Josh Barker: Why England fans should not worry about Brazil loss ahead of Euro 2024

England’s road to Euro 2024 did not get off to a great start last weekend when they met Brazil at Wembley.

The Three Lions succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Selecao Canarinha, extending their dismal record against the country and being handed their first loss since the 2022 World Cup quarter-final vs France.

Ahead of the friendly meeting at Wembeley, Brazil head coach Dorival Junior praised England: “These players are moving away from what was known as the traditional way England teams played for years and years. These days they have much more possession, a lot more transitions and breakthrough moves.”

However, England were far from their best on Saturday. They gave up seven big chances (and only had one themselves). Seven big chances is the most given away in a game under Gareth Southgate and just the third time England have conceded five or more.

England looked impressive at times during the friendly, with their high pressing meaning Brazil struggled to build up the play, leading to a game centred around a feisty midfield battle. However, this pressure increased the opportunity for Brazil to hit them quickly on the break, which they did several times during the 1-0 defeat.

Following the match, Gareth Southgate stated that he was happy with how his side played:

“I was pleased,” he said. “Clearly, I don’t like losing football matches, but I thought there were lots of very good individual performances from players who have hardly played for England. I thought some of our more regular players were very good.

“With 15 minutes to go, we’re thinking that we’ve managed to see a lot of new players, we’ve had more than our share of the game, we’ve had as many attempts on goal as they have. So the difference in the end was one moment, really, and that is the ruthlessness of football at this level.”

This level of optimism from the boss post-match has garnered fan backlash but it is easy to see why Southgate was not too concerned about losing, nor the manner in which the defeat came about.

Firstly, England did begin the game with a fairly strong eleven, though key stars Bukayo Saka and Harry Kane were replaced by Ollie Watkins and Anthony Gordon. The Three Lions then lost Kyle Walker to injury after just 20 minutes. The Manchester City right-back was replaced by natural centre-back, Ezri Konsa, which further weakened the team.

In the second half, meanwhile, Southgate gave minutes to Jarrod Bowen, Joe Gomez, Lewis Dunk, Kobbie Mainoo and Marcus Rashford. All of these players, barring perhaps Rashford, are not nor are they expected to be regular starters for England anytime soon.

As a result, England ended the 90 minutes (and conceded the only goal of the game), with just four of what most people would class as their best XI on the pitch - Jordan Pickford, John Stones, Declan Rice and Phil Foden. Had England been playing Brazil in a competitive setting, that eleven would no doubt have looked very different at the end of the 90 minutes.

Furthermore, England have developed something of a reputation for performing poorly in the build-up to a major tournament.

In 2018, right before England reached their first World Cup semi-final since 1990, they drew with and failed to score against Germany, Brazil and Italy, while narrowly beating a weak Netherlands team 1-0.

Shortly before Euro 2020, when England reached the final of the competition for the first time ever, they put in two lacklustre displays vs Austria and Romania that garnered criticism.

It was a similar story in 2022 as well, with England failing to win six UEFA Nations League games on the spin before reaching the World Cup quarter-final and losing to eventual finalists, France, in a tight game.

So, though it is easy to see why some fans are not happy with how England are playing right now, it has become clear that Gareth Southgate is very much a tournament manager and while his side may not lift the trophy in Germany, they are sure to be right in the mix come the back end of Euro 2024.

Josh Barker

Josh Barker

Middlesbrough fan from the North East of England. @JoshBarker979 on Twitter.