Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus scored two late goals to give Brazil a 3-1 victory in their friendly international against the Czech Republic in Prague.
Jesus struck during the closing minutes after Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino cancelled out David Pavelka’s first-half opener for the home side.
Czech Republic manager Jaroslav Silhavy made four changes from the side beaten 5-0 by England last Friday, including a recall for former captain Marek Suchy.
Brazil, meanwhile, paraded the likes of Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson as they looked for a vastly-improved performance after arriving in Prague following a 1-1 draw against Panama.
Brazil took time to find their pattern, while the home side were a far more organised and impressive outfit than the one on show at Wembley.
Brazil also had Casemiro and Richarlison booked during the opening half, but they were level just four minutes after the break.
The Czech Republic were powerless to prevent Firmino from finding the target with a close-range strike, and that set the tone for a dominant second-half display by the South Americans.The home side would have been hopeful of holding out for a draw, but Jesus had other ideas.
He pounced seven minutes from time with a close-range shot to put Brazil ahead, before sealing victory in the closing seconds.
His second goal was also a right-footed effort, leaving Brazil to reflect on a far more convincing display than what they produced against Panama in Porto.
The Czech Republic, meanwhile, were left to reflect on another defeat, with eight goals conceded in two games during the last six days.
Alvaro Morata dedicated Spain’s 2-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Malta to coach Luis Enrique, who missed the match at the National Stadium – Ta’Qali for personal reasons.
Assistant Robert Moreno took charge of the team, which showed some nine changes from Saturday’s victory over Norway in Valencia.
Morata, on loan at Atletico Madrid from Chelsea, broke the deadlock in the 31st minute when he latched onto a chip from Mario Hermoso to slot a neat angled finish under the goalkeeper.
Malta, who had camped out in front of their own penalty area for long spells, were finally opened up again in the 73rd minute when Jesus Navas’ cross from the right was headed in by Morata.
Spain’s comfortable, if not comprehensive, victory sees them top of Group F, with maximum points from their opening two matches.
“Today we had more motivation to win for our coach. He deserves this,” Morata told reporters, as quoted by Spanish media outlet Marca. “We hope things go as well as possible for him.”
Moreno admitted the absence of Enrique, the former Barcelona coach in his first qualification campaign as La Roja boss, was tough for everyone involved.
“It’s the hardest day as a professional, it’s a shame, I hope everything goes well,” the Spain assistant coach said in a post-match press conference.
“It was not easy to enter the game, when things like this happen, they make the group stronger. We knew we had to do well for the national team and for Luis.”
Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga had come in for Manchester United’s David De Gea, while there were starts for Valencia defender Jose Luis Gaya, Atleti midfielder Saul Niguez and Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto.
Despite the changes, Spain eventually found their way past a resolute defensive display from the home side.
Moreno said: “It was what we expected; they shut up shop.
“Attacking such a compact team isn’t easy and the conditions of the game made things tougher. We created chances and it’s a shame not to have scored more.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
It was a press conference that beggared belief.
Before a word of denial spilled out of Montenegro coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic’s mouth, his press officer immediately shot down the question of racism. Preposterous. No one heard anything.
When Tumbakovic finally deigned to speak on the subject, he was aghast at even being asked to comment. As for having heard chanting – well, simply impossible when so focused on the game.
It was all so blasé, so … ignorant. And therein lies the root of the problem. From a coach and press officer’s verbal shrugs, to the handful of Montenegrin fans who wanted to elicit a response. The undercurrent of the reaction was simply, ‘why does it matter?’
The great irony is that many of the perpetrators are unlikely to consider themselves racist. To them it is merely a way of affecting the game, getting under the skin of a far superior side. Words and noises, in their eyes, do no harm.
The same sentiment is often found on the other side of the divide. Comment sections on UK-based websites are rarely home to an enlightened cross-section of society, but the ‘get on with it’ crowd were out in worrying force.
‘Ignore the language, sticks and stones springs to mind,’ one Times user wrote. ‘Keep calm, channel your anger into a terrific performance’ said another.
Undoubtedly written by middle-aged Caucasian men who have had the privilege of not once being compared to a monkey.
It hurts, and we’ve been alerted to it so many times; whether it is Sterling railing against thinly-veiled stereotyping in the British media, or Danny Rose imploring his family not to attend the World Cup because of his misgivings over Russian attitudes.
Instead of telling victims how to act, then, we must get to the bottom of the actions themselves.
WE’RE WAITING, UEFA
If only there was a powerful, influential and cash-rich organisation that had the collective spines to do something about it. UEFA fall woefully short on the latter.
UEFA’s official ‘ten-point plan’ on discrimination is meek to begin with. Gems such as ‘issue statements saying racism will not be tolerated’ and ‘make public announcements condemning racist chanting’ are almost laughably lukewarm.
Reading through the document, in partnership with FARE – Football Against Racism in Europe – the emphasis is on what clubs and associations can do, rather than UEFA. It’s time to get hands-on.
An investigation into the scenes in Montenegro has been launched, of course, and a fine is probably already in the post with a partial or full stadium ban close behind.
All this does is fire-fight the symptoms and foster resentment from those who have done no wrong, rather than target the root of the ignorance.
The solution is education. The rest is secondary. Pinpoint the supporters, countries, clubs that are the biggest hotspots for abuse, and start reforming attitudes by funding programmes and workshops.
Engage managers, coaches, press officers. Those who don’t come into contact with people of different ethnic backgrounds, and have trouble processing simple empathy.
Just as numerous studies into criminal justice systems have shown, rehabilitation over heavy-handed punishment is almost always the most effective way to stop repeat offending.
Perhaps then, young black men could start to simply ‘get on’ with playing football.