Jake Livermore doing pirouettes in the midfield of Brazil. Paulinho passing himself. International defenders who seem baffled by the very concept of Jamie Vardy. Marcus Rashford nurtures Marcelo. Jake Livermore, and this is really worth repeating, doing pirouettes in the midfield of Brazil.
These were the funniest and slightly surreal tentpoles of a game that otherwise only offered irregular entertainment, the group of children from England and third parties that somehow canceled a Brazilian team at Wembley. Without carnival, but at least with a staccato pantomime.
Their children or grandchildren will not get the most outstanding roll on YouTube in 20 years, but this was in their own way another encouraging night for the Three Lion Cubs, who, despite being outdone for long periods, showed reserves of sand in defense and more than a little swagger later. And although Joe Hart was undoubtedly the busiest goalkeeper, England had, in Marcus Rashford, a player more than capable of defending himself against the Brazilian attackers.
Casemiro had a good game in the middle of the park (Getty)
Southgate made five changes to the team that kept Germany here, the most notable of which resulted in a full debut for Joe Gomez. There are deep ends and then there are deep ends: the Liverpool man took to the field with fewer high-ranking openings than Neymar, the closest thing to a direct opponent, he had international goals. With Gary Cahill also on the team, it was a courageous decision, though not atypical in light of the recent developments in Gareth's Great Youth Thunderdome.
Nor did the vague sensation of bizarre theater stop at the team's sheets. In the first 20 minutes, we could see Ruben Loftus-Cheek and then Livermore who jumped from difficult areas in midfield, with the ball stuck to the boot as if it were voodoo or superglue. It was like looking … hmm, actually, better keep that thought.
This, presumably, was not exactly what Brazil thought they had signed up for when they scheduled Tite's first departure against the European opposition. But apart from those frivolities, it was the Selecao that improved the difference, Marcelo and Renato Augusto combined with good effect on the left and Neymar went down the holes of the rabbits. A heavy exchange like a back wheel brought the approval of those fanatics with yellow shirts lovingly stretched over five layers of coats, before Gabriel Jesús tried Hart with a nod.
The threat from England was initially limited to the incursion of the Ferrety Channel by Vardy, but gradually grew in stature. Rashford produced the only real moment of offensive quality, pinching Alisson's palms after beating Casemiro, but by the time a fairly domestic opening period came to an end, the pick-and-mixers of Southgate had broken through.
The good work almost broke a minute in the second half. Neymar, for whom the volume in this great ball of ice cream in a stadium always rose a few decibels all night, came from the left, left the defensive of England with the conviction of a geometrist and guided a ball to Philippe Coutinho. Or was it Paulinho? Neither of them seemed to know, which means that Hart was able to run away and put down the hurried effort of the Liverpool man.
Rashford admitted on Monday that he was eager to impress his idol, Ronaldo, and that there was more than a spoonful of the former majesty of O Fenemeno for his next contribution. The 20-year-old defeated Casemiro, coincidentally passed the ball to Marcelo on his legs and only one final recovery challenge ended his progress inside the Brazil box.
There were more opportunities for Selecao, Fernandinho cut the outreach position and Paulinho forced Hart into action. But there was no progress and, given the nature of the England lineup, it should be considered a minor victory for Southgate.