England vs Brazil: What if you could pick a combined XI?
Let's be honest: England's international record doesn't bear comparison to Brazil's. While the Selecao have won the World Cup five times and scooped eight continental gongs at the Copa America, the Three Lions have just a single major trophy to their name - and even that triumph came on home soil in 1966.
Brazil are riding high after qualifying in style under Tite, with optimism comparatively low in England ahead of next summer's World Cup in Russia. Yet as this combined XI shows, Gareth Southgate does have a few top-notch players to call upon...
GK: Ederson (Brazil)
The Manchester City goalkeeper isn’t even first choice for his country at the moment, with Roma custodian Alisson preferred between the sticks. The ex-Benfica man is in fine form right now, though, and looks to be on the path to grabbing the No.1 jersey before the action gets under way in Russia next summer.
For that reason, Ederson beats off competition from his countryman to mind the net for our combined XI. In truth, none of Joe Hart, Jack Butland or Jordan Pickford come close to challenging Pep Guardiola’s go-to glovesman.
RB: Dani Alves (Brazil)
He may turn 35 later this season, but Alves remains among the world’s best right-backs. The former Barcelona mainstay is superb in possession and a significant attacking threat, while he’s still fit enough to shuffle up and down the flank when required.
Alves came close to joining Manchester City in the summer, before ultimately settling on a move to PSG. That decision prompted Pep Guardiola to move for Kyle Walker, who is England’s leading candidate at right-back but not quite good enough to see off the 34-year-old in this team.
CB: Marquinhos (Brazil)
With five full seasons under his belt in two of Europe’s toughest leagues, former Roma man Marquinhos has a great deal of experience for someone who’s still only 23. The PSG centre-back is a fine reader the game who takes up excellent defensive positions, while he also excels with the ball at his feet.
A team-mate at club and country, Thiago Silva is now past his best at 33, while PSG’s decision to sell David Luiz to Chelsea in 2016 was at least partly influenced by Marquinhos’ emergence as a regular starter. Neither Gary Cahill nor Phil Jones can match the Brazilian’s well-rounded repertoire.
CB: John Stones (England)
It’s fair to say Stones isn’t your typical English defender. While John Terry and Rio Ferdinand were both fine ball-players in the heart of the backline, both men were also capable of the type of sleeves-up, muck-and-nettles style of defending which tends to be venerated on these shores.
There have, conversely, always been question marks over Stones’ natural defensive instincts, but even his harshest critics cannot deny that the Manchester City defender has been imperious so far this season. His standout quality remains his ability in possession, but Stones has also been solid and robust in a more traditional sense.
LB: Marcelo (Brazil)
Marcelo has been a Real Madrid player for 10 years now, but it seems as though the left-back has only begun to receive the credit he deserves in the last couple of seasons. A defender in the loosest sense of the word, the Brazilian is a wonderfully talented footballer who pushes forward at every opportunity, often underlapping to create in central areas rather than overlapping to whip crosses into the box.
Critics who assert he cannot defend are often guilty of missing the point: playing for sides like Madrid and Brazil, Marcelo is instructed to advance up the pitch – it’s largely down to his team-mates to provide cover.
CM: Casemiro (Brazil)
Being a defensive midfielder for Brazil and Real Madrid must be a mixed blessing: watching the magic at close quarters, yet having to get through an awful lot of work to help it happen. Casemiro doesn’t mind, having firmly established himself for los Merengues under Zinedine Zidane and the Selecao under Tite.
For Brazil, he has been so impressive that he has edged out Manchester City’s Fernandinho; Tite has been wondering aloud about trying the two of them together. That might sound slightly defensive, but let’s not forget that when allowed to range forward, Casemiro can produce the sort of shot that flew past Gigi Buffon in the 2017 Champions League Final.
CM: Eric Dier (England)
This was perhaps the toughest pick of the entire team, in a position in which neither Brazil nor England is particularly blessed with high calibre options. Paulinho and Renato Augusto have been important players for their country under Tite but doubts persist, while Jordan Henderson still doesn’t fully convince for Liverpool or England.
It’s therefore Dier who gets the nod, forming a solid base alongside Casemiro which should provide the team’s forward line with a vital defensive platform. An underrated passer, the Tottenham man is adept at recycling possession and linking the back of the team with the front.
RW: Raheem Sterling (England)
Unfairly scapegoated following England’s ignominious exit at the hands of Iceland at Euro 2016, Sterling remains one of the Three Lions’ chief attacking threats and most important players.
The 22-year-old has been showing his worth at club level this term, scoring seven goals and providing two assists to help Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City march to the top of the Premier League table. Willian is a useful player who thrives on the counter-attack, but Sterling edges out the Chelsea man on the right flank.
AM: Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)
Coutinho has mostly been deployed on the right in his last few outings for Brazil, with Neymar commandeering the left flank and no No.10 in Tite’s system. We’ve opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation for our joint team, though, which means the Liverpool schemer can be deployed behind the striker.
Tottenham’s Dele Alli is England’s foremost candidate for this position. The 21-year-old would offer a different interpretation of the role – he’s more of a second striker these days – but Coutinho gets the nod as our attacking midfielder.
LW: Neymar (Brazil)
The easiest choice of the lot, Neymar is one of the world’s top three players and is therefore a shoo-in for our combined XI. The Brazilian’s earth-shattering move from Barcelona to PSG in the summer brought plenty of attention to the 25-year-old off the pitch, but he’s already started to show why the Ligue 1 giants smashed the world record transfer fee to bring him to France.
Marcus Rashford is a talented youngster who’s impressed on the left for Manchester United this year, but he’s not yet anywhere near Neymar’s level.
ST: Harry Kane (England)
Gabriel Jesus has established himself as Brazil’s first-choice No.9 under Tite, fighting off competition from Roberto Firmino to lead the line for his country. A fantastic young talent, the Manchester City striker has also been in tremendous form at club level, averaging a goal every 86 minutes in the Premier League this season.
Despite that, Kane is our choice up front. The England centre-forward continues to confound expectations and would be the perfect focal point for this team, with Sterling, Neymar and Coutinho likely to provide the Spurs frontman with plenty of ammunition.
Total players per country: England 4, Brazil 7
Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).