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São Paulo is Brazil’s largest city and hosted England’s second group match against Uruguay. On the morning of the match the England fans team met up in the east of the City for our fans’ friendly match against a local Brazilian side from Vila Madelina. The game had been organised with the help of friendly ex-pat Vince, who had liaised with the municipal government to organise and pay for the pitch. The game had also been sponsored by Beats Audio, the headphones brand masterminded by Doctor Dre himself. Beats provided refreshments for the game along with free t-shirts featuring either Danny Sturridge or Neymar.
With a strong squad of around twenty players to choose from, the England team had a different look from the side that started in Manaus and opened the game brightly. The opposition team had come from a local favela and was relatively young. Thankfully, the conditions were more favourable for England than the heat and humidity experienced in the jungle – a temp of around 17c and light drizzle meant the English were definitely made to feel at home.
The game started off at a high tempo with both teams competing for every ball. England were keen to show their Brazilian counterparts they could play and maintained some good spells of possession in the opening period. It was clear that the Brazilian team were technically very good with both their centre back and central midfielders showing great footwork and close control when under pressure. However, this was a strong England team who were comfortable in possession and were able to stretch their opposition with some slick passing.
The first goal came from some excellent link-up play on the right-hand side between Sam Overnall and right back David Rhodes. Just as it looked as if the Brazilian left back had intercepted a slick one-two, Rhodes managed to extend a long leg and whip in a cross which looped over the keeper and nicely onto the head of striker Ashley Deekes who made no mistake, heading home from five yards out.
From the restart Brazil were straight back into the game, playing out from the back and creating some good chances down the left hand side. England remained confident in possession and looked dangerous on the counter attack, with Derek Atkinson breaking away and putting a delicate lob inches over the bar. It was Brazil who scored next, making their pressure pay with an excellent move down the left-hand side, the pacy striker latching onto a through ball and finishing neatly past England goalkeeper Dickens Richards.
Before half time England manager Ed Rhodes began to show his hand, introducing brothers Daniel and Joe Simmons into midfield and Glen Thornton as centre back. The revised team kept a tight line and, despite some dangerous attacks from Brazil, the teams went into the half time break at one-a-piece. Half time saw further changes to the England lineup with both Jo Friar and Brett Ackroyd making an impact from the bench. It was Brazil, though, who started off the brighter in the second half, with their pacy striker again showing a clean set of heels to the English defence and slotting an excellent finish in-off-the-post past England’s goalkeeper for the second half, Andrew Fryer.
Brazil further extended their lead around 30mins into the second half as their striker claimed a well deserved hat-trick. Trailing by two goals and with only 15mins left on the clock it would have been quite easy for the visiting team to capitulate. However, the English team stuck to their game, being tough in the tackle and showing good forward movement when in possession. From the substitutes it was perhaps Thornton who had the biggest impact, with some astute defending supplemented with accurate deliveries into the box from set pieces. And it was from a set piece that England equalised – referee Dave Beverley blowing up for a free kick 25 yards outside the box, from which Thornton smashed an upstoppable shot into the bottom left of the net.
With five minutes remaining it was clear that the game would go right to the wire. It was England who were applying all the pressure with several corners being put in from the right-hand side. Brazil had replaced their keeper with Vince (our host) and after successfully defending three corners in a row, England were finally able to make their pressure count. A great delivery into the far post was met by Sam Overnall who headed towards the top left corner of the net. Just when it looked as though the equaliser had arrived, Vince sprang into action making an unbelievable save to his right- hand side. Unfortunately for Brazil, the save of the match meant nothing as England were able to pick up the second ball and scramble it over the line to celebrate a scrappy but well deserved equaliser.
After a closely contested match, the man in black blew up for full time and signalled for a penalty shoot out. As the players swapped shirts and the crowd gathered towards one end of the pitch, five brave English players put their names forward to attempt to break England’s duck by winning a World Cup penalty shoot out for the first time.
It was Glen Thornton who stepped up to take the first pen, again smashing the ball into the net past the Brazilian keeper. Brazil missed their first penalty and England capitalised by scoring their second to make it 2-0. Brazil scored their second penalty to make it 2-1 and then it was England’s turn to miss, dragging their third past the left hand post. Brazil equilized with their third penalty to make it 2-2 but England extended their lead to 3-2 with their fourth. The fourth Brazilian penalty was uncharacteristically blazed over the bar and England’s victory was complete as their fifth penalty was converted to secure a 4-2 win.
The match was followed with a short presentation in which our hosts thanked the English players for a great game and told us that it meant a lot to them that the English fans had made the effort to come an visit their community. We were lucky to have a visit from the municipal Mayor, who via our translator Vince, agreed that the fans friendly initiative is what the World Cup is really all about; meeting new people and learning about different cultures through football.
We would like to express a huge thanks to our hosts who showed us such a warm welcome and the Mayor who showed a real interest in the match and provided the pitch. A massive thanks also goes out to Vince and and Mark Perryman for all their work arranging the match.
A full set of pictures are available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjYYtPio