Bellingham’s kick against Brazil serves as a warning to England for Euro 2024.

Bellingham's kick against Brazil serves as a warning to England for Euro 2024.

Jude Bellingham’s fluid movements were becoming a familiar sight at Wembley. He leaned forward, with the ball nearly hovering on his extended toes, displaying dynamic yet impeccable balance. But when Brazil entered the scene, the beautiful game and its joga bonito were nowhere to be seen. Rather, the prevalent tactic was the tactical foul, and the sight of Bellingham lying on his back was a frustrating image during their 1-0 defeat.

Bellingham’s exceptional performance against Italy last October, which saw England dreaming of a remarkable outcome at the Euros this summer, was not repeated at Wembley due to Brazil’s decision. They recognized the presence of a true star, a Galactico who belongs with their players Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo. However, during the friendly match, Bellingham’s future Real Madrid teammate Endrick scored the winning goal, while Bellingham himself was already benched. One could argue that he was essentially kicked off the field.

The night was shaping up to be eventful from the beginning. When Bellingham positioned himself to receive the ball, it was a warning to Brazil that they were facing a formidable opponent. During the first half, centre-back Lucas Beraldo even resorted to a rough tackle to stop Bellingham’s progress. Other fouls in midfield also seemed to be a tactic from the visitor’s injury-weakened team. Despite Bellingham’s impressive record of 21 goals and 11 assists in 34 games for England and Real Madrid this season, few teams have been able to contain him. But Brazil was able to do so in this match.

This is not able to be rewritten.

During halftime, Bellingham complained to the Portuguese referee, Artur Ribeiro Soares Dias, about his rough treatment during the first half. However, things did not improve for Bellingham after the break and he had to be substituted during the second half due to cramps. Both Harry Kane, who was also injured, and Bellingham were key players for England’s attack, with successful seasons in Munich and Madrid respectively. Their absence may make it challenging for Southgate to lead England to success in the upcoming Euros.

The fact that England lost for the first time since the World Cup when they were defeated by France in Qatar was a warning sign. Despite Bellingham’s status and the aura that he seems to have on Brazil fans at Wembley, he is still only 20 years old. Even with Kane as the leader on the front line, Bellingham remains a key player on this team. However, this game showed that England and Southgate need to have a plan in place for when opposing teams target Bellingham, whether through rough treatment or other means. If Brazil was able to do it, there is no doubt that other teams at the Euros in Germany next summer will try the same approach.

Southgate substituted Bellingham in the second half.

In each game against Brazil, England relied on other players to perform well. Phil Foden, who has been having a great season at Manchester City, started the game with confidence but lost momentum. Anthony Gordon and Ollie Watkins had some good moments, but they seemed unsure how to make decisive moves without key players like Kane and Bukayo Saka. Bringing back those missing players, along with Bellingham and Foden, would lessen the pressure. It’s possible that Southgate only gained new insight from players who are not expected to be in the starting lineup.

Despite Joelinton’s injury, Brazil’s inexperienced team, chosen by Dorival, was able to expose England’s vulnerabilities. They did this with their talented players, including Paqueta’s touches, Vinicius Jr’s bursts, and Rodrygo’s elusiveness, which provided a delight to watch. While England played well overall at Wembley, the crowd was still thrilled to have a star player who could make an impact. However, Brazil was not interested in hearing this and ultimately triumphed in the end.