Brazil make their third trip to the new Wembley Stadium this week to take on England in a glamour friendly tie, as both sides step up their World Cup preparation ahead of next summer’s tournament in Russia.

Ahead of the game we sat down with proud Brazilian and UCFB Wembley’s Gustavo Spanholi, programme leader for BA (Hons) International Football Business, to discuss both countries chances next summer, and the issues affecting each nation on and off the pitch…

Leadership

England and Brazil are two countries whose national mood is determined by the football team. They’re also two world super powers with huge economies and a government in disarray. While Theresa May and her party are at loggerheads over how to run the country and deal with Brexit, Brazil’s unpopular president Michel Temar continues to fight off allegations of corruption. Both governments have the potential to crumble at any time.

So it’s in the technical area of Wembley Stadium and the Maracana that two men represent their country on the other world stage – football. A year into the job, Gareth Southgate is providing the “strong and stable” leadership needed as England manager, following a turbulent 2016. A solid, if unspectacular, qualifying campaign saw England go unbeaten on their way to Russia, and players are responding to Southgate in a positive manner. His promise to only select players who are playing for their club, and guts to choose uncapped players along the way, is earning the England boss respect in and out of the Wembley dressing room.

Gareth Southgate watches from the touchline during a World Cup Qualifier.

In Brazil, World Cup winning captain Dunga was disposed of as national team manager in 2016 following a disastrous Copa America campaign, and was replaced by Tite. Seven consecutive victories quickly made him a favourite among players and fans, and now he’s got the Brazilian public dreaming of a first World Cup triumph since 2002. Such has been his impact in the football mad country, some Brazilians say if they could choose anyone to be their president, it would be Tite. His efforts to reunite the country at a time where it lacks leadership has given the whole nation a much needed lift.

Gustavo says: “Brazilians were afraid that the Selecao wouldn’t qualify for a World Cup for the first time in its history. However, the unprecedented unbeaten run of 12 matches (ten wins, two draws) during the qualifiers, and the recovering of the ‘joga bonito’ style, has made all Brazilians, including the players, take notice and admire Tite’s charismatic leadership.”

Coaching and management

A new generation of coaches able to teach the “England DNA” has been an obsession over the last decade. The FA have been watching the likes of Germany and Spain to understand their recent success and the reason for it – quality, consistent coaching from youth levels through to the first team. The opening of St. George’s Park in 2012 was seen as a breakthrough moment in English football, and now appears to be bearing fruit. World Cup wins for the U17s and U20s this summer, along with a European championship win for the U19s, has made 2017 an unprecedented year for English football and highlighted the good work now being done by the governing body to address coaching shortfalls.

England U20s celebrate their famous World Cup win this summer.

In Brazil, however, an emphasis on coaching is less forthcoming. While it’s a cliché to say it, football is a “feeling” in Brazil and there is only one way to play the game – with flair and passion. A Brazilian coach leaving his own shores to manage is a rare thing, and most Brazilians see more joy in one of their players setting the heavyweight European leagues alight. Tite is now changing that perception and is widely thought of as the “next big thing” in South American coaching, with the capabilities of moving to Europe. An intense student of the game, he doesn’t specialise in motivation but is tactically astute and his leadership captivates the players, as exampled in the Selecao’s dominant performance in World Cup qualification. Long-time rival Argentina can boast a rich coaching pedigree alongside their players – Marcelo Bielsa, Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino – and Brazil now hope their man will join the illustrious list of South America coaches taking Europe by storm… once he’s won the World Cup, of course.

Gustavo says: “Tite is known for underpinning his natural charisma and leadership with a deep, solid knowledge of tactics acquired over the years through not only study, but also internships with leading managers and clubs worldwide. It won’t be a surprise to see him managing a powerhouse in Europe in the near future.”

Neymar vs Kane

Though the Tottenham striker will miss the game at Wembley through injury, both players will be carrying the hopes of their nations next summer in Russia. But while their off the field antics couldn’t be further apart – one revels in the Hollywood limelight and the other lives a quiet life in Essex with his childhood sweetheart – on the pitch they’re two of the most lethal goal scorers in the game.

Neymar’s world record £200m move to Paris Saint Germain this summer may have shocked the world, but the price tag is now the benchmark for world-class talent. So much so, if Kane was to leave North London it’s widely expected his transfer fee would break that of the Brazilian’s.

Harry Kane celebrates after scoring against France this summer.

The similarities don’t end there, and each player is constantly striving for greatness. With a goal scoring record in 2017 that is only bettered by Lionel Messi, Kane has made no secret of the fact that he wants to reach the heights of the Argentinian and Cristiano Ronaldo and win the Ballon D’or. Meanwhile, it’s claimed Neymar left Barcelona to escape the shadow of Messi and put himself in contention for the honour too, something he felt he couldn’t do at the Nou Camp.

Gustavo says: “Unfortunately Kane has pulled out of this game, however it would be interesting to see the duel between the current transfer market record-breaker and the player with the full potential to be the next one. They are two goal-scoring machines that lead their squads with their technique and decision-power on the pitch.”  

Bouncing back

The dates aren’t remembered, but the score lines will be forever: July 8th 2014, Brazil 1-7 Germany, and June 27th 2016, England 1-2 Iceland. The most embarrassing moment in each nation’s football history. Brazil were dismantled in front of a horrified home crowd in a World Cup semi-final, and England reached a new low with a hapless display against a country with a population less than Cornwall.

How each nation responds next summer is vital. Brazil have since made amends with an Olympic gold medal in 2016, also in their back yard, and England have shown promise with a new, exciting breed of youngsters and an unbeaten World Cup qualifying campaign. Brazil expect to win every World Cup and next year will be no different. With a squad featuring the attacking prowess of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho, no one will fancy facing the South Americans. In England, expectations are low following a poor 2014 World Cup and the Iceland defeat. However, anything less than a quarter final appearance will be deemed a failure. England’s youth teams have led the way this summer, now it’s time for the senior team to step up.

Gustavo says: “The defeat by Germany still deeply hurts Brazilians. However, Tite’s performance has reinvigorated hopes once again and a good campaign in Russia, playing beautiful, competitive football, would go a long way to recovering Brazilians’ self-esteem.

“Brazilians firmly believe their team is the favourite to lift the trophy for the sixth time and I would say that they have many reasons for this confidence.”