ENFIELD, United Kingdom: England will be facing “the best team in the world” in Tuesday’s (Wednesday in Manila) friendly against Brazil at Wembley, manager Gareth Southgate has told his players.
Belying a spate of injury-enforced withdrawals, an inexperienced England side produced an encouraging display in Friday’s 0-0 draw against Germany, with debutants Jordan Pickford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressing.
But Brazil have won 13 of their 16 games since Tite was appointed coach in June last year and with players like Neymar and Gabriel Jesus in their ranks, Southgate says they will be much more unpredictable.
“There’s been a good response to the performance the other night, but we’ll be judged again on what happens tomorrow,” Southgate told a press conference at the Tottenham Hotspur training base in Enfield, north London on Monday.
“We’re in for a much sterner test. Brazil are well down the road in terms of knowing what their best team is.
“We’re playing the best team in the world, who’ve annihilated everybody in South American qualifying, which is the hardest way to get to the finals. We have to be spot on to have a chance of winning the game.”
Comparing Brazil with Germany, Southgate added: “I think Germany are a well-oiled machine in the way they work—very slick inter-passing, but you know where on the field they are going to be.
“With Brazil a lot of the problems you face are because of the ability of individuals, which is less predictable. You can’t prepare for that in quite the same way as some of the teams we face.
“They have good organisation since the new coach came in. They don’t commit as many men forward perhaps; they don’t need to because of the quality of their attacking players. We’ll have to work really hard to make chances.”
‘Get the balance right’
Brazil talisman Neymar is going through a delicate period, amid reports of discontent behind the scenes at Paris Saint-Germain, but Southgate said his team will still have to watch him closely.
Asked if Neymar was worth the 222 million euros ($259 million) PSG paid Barcelona to sign him, Southgate replied: “If there was to be one (who would be worth that much), it would be him.”
Southgate confirmed Tottenham’s Eric Dier would retain the captain’s armband, after skippering his country for the first time against Germany, while Joe Hart will replace Pickford in goal.
Having been satisfied by his team’s display against the Germans, Southgate admitted he faced a difficult decision over how many changes to make to his starting XI.
“I’ve got to get the balance right,” he said.
“The structure of the team was good, so I don’t want to make too many changes. But also this is an opportunity to give other players opportunities.
“We should experiment a bit. We’re playing a top, top team, but we don’t have many opportunities to test individual players.”
England remains without Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson, to name but four of their absentees.
Southgate awarded five players their debuts against Germany and said he “will not hesitate” to test Dominic Solanke, Lewis Cook and Angus Gunn against Brazil after drafting the uncapped trio into his squad.