Football: England hold Brazil in Maracana friendly

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - England coach Roy Hodgson lamented a win that got away after his side gave World Cup hosts Brazil a fright Sunday in holding the five-time world champions to an entertaining 2-2 draw in a prestige friendly in Rio de Janeiro.

The visitors, victorious on their last visit back in 1984, when John Barnes famously clinched the win with a solo effort, were on the ropes in an absorbing first half which Brazil largely dominated, but held their own until 12 minutes after the restart when Fred scored for the South American giants.

But a neat strike from substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and then a rasping drive from Wayne Rooney turned the match on its head before Paulinho volleyed in eight minutes from time to level a contest held to mark the multi-million dollar refurbishment of the Maracana stadium.

"Some draws can be labelled victories and some draws can be labelled defeats," said Hodgson afterwards.

"We played so well in the second half I thought we might hold on for the win but we were scotched by a wonder strike. We didn't play anywhere near like we wanted to in the first half and Brazil did, so it was a fair result," he conceded.

England beat Brazil in a Wembley friendly back in February which marked the return to the auriverde's dugout of Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Brazilians' 2002 World Cup-winning coach.

But the pressure has been heaped on Scolari, who has managed only a win over Bolivia in half a dozen matches during this second spell in charge, while the World Cup hosts have slid to 19th in the Fifa rankings - an all-time lowpoint.

In addition, Brazil have been embarrassed by a series of glitches in preparations for not just the World Cup in 13 months time but also the Confederations Cup, which starts on June 15 in six venues across the country amid infrastructural problems which have dogged the hosts.

Sunday's match was even set to be called off after a local judge ruled on Thursday that the game could not go ahead as the Maracana did not, in her view, meet minimum safety requirements.

The decision was overturned after city authorities scrambled an appeal before the Rio State government explained that a mandatory safety report had not been sent to the relevant local authority due to a "bureaucratic failure".

But once the green light was given, a 66,000 crowd turned out to see if Brazil could shine in a dress rehearsal for their Confederations Cup opener against Japan.

And after failing to make their superiority in terms of possession in the opening period pay off with a goal, the home side did not disappoint as Fred, also on target at Wembley, latched on to a rebound after Hernanes saw a piledriver come back off the crossbar with keeper Joe Hart beaten.

Hart had already been a busy man in the opening half as he smothered an early chance from close range for Barcelona-bound Neymar and then saved well from Bruno Alves and Oscar.

But no sooner had Fred broken the deadlock on 57 minutes than England suddenly sparked into life after their defences had finally been breached.

And 10 minutes later Roy Hodgson's side were level through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had barely entered the action as a substitute in place of Glen Johnson.

Frank Lampard combined with Rooney and Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose father Mark played in the 1984 England success, fired in a low effort.

Rooney then struck a tremendous second with 11 minutes remaining, his 25-metre effort flicking off Fernando to leave Brazil facing their first home loss to European opposition since Barnes and Chamberlain's exploits of three decades earlier.

Indeed, the Samba stars had not lost any match on home soil in a decade and they managed to salvage their record as Paulinho volleyed powerfully home after Lucas Moura had teed him up with a cross from the right.

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