Most Memorable Matches Between England and Brazil

Clive BattyContributor IIIFebruary 1, 2013

Most Memorable Matches Between England and Brazil

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    The drums will be beating out a samba rhythm at Wembley on Wednesday when Brazil come to London to take on Roy Hodgson’s gradually evolving England side.

    The Three Lions’ World Cup qualifying campaign hasn’t got off to the greatest of starts, so a morale boosting victory against the 2014 hosts wouldn’t go amiss. The fixture, though, is equally important for Brazil, as it represents a first chance for returning manager Luiz Felipe Scolari to assess his talented, but sometimes inconsistent squad of players.

    The record books show that Brazil generally hold the upper hand when these two titans of international football clash, with 11 wins to their name compared to just three for England in their 23 meetings since the first one in 1956.

    Here’s our pick of that bunch, in the top 10 of England-Brazil encounters.

10. England 1—Brazil 1, Friendly, Wembley Stadium, 1 June 2007

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    Perhaps inevitably, the first ever international at the new Wembley failed to live up to the pre-match hype, partly because the poor quality of the playing surface at the £760 million venue made free-flowing football extremely difficult.

    The below-par conditions probably handicapped Brazil more than England, and it was the home side who took the lead midway through the second half when David Beckham floated a free-kick to the far post for skipper John Terry to power a header into the net. As the clock ticked down a first England win over Brazil for 17 years seemed likely, but deep into injury time Diego escaped his marker to equalise with a stooping header from Gilberto Silva’s chip into the box.

    Nevertheless, England manager Steve McClaren took many positives from his team’s battling display against the five-time world champions. He said (quoted by BBC Sport):

    We got the performance against a very, very good team, one of the top teams in the world.  To nearly get the clean sheet, to be 15 seconds away, showed that as a team we defended well.

9. Brazil 2—England 1, Friendly, Rio De Janeiro, 12 June 1969

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    On the third leg of a South and Central American tour devised to prepare Sir Alf Ramsey’s team for conditions at the following year’s World Cup in Mexico, England took an early lead in the Maracana when Martin Peters crossed from the left and Colin Bell stabbed the ball home from close range. Brazil had a glorious chance to level on the half hour mark after they were awarded a penalty, but Carlos Alberto’s spot-kick lacked power and Gordon Banks made a comfortable save.

    Going into the last 10 minutes England seemed set for a famous victory, but the hosts’ mounting pressure finally paid off when Tostao, despite falling to the ground in a goalmouth melee, still managed to hook the ball past Banks. Four minutes later Jairzinho sparked ecstatic celebrations in the 135,000 crowd with a cool first-time finish from Tostao’s drilled right-wing cross.

    Brazil manager Joao Saldanha, though, was not carried away by his team’s late rally. “We were lucky in the end,” he admitted. “If (Bobby) Charlton had scored just before half-time to put England two up we should have been finished.”*

    * Quote source:


8. England 1—Brazil 1, Friendly, Wembley Stadium, 13 June 1992

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    England striker Gary Lineker grabbed the headlines after this warm-up game before the 1992 European Championships in Sweden, but he wouldn’t have enjoyed reading the match reports.

    Brought down in the penalty area by Brazil goalkeeper Carlos after 10 minutes, Gary Lineker stepped up to take the spot-kick himself, knowing that if he scored he would equal Bobby Charlton’s longstanding England goalscoring record. Sadly for the Three Lions skipper, he made a complete hash of his kick, his weak dinked effort went down the middle providing Carlos with an embarrassingly easy save.

    Lineker’s gaffe was compounded when Bebeto gave Brazil a half-time lead, but the home side were able to stretch their unbeaten run under new boss Graham Taylor to 20 games when David Platt levelled with a superbly-executed volley early in the second half.

    For Lineker, though, the memory of that feeble penalty seemed to haunt him at Euro '92 as he finished his international career without adding to his 48 goals, still one short of Charlton’s all-time record.       

7. England 1—Brazil 0, Friendly, Wembley Stadium, 28 March 1990

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    “We know now that we cannot be far behind,” was manager Bobby Robson’s succinct summary* after England’s first home win over Brazil for 34 years.

    Few, though, would have bet on the Three Lions emerging victorious when, after just 12 minutes, legendary goalkeeper Peter Shilton had to be substituted after being inadvertently elbowed in the face by his team-mate Des Walker.

    In a game of relatively few chances, England made the most of their first clear opportunity after 38 minutes when John Barnes flicked on Peter Beardsley’s corner for poacher supreme Gary Lineker to head in from six yards. Brazil only occasionally threatened to equalise in the second half, Shilton’s replacement Chris Woods saving two thunderous free-kicks from Branco and Stuart Pearce clearing off the line from substitute striker Muller.

    A triumph more of organisation than flair, England’s win nevertheless extended their unbeaten run to an impressive 15 games, encouraging fans to dream of future glory at the summer’s World Cup in Italy.

    * Quoted in The Times

6. Brazil 5—England 1, Little World Cup, Rio De Janeiro, 30 May 1964

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    Invited along with Argentina and Portugal to compete in a mini-tournament to mark the 50th anniversary of the Brazilian Football Confederation, England were annihilated by a Brazil side inspired by the brilliant Pele.

    ‘The Black Diamond’, as he was dubbed by the football press, had a hand in all five of his team’s goals, scoring the pick of the bunch with a thunderbolt drive from the edge of the penalty area following a dashing 40-yard run. England’s sole reply came from Jimmy Greaves, who briefly put the visitors back on terms shortly after halftime before Pele took complete control of proceedings in the final half hour.

    “Pele is on another bloody planet,” a stunned Greaves said afterwards to The Times, an assessment shared by the reporter from the same newspaper, albeit in rather more elegant style. “In this mood Pele can beat the world,” he wrote. “He was sheer poetry.”*

    The most surprising verdict, though, came from England manager Alf Ramsey, who felt that the Brazilians were too reliant on their star player. “Don’t worry about this result,” he told his players, according to Bobby Charlton’s autobiography, My England Years, “Brazil have no chance of retaining the World Cup when they come to England in two years’ time.”

    It was a brave prediction after this stellar display but, as it turned out, Ramsey was spot on.

    * Quote source

5. England 4—Brazil 2, Friendly, Wembley Stadium, 9 May 1956

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    The first ever meeting between the sides drew a capacity crowd of 100,000 to Wembley, excited at the prospect of seeing the flamboyant South Americans in the flesh. However, it was England who were first out of the traps, strikers Tommy Taylor and Colin Grainger both netting in the opening five minutes.

    England, inspired by 41-year-old winger Stanley Matthews, appeared to be in complete control, but surprisingly gave away soft goals to Paulinho and Didi early in the second half.

    The game then descended into farce when the Brazilians refused to give the ball back after England were awarded a penalty for handball. Eventually good sense prevailed, only for John Atyeo to see his spot-kick brilliantly saved by Gilmar.

    Taylor, though, soon restored England’s lead with a close-range header, before Roger Byrne put another penalty wide. The final act of a highly entertaining afternoon came near the end when Matthews crossed from the right for Grainger to confirm England’s victory with a thumping header.  

4. Brazil 3—England 1, World Cup Quarter-Final, Vina Del Mar, 10 June 1962

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    Drawn against the reigning world champions in the quarter-finals in Chile, England did well to go into halftime level pegging, Gerry Hitchens cancelling out Garrincha’s headed opener when he was first to react to a loose ball in the penalty area after a Jimmy Greaves header rebounded off the crossbar.

    England, though, were undone eight minutes after the break when goalkeeper Ron Springett failed to hold Garrincha’s fierce free-kick and Vava followed up to score with a header. Six minutes later, it was effectively all over when man-of-the-match Garrincha sent a high swerving shot past Springett from 25 yards.

    “England produced their best performance of the championship,” concluded The Times, “but it was insufficient against the poise, polish and finishing power of the Brazilians.”*

    Few of the mainly local fans in the sparse crowd of 17,736 would have disagreed with that assessment.    

    * Quote source

3. Brazil 0—England 2, Friendly, Rio De Janeiro, 10 June 1984

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    The knives were out for England manager Bobby Robson after a dismal run of results which had seen the Three Lions win just once—and that against lowly Northern Ireland—in their last five games. The beleaguered boss, though, was smiling at the end of this encounter as his inexperienced side gained an historic first victory against Brazil on their home soil.

    Winger John Barnes was the star of the show, scoring the opening goal after a mazy dribble past five Brazilian defenders just before halftime and then, midway through the second half, crossing from the left for striker Mark Hateley to confirm a sensational victory for England with a powerful header from six yards.

    Disappointingly, Barnes never quite reproduced his Maracana form for England over the next decade, as he later admitted. “I loved the goal, of course, but it created many problems for me, particularly in changing perceptions,” he wrote in his autobiography, John Barnes. “After scoring a goal like that, I never lived up to England’s expectations again.”

2. Brazil 2—England 1, World Cup Quarter-Final, Shizuoka, 21 June 2002

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    In the first competitive meeting between the sides for 32 years, England struck first when Michael Owen raced onto Emile Heskey’s pass to shoot past Marcos in the Brazilian goal. Just before half-time, though, a sweeping move by the South Americans ended with Rivaldo drilling a low drive past David Seaman to send the teams in level at the break.

    The decisive moment of the match arrived five minutes into the second half, when Ronaldinho floated a free kick from fully 40 yards into the England box. Seaman, misjudging the flight of the ball, was left stranded as it looped high into his net—a catastrophic error by a goalkeeper then rated as one of the best in the world.

    Although Ronaldinho was sent off before the hour mark, England failed miserably to take advantage of their extra man and limped out of the tournament with barely a whimper.

    Some of England's players blamed an uninspiring halftime team talk by boss Sven Goran Eriksson for their lacklustre second-half display. “When we needed Winston Churchill, we got Iain Duncan Smith,”* complained Gareth Southgate, cruelly comparing Eriksson to the Conservative Party’s then much-derided leader.

    *Quote source:


1. Brazil 1—England 0, World Cup Group Stage, Guadalajara, 7 June 1970

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    The meeting between the then holders (England) and the pre-tournament favourites (Brazil) was the most keenly anticipated of the Mexico World Cup, and the two teams didn’t disappoint, serving up a classic match which is still rated as one of the greatest ever in football history.

    Surprisingly, given the attacking talent on show, there was only one goal, Tostao and Pele combined to set up Jairzinho for a shot, which he gleefully smashed past England goalkeeper Gordon Banks on 59 minutes. After that England enjoyed their best period of play, but squandered their clearest opportunities—Jeff Astle missing a sitter from 12 yards and Alan Ball striking the crossbar.

    The match, though, is best remembered for the sensational diving save Banks produced from a powerful, downward header by Pele in the first half. “At that moment I hated Gordon Banks more than any man in soccer,” the great Brazilian said afterwards. “But when I cooled down I had to applaud him with my heart for the greatest save I have ever seen.”*

    *Quote source:

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