southgate missed key players – most notably the captain Harry Kane, Luke Shaw and Bukayo Saka. Brazil had been portrayed as being in crisis, the new manager, Dorival Júnior, warning that he did not have a magic wand. By the end, it looked as though he did.

England were second best. They could get little going in an attacking sense, Kane & co were missed, the understudies not doing enough; a few flashes from Anthony Gordon apart. There was the feeling, especially in the first half, that England were vulnerable – reports of Brazil’s demise are plainly premature – and Dorival Júnior’s team got the goal they deserved towards the end.

The error came from the England substitute, Lewis Dunk, who got a header all wrong and when another substitute, Andreas Pereira, released Vinícius Júnior in behind John Stones, the alarm bells rang. Vinícius was denied by Jordan Pickford but the 17-year-old Palmeiras prodigy, Endrick, who will join Real Madrid in the summer, was on hand to convert the rebound. He had come off the bench and he would go close to a stoppage-time second, Pickford denying him in a one-on-one.

The smattering of boos upon the full-time whistle was inevitable, almost traditional, and Southgate was left with much to ponder before Tuesday night’s friendly here against Belgium. England’s record against Brazil now shows 12 defeats in 27 matches, with just four wins.

Southgate missed his regulars in four positions – including the fast emerging problem area in midfield alongside Declan Rice – and it became five when Kyle Walker was forced off with a hamstring problem after the early exchanges; on came Ezri Konsa for his debut at right-back. It would be a fight for England to locate their rhythm.

Brazil’s Lucas Paquetá fouls Jude Bellingham on a frustrating evening for the England midfielder. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Observer

Plenty of the pre-match talk had been about how this was a new Brazil and one with which the millions back at home have struggled to connect. Never mind the results so far in South American World Cup qualification – three defeats in six games. There is the widespread feeling in Brazil that their football is a level below that of Europe’s elite. Dorival Júnior had a host of players out through injury and he gave debuts to five in his starting XI.

He did have Vinícius and what a comfort that was. The one undisputed A-lister in the lineup shimmered with menace as Brazil worked to find their touches and passing connections at the outset; the Wembley crowd was subdued.

Vinícius should have scored in the 12th minute only to shoot weakly past Pickford, which allowed Walker to get back and mop up in front of goal. The chance had been created by a lovely piece of skill by Lucas Paquetá followed by a floated through-ball. There was also the moment when Vinícius sliced away from Walker inside the area but, rather than shoot, he exaggerated the contact from a check by Walker and went down. It was not a penalty.

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Brazil made light of the doom-mongering and they were the more dangerous team. Vinícius’s end product was not there before the interval, despite his obvious threat, and neither was that of Rodrygo, who flickered and then blew a huge chance on 42 minutes. Harry Maguire had a moment he will want to forget, turning into Rodrygo and losing the ball; the false 9 dragged his shot wastefully wide. Brazil could also point to when Paquetá struck the post with a sidefoot in the 35th minute.

England felt Brazil’s physical force, which pushed the boundaries. Paquetá was fortunate to avoid a second yellow card for a trip on Jude Bellingham shortly before half-time. It was his fourth foul.

Brazil appeared to target Bellingham, who was booked for a lunge at Bruno Guimarães. It turned into a test of the Real Madrid midfielder’s temperament. He could feel his blood boiling.

England had chances in the first half, with Ollie Watkins lifting the best one high after a pass from Conor Gallagher. It was not Watkins’ night. Gordon had a few efforts before the interval without looking as though he was going to score – the best one was at the far post from a free-kick – while Ben Chilwell’s connection was not true when well-placed after a half-cleared corner.

It was a hard night for Gallagher, who Southgate played alongside Rice. Brazil played around him while he lost possession too often. It was harsh to single Gallagher out, with Phil Foden failing to impact the game, either on the right wing or when Southgate moved him to the No 10 role after taking off Bellingham.

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The atmosphere inside a sold-out Wembley was flat – we were in paper-plane territory – and it spoke to the assurance of Brazil’s quickfire interchanges; to England’s battle for tempo and incision, too.

The biggest cheer of a tepid second half from an England perspective was that which greeted the introduction of Kobbie Mainoo from the bench for his debut. Southgate’s team created nothing after the interval. Paquetá had bent a fabulous first-time shot past the far post and it was Endrick who made the difference.

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