KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: Luiz Felipe Scolari’s return to London was not as happy as he might have hoped, though he put a reasoned face on it.
At least Brazil’s 2-1 defeat by England in a Wembley friendly justified his own assessment, on taking the most onerous job in international football last November, that the 2014 World Cup hosts should play premier opposition rather than minnows chosen at their sponsors’ behest.
‘Felipao’ had said, on succeeding Mano Menezes, that his team needed tough match practice ahead of the World Cup otherwise their lack of competitive practice would render them vulnerable on the stage which matters the most.
Brazil need Scolari, their last World Cup-winning manager in 2002, to last longer in the job than the six months he spent under similar pressure to come up with results on his last stay in London, as manager of Chelsea.
Defeat on a bitterly cold February night in London can be passed off as beginner’s bad luck though the embarrassment of being a worst-ever 18th in the world rankings is not a status the torcida will wear for long.
Scolari insisted he was not disappointed to have lost considering the little time he had had to work with his players and the fitness deficit they had compared with England.
“England have strong, fit players and are well organised. We’ve seen the videos. They played as we expected them to play. But let’s see how good they are when they have to come to Maracana on June 2.
“Anyway, I lost my first game as manager of Brazil and I lost my first game as manager of Portugal. I always lose my first games but I win the next ones, the most important ones.”
England manager Roy Hodgson was pleased with both victory and the character his evolving team had shown in withstanding Brazil’s mini revival at the start of the second half.
With a view to next month’s crucial World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro, Hodgson said: “We hoping things would go our way but we knew it wouldn’t be easy because we had chosen to play Brazil.
I don’t think we stole anything apart from that somewhat mad spell at the start of the second half. The team dealt well with the problems and questions Brazil asked us – and we asked plenty of questions of them. Let’s hope it will lead on to some more good performances before October.
“We had quite a young team and I hope this gives them belief.
“What pleased me the most was the character we showed after that dodgy spell at the start of the second half. Brazilsmelled a little bit of blood then and we did well to survive it and take some control of the game again. In fact, we were unlucky not to score a couple more goals midway through the second half.”
Hodgson was pleased with the manner in which England had stifled the talent of Brazil striker Neymar, South America’s Footballer of the Year.
He said: “I can understand, having seen Neymar here, why people talk about him but I also think that corporately, as a team, we dealt with him quite well. We didn’t allow him to isolate one defender to go past so his opportunities to really hurt us were limited.”
Hodgson said he hoped, for England’s sake, that veteran midfielder Frank Lampard would stay in Europe if Chelsea release him when his contract expires at the end of the season.
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