Brazil's players have been pooh-poohing England's chances in the upcoming World Cup, but it was the visitors who had the last laugh at the Maracana, securing a 2-2 draw thanks to goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wayne Rooney despite being broadly outplayed.
The first half made for ugly viewing for both sides. England were in shambles early -- it took them 40 minutes to mount their first coherent attack -- but Brazil struggled to capitalize and their finishing badly let them down as they ended up seeing a half-dozen good chances squandered. That would come back to haunt them in a major way.
Neymar, Hulk and Fred were all complicit, but they also found Joe Hart in good form. The Manchester City goalkeeper saved well after a point-blank effort from Neymar, and dealt pretty comfortably with efforts from Oscar and Dani Alves. Brazil seemed content to rack up the shot count rather than move the ball into better positions, with Hulk and Neymar taking a few silly, low percentage shots to the detriment of the team.
Still, not all of the hosts' attempts were doomed to fail -- Hulk saw an improvised flick go just wide of the post and Fred skied a header over the bar, both chances coming after good work by Oscar on the right. Oscar, in fact, was playing so well that Leighton Baines quit the field early, trudging off with half an hour gone to be replaced by Ashley Cole.
As halftime loomed, England woke up a bit. Julio Cesar was forced into his first save after Theo Walcott evaded David Luiz to break through the Brazil line, and the Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper was called into action once again when Frank Lampard fired in a speculative effort at the near post.
But it was clear that the Selecao were the better team, and it was only a matter of time before they broke the deadlock. It was a halftime introduction who got things going, with Lazio midfielder Hernanes beating Hart with a long-range curler that rattled off the crossbar and rebounded straight to Fred. He reacted acrobatically, twisting his body to fire the loose ball past a helpless Hart to make it 1-0.
England responded bravely, and Rooney should have equalized from a corner when he was left unmarked 10 yards from goal. However, the Manchester United forward couldn't connect cleanly with his header, and the ball sailed well wide. Still, the threat was far from over, as minutes later the visitors were level.
The goal came from more or less nothing. The ball bounced around 25 yards from goal after England tried to force their way right down the center, and substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain was first to it. Instead of settling, the winger took a lovely first-time shot that flashed through Paulinho's legs and swerved inside to beat Cesar.
And it turned out that Roy Hodgson's men weren't done there. Just 12 minutes after Oxlade-Chamberlain's goal, the visitors suddenly found themselves with an implausible lead. Rooney opened up some space 30 yards out, and with no better options, let fly with a speculative drive that had no chance of going in until it flicked off Fernando and nestled into the top corner.
Brazil hadn't lost at home in a decade, and they were not particularly thrilled with that record being put at risk. Their reply was immediate, and it came through Paulinho, who produced a magnificent twisting volley from the penalty spot to haul the hosts back to level terms. That goal was the culmination of a brilliant 20-pass move that showed the Selecao at their very best.
Unfortunately for the home support, Brazil weren't at their very best very often in this match. They demonstrated the ability to beat England comfortably, but didn't take their chances and were ultimately forced to battle back after their profligacy allowed the visitors to get back into the game.