England stuttered to an ingenuous 1-0 defeat this evening in humid Middle Eastern conditions in their friendly match against top seeds Brazil at Doha's Khalifa Stadium.
An expertly placed Nilmar header settled the match just seconds after the interval, but Luis Fabiano's later penalty miss only masked the clear difference in quality between the two World Cup contenders.
Such was England's inadequacy and lack of ambition that it was not unit the final quarter of the match that they forced Samba goalkeeper Julio Cesar to make his only save of the night.
In fact, one of the only positives to emerge from the match was that no England player suffered injury. On the evidence, this may be of little consequence, given the insipid performance of many fringe players.
Fabio Capello had earlier handed the likes of Wes Brown, Jermaine Jenas and Darren Bent a great chance to showcase their qualities.
Brown was only reprieved of a hopeless moment of misjudgement early in the second half by Luis Fabiano's woeful penalty, after the Manchester United full-back inadvertently played Nilmar in on goal with a weak chested pass back to teammate Ben Foster, who subsequently conceded a penalty and a yellow card for his trip on the Brazilian winger.
Netither Jenas nor Bent fared much better. The latter trudged off the field after 55 minutes of chasing shadows as England's midfield failed to provide him with any decent passes or create any space for the Sunderland frontman.
Tottenham Hotspur's Jenas worked hard all night, but his wasteful free-kick in the second half summed up England's offensive performance as Fabio Capello looked on from the touchline in despair.
Both managers fielded teams full of attacking intent.
Brazil effectively played in a 4-2-3-1 formation with former Manchester City playmaker Elano Blumer and upcoming Villarreal forward Nilmar supporting lone striker Luis Fabiano from the flanks. Kaka was given poetic licence in 'the hole' in a fluid tactical system.
Fabio Capello mirrored his counterpart Dunga's formation, with the creative duties handed to new father Wayne Rooney, who was captain for the night.
This formation proved to be the only similarity between the sides.
Despite showing occasional attacking instincts, Shaun Wright-Phillips and James Milner were easily kept quiet by Douglas Maicon and Brazil's makeshift left-back, Michel Bastos.
On the contrary, Nilmar was a nuisance on Brazil's left and caught out Wes Brown on more than one occasion, and his link-up play with superstar Kaka was notable.
In the absence of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick, England's lack of quality and experience in central midfield was telling, and Jermaine Jenas often looked like a goldfish who had escaped his bowl, only to end up drowning in a large pond full of bigger and better fish.
For all of Brazil's incisive passing and keep-ball, the World Cup favourites created only one good first-half chance as Michel Bastos skimmed a shot narrowly past Foster's far post from the left edge of the penalty box after a foraging run by Man of the Match Lucio had exposed England's soft core.
England's threat was nil, and Rooney looked a forlorn figure as he blazed over the bar from far out.
Capello looked to half-time as a chance to regroup and lay out a clear gameplan, which had been either lacking or ineffective in the opening period.
Brazil's early goal was in this context a huge blow to England, as Nilmar expertly met Elano's perfect cross to dink a header over Foster from 15 yards.
Brazil should have won the match minutes later from the spot after Wes Brown misjudged a back-pass.
The game petered out thereafter, despite Lucio thundering a long-range shot against the post and a last-gasp push from the Three Lions, who made several late substitutions to no effect.
Despite fielding a weakened team in unfamiliar and tough conditions against a proficient team, Fabio Capello will be worried by the lack of ambition and drive shown by most of his players.
England fans will expect a lot more next summer—Fabio Capello will have his work cut out over the following eight months if he is to lead them to their second World Cup triumph.
FINAL SCORE: Brazil 1 (0) - England 0 (0)
England: Foster 5; Brown 4, Upson 5, Lescott 7, Bridge 5; Wright-Phillips 6 (Crouch), Jenas 4, Barry 5 (Huddlestone), Milner 6 (Young); Rooney 6; Bent 5 (Defoe 5)
Brazil: Julio Cesar 5; Maicon 5, Lucio 9, Thiago Silva 6; Bastos 6; Elano 6 (Dani Alves), Melo 7, Gilberto Silva 7, Nilmar 8 (Carlos Eduardo); Kaka 8 (Julio Baptista); Luis Fabiano 7 (Hulk)
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