Roy Hodgson said his England players could regard the 2-2 draw against Brazil as a "coming of age" because of the way they prevented their first trip to South America since 1984 from turning into an ordeal.
Hodgson's team were outplayed in the first hour and facing the possibility of a demoralising defeat after Fred opened the scoring for Luiz Felipe Scolari's team. Instead Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wayne Rooney gave England the lead with two superb strikes in the space of 12 minutes before Paulinho's equaliser spared Brazil from defeat on the night that the revamped Maracanã re-opened.
England's goals brought acclaim from Hodgson and Oxlade-Chamberlain was left with a wonderful memory from the stadium where his father, Mark Chamberlain, played in the game made famous by John Barnes's run through the Brazil defence 29 years ago.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had been restricted to a substitute's role, with James Milner taking over the left-wing spot. But Hodgson singled out the Arsenal player for special praise by pointing out that "his energy and ability to turn on the ball helped us turn the match".
The night did not go perfectly for Oxlade-Chamberlain, however, after it emerged the player's father had actually missed the goal. "I was dropping his mother off at the airport at 6am this morning and I fell asleep," Chamberlain said. "I was a bit gutted. I had loads of texts saying it was a fantastic goal but I missed it. I have it on tape and will watch it back."
Oxlade-Chamberlain, informed that his father had missed it, saw the funny side: "It doesn't surprise me that he fell asleep. He'll probably be the last person to get in touch."
Hodgson admitted being dismayed with England's display in the first half when they also lost Leighton Baines to injury, having already been badly depleted by players withdrawing.
"We started the second half much better. In the first half we were far too cautious. It was understandable because it was a different pitch to the type we're used to. It was a big pitch and hot, versus an exceptional team, but I was disappointed we didn't move the ball quicker and play the football we can do," Hodgson said.
Overall, though, he felt the good outweighed the bad. "We were looking forward, and terribly excited, to play in the Maracanã against a Brazil side preparing for the Confederations Cup. For us it is the end of a long season and it's a long trip against a good team. So we're delighted with how we kept ourselves in the game and didn't capitulate despite them being clearly better than us.
"In the second half we were every bit as good as them and we take lot of credit for that. Most teams, managers and coaches know that when you come to Brazil they will have more of the ball and create more chances. The question is if you can deal with it and come away with a result, and that's what we have done."
Gary Lineker had accused Hodgson's team of employing tactics from "the dark ages" after the 1-1 draw against Republic of Ireland last Wednesday. Now Lineker, tongue in cheek, posted via his Twitter account that it was "hard to look beyond England for next summer's World Cup!"
Hodgson, who temporarily abandoned his usual 4-4-2 system, said: "The last two performances have been very different against two very different sides but I think there are a lot of positives to take out of it, not least that a lot of the players we will be counting upon in the autumn [for the World Cup qualifiers] were not available for us.
"It took a wonder strike from Paulinho to get Brazil back into it. Sure, they will say they deserved that but I'm still satisfied with what we have done here. We felt we were well worthy of the draw. The clever money would have had us struggling to get any sort of result, not least because of being down to the bare bones. It's not easy to come here at the end of the season and play two hard games but I'm pleased we could finish the season, at least in our eyes, on a good note."
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