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Capello identifies Brazil as team to beat

sports Updated: Nov 15, 2009 07:21 IST

AFP
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Fabio Capello has identified Brazil as the side to beat at next year's World Cup after a second-string England were on the receiving end of what their Italian coach admitted had been a tough lesson.

The ease with which Brazil dominated Saturday's friendly was not fully reflected in the 1-0 victory earned by a superbly-taken header from Villarreal striker Nilmar.

A penalty miss by Luis Fabiano ensured England, captained for the first time by Wayne Rooney, theoretically remained in contention until the end.

But overall, the evening served to underline the importance of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard -- all of whom were absent injured -- being fit if England are to have any hope of challenging in next year's finals.

Brazil never demonstrated the kind of gear changes that will be required to overcome the likes of Spain in South Africa next year. But a cautious England never required them to and Capello admitted he had been impressed.

"I learned a lot," he said. "This Brazil is a very good side, the strongest in the world now, I think.

"They are really good techincally and fast but they are also really strong physcially. Whenever they lose the ball, they win it back very quickly. It is very difficult to find the space to play against them."

Brazil coach Dunga was reluctant to accept the tag of World Cup favourites that Capello wanted to bestow on his side.

"I think Brazil is in balance, technically and tactically and also the physical conditioning of the players is very good," he said.

"But it is not so long since people were saying we were not favourites at all. We need to look for our space to make our game and not pay any attention to what people are saying. All that matters is what we do on the pitch."

Under Capello, England have now played five of the world's top nations in friendlies.

Although they beat Germany in Berlin and drew with Holland in Amsterdam, they have been beaten by France, Spain and Brazil, quite comfortably in the two latter cases.

With only Rooney and Gareth Barry featuring from his first-choice line-up, Capello acknowledged that his back-up players had been unable to match Brazil's quality.

"We did not start so well. Afterwards we did okay but after they scored we lost our shape and our confidence. It was an important test for me to see some of the players and I learned a lot."

Twelve days after becoming a father for the first time, Rooney took his bow as England captain after John Terry joined the lengthy injury list.

Joleon Lescott came in for the regular skipper alongside Matthew Upson, who was one of a number of England players who appeared to be affected by stage fright and twice left England exposed by losing possession deep in his own half in the opening stages.

A wayward shot by Felipe Melo and Nilmar's failure to produce a telling cross ensured the slips were not exploited and it was not until the 23rd minute that the Brazilians had a clear sight of goal.

Kaka's clever pass inside Wes Brown played Michel Bastos into the box and the leftback's drive forced Ben Foster into a full-length dive as it skidded beyond the far post.

England responded immediately with a half-chance of their own, Darren Bent heading James Milner's cross from the left over the bar.

The stifling effect of Brazil's deployment of two midfielders charged with protecting their back four was limiting Rooney's involvement but there was a glimpse of his threat when he side-stepped Thiago Silva on the edge of the box, provoking a body check from the centreback that went unsanctioned.

Brazil's domination finally told just after the restart.

From just to the right of the centre circle, Elano floated a ball over the heads of the stand-in centrebacks and, having darted in behind them from the left, Nilmar steered his header beyond Foster into the far corner of the net.

England should have fallen two behind after Wes Brown's misguided attempt to chest the ball back to Foster allowed Luis Fabiano to nick the ball past the goalkeeper.

Foster's dive sent the striker tumbling but England were granted a double reprieve as the referee only produced a yellow card and Fabiano lifted the resulting spot-kick over the bar.

Milner might have made the Brazilians pay for that when Wright-Phillips' cross found him unmarked at the back post.

But the Aston Villa winger's volley comfortably cleared the bar and there was another late let-off for England when a shot from Brazilian captain Lucio beat Foster but came back off the post.