England and Brazil play out 2-2 draw
Rio de Janeiro: England recorded an unlikely draw against Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, as Roy Hodgson`s side battled from a goal down to take the lead before Paulinho sent the iconic Maracana Stadium into raptures with a late leveller.
The Selecao had to wait until the second half to score despite dominating the early exchanges, with Fred tucking the ball into the net after Hernanes had hit the bar. But England responded through substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain`s stinging volley.
Wayne Rooney, somewhat against the run of play, then gave the Three Lions an unexpected lead with a driving run and long-range finish before Paulinho acrobatically volleyed an equaliser just minutes later.
Luiz Felipe Scolari selected a trio of Premier League stars, QPR`s Julio Cesar and Chelsea duo Oscar and David Luiz, while Barcelona new boy Neymar started in attack alongside Hulk, Oscar and spearhead Fred.
England made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 against the Republic of Ireland, with Leighton Baines, James Milner and Phil Jones coming into the XI. Theo Walcott remained on the right wing, despite suggestions he could start up front, as Hodgson opted for a 4-5-1 formation.
Brazil looked the more dangerous side from the very first whistle, hurtling forward in a yellow blur of one-touch passes and silky stepovers, while England scrambled back to defend en masse.
The hosts almost opened the scoring when Dani Alves found soon-to-be Barca team-mate Neymar at the back post. The 21-year-old evaded Glen Johnson but his attempted dink from an acute angle was buffeted away by the massive frame of Joe Hart.
Neymar, looking every inch as exciting as the past legends that had wowed the Maracana, was beginning to enjoy himself. A drag-back on the edge of the box created a yard of space, but his placed shot curled just wide.
Hart was quickly becoming England`s most active player, forced into a frantic triple save, pouncing on loose balls, before parrying Oscar`s well-struck attempt – if England looked to be wilting in the Brazilian sun, the Manchester City goalkeeper was proving his worth.
Oscar, elusive and inventive down the right, fizzed in a cross to the near post which was back-heeled towards goal by Hulk. For a moment Hart looked beaten, but the ball trickled inches wide.
In the 40th minute, England, finally, fashioned a chance of their own. A quick counter saw Johnson drive infield, sliding a pass behind the Brazil defence for Walcott, but the Arsenal man`s shot, though powerful, was straight at Cesar.
England, perhaps having been rollicked at half-time, improved after the break; they were more patient on the ball and less open at the back. But just as they were assuming some semblance of parity, the Canarinhos struck.
Lazio midfielder Hernanes, having replaced Luiz Gustavo, picked up the ball deep and floated an arching shot towards goal which drifted beyond the reach of Hart and onto the crossbar. Fred reacted quickest to the rebounded, slotting into the net as Hart scrambled back across his line in vain.
England responded well, though, with Rooney heading off target after Milner`s rasping drive had been deflected just wide.
Then, a moment of magic. Oxlade-Chamberlain, a second-half substitute, darted infield. Rooney returned a pass to the 19-year-old, who pinged a snap-shot volley towards goal from the edge of the box that curled wickedly inside the near post with Cesar powerless to stop it.
As Brazil looked to restore their lead, England began to find space on the break. With barely 10 minutes remaining, Rooney picked up the ball and drove towards goal. The yellow shirts backed off and allowed the 27-year-old to open up his body and curl a shot towards goal which looped off Fernando and into the top corner.
But the Maracana was only silent for a moment, as Brazil flooded forward in search of a response. Lucas Moura darted down the right, engineering space to whip in a cross that deflected into the path of Paulinho. The Corinthians midfielder adjusted his body and lashed the ball into the bottom corner to claim a deserved draw for the home side.
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