England’s World Cup homecoming was spoiled by Brazil and a poor run of form continued in front of a record crowd for a Lionesses match outside Wembley.
Despite being roared on by 29,238 fans at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, Phil Neville’s side conceded two bad goals as their winless run extended to five games.
Debinha scored both, but was the beneficiary of an error by England goalkeeper Mary Earps, who let the striker’s header slip under her four minutes after the break.
It got worse midway through the second half when Debinha’s shot was deflected up and over Earps moments after the record attendance was announced.
And although substitute Beth England lifted the crowd with a brilliant header, her first England goal, Brazil held on for a clinical win under new manager Pia Sundhage.
Having beaten Brazil a year ago, and in February at the SheBelieves Cup, this was another blow to Neville, whose side last won a game in the World Cup quarter-final against Norway 100 days ago.
Since then, they have lost four out of five matches, and threw away a two-goal lead to draw with Belgium.
Brazil – who are ranked 11th in the world, six places below England – did not trouble the hosts for long spells on Saturday, but after soaking up pressure in the first half, they had the killer touch the Lionesses lacked.
England face Portugal on Tuesday, and Neville will hope his side can get back to winning ways before his team host Germany in front of what is set to be a record crowd for a women’s match at Wembley on 9 November.
Crowd end game deflated as England struggle again
England’s first game in the north east of the country since 2014 was also the first chance home supporters were able to see the team at home after reaching the World Cup semi-finals.
Since then, England have struggled in friendlies against Belgium and Norway, but with Jill Scott returning to the side after being rested and Jordan Nobbs back in the squad after nine months out with a knee injury, the hosts looked a lot more solid in midfield.
However, in an open first half where England were on top, they lacked the final touch to take the lead as they created several chances in front of an expectant support.
Beth Mead, who returned to the club where she spent six years at Middlesbrough’s centre of excellence, was at the heart of the action as she set up Nikita Parris for a golden opportunity, before shooting wide herself from a narrow angle.
Jodie Taylor, who started up front instead of England’s injured top scorer at the World Cup Ellen White, also had the ball in the back of the net – but it was ruled out for offside before she chipped over when an earlier shot might have been the easier finish.
Neville’s side were made to pay for those missed opportunities as they struggled to impose themselves after going behind shortly after the break.
Chelsea striker England gave them hope as she showed she belongs at international level by heading in from 12 yards following Steph Houghton’s diagonal ball.
Lucy Staniforth, one of seven players from the local area in the squad, also had a header well saved by Barbara late on – but the crowd, who were desperate for an equaliser, finished the game disappointed.
Marta outshone by Debinha
One of the big attractions to watching Brazil was a chance to see six-time Fifa Player of the Year Marta, but the 33-year-old is not at the peak of her powers now and rarely threatened.
In fact, the highlight of her game was being booked for a tackle on Parris.
Swedish coach Sundhage, who led the United States to two Olympic golds, showed she had no room for sentiment by substituting Marta at half-time, and it looked a wise choice as Brazil stunned the Riverside into silence shortly after the interval.
Debinha had had a quiet game in the first half, but came alive in the second, in part thanks to Manchester United goalkeeper Earps, earning her seventh cap.
After the two goals, Brazil were able to kill the game by keeping hold of the ball, and they showed the kind of tactical prowess often seen under Sundhage, who is rated as one of the best coaches in the women’s game.
They finished the game in delight, and having been knocked out of the World Cup at the last-16 stage by hosts France, Sundhage has given them fresh hope as she searches for more success at the Olympics next year in Tokyo.