A Sandro header and a penalty from Neymar was enough to see Brazil claim victory against Great Britain in the Olympic warm-up match at the Riverside Stadium last night.
On an evening which should have seen David Beckham lead out Team GB on Teesside against the boys from Brazil, the game started cautiously for the South Americans with the Chelsea-bound Oscar misplacing an easy 5-yard pass early on to the amusement of the fans. It must have been the cold air coming off the North Sea that startled the Samba stars, but soon after, they did find their feet and linked up well causing the Team GB defence all sorts of problems.
Manchester City defender Micah Richards and West Ham central defender James Tomkins were given the task of marshalling the back four but had no joy as Santos play-maker Neymar teased Team GB – skipping through them on a couple of occasions. It was the quick thinking of Neymar that got the Brazilians on the score sheet. The 20-year-old curled a right-footed cross from a free-kick which found the head of Sandro, who then guided the ball past the helpless Jason Steele in the Team GB goal.
Great Britain sparked into life briefly with the ageless Ryan Giggs showing control and poise on the ball but lacking that final ball that was needed to unlock the Brazilian defence – it was another moment again when we are all thinking: why is Beckham not playing?!
There was plenty of talk about Neymar ahead of the game – a very bright star in the making. Back in Brazil though, playing for Santos, he has already gained superhero status. You could see why after last night’s showing. He has pace, energy and the compulsory Mary Poppins style bag-of-tricks which is the recipe for success in world football. He can finish as well, 42 goals in 88 appearances for his club over three seasons – not bad for a player who doesn’t turn 21 until February next year.
Another Brazilian superhero playing last night was Hulk – yes that’s his name. Well, it’s his nickname – his father gave it him because he was a fan of the television series, The Incredible Hulk. It’s actually quite an apt name for this 25-year-old striker who plays for Porto. Showing glimpses of what he capable of, he has close-control, a great turn of speed which Richards knew about leading to the second goal from the penalty spot and a thunderous shot. He’s our tip for top scorer at the Olympics.
So Richards gave away a penalty, bringing down Hulk in the box which Neymar dispatched clinically from 12-yards into the bottom corner of the goal – again Steele with no chance. Despite conceding two goals on the night, Jason can be proud of his efforts, facing some world class players and didn’t look overwhelmed by the fixture. On another night he would have been a busier goalkeeper and would have shown us that he is capable of producing some great saves. Unfortunately for him, his replacement, Butland had a super second half and will probably be the number one choice for the opening game against Senegal next Thursday.
Brazil continued to show us why they are the favourites to grab gold at the Olympics with their intricate one-two football in the second half, which looked delightful to watch. Even the fresh legs they brought on looked as if they had played international football for years. If you have the chance to go and watch Brazil during the Olympics then you will not be disappointed. Take your kids, take your younger brother or sister – take anyone. Watching this kind of football will make any youngster throw away their Xbox or PlayStation and grab a football and start juggling the ball and playing 5-a-side from morning until it gets dark throughout the summer. This young Brazilian side are destined for greatness – where have we heard that before?
Just as we love to see the Brazilians play their football anywhere in the world, we really do appreciate it when they come to town – once in a blue moon that is. One particular Brazilian turned-up in 1995 and the whole town went crazy for a few years and some people even go bright-eyed today when you mention the name Juninho. Despite a crowd last night of nearly 25,000 – this Olympic warm-up game reached nowhere near the hype it deserved. People kept saying in the weeks leading up to this game that it would be a ‘historic moment’ for men’s football and for Great Britain. If that were true, then why was the stadium short of 10,000 fans. If organisers can’t even fill a English second division club stadium with an exciting fixture against the most entertaining football nation in the world, then how on earth will 90,000 seats be filled at Wembley Stadium for Team GB’s Olympic game against UAE.
David Beckham should have been in last night’s Team GB side. Maybe that crazy summer of 1995 would have been felt again on Teesside if Becks had graced the pristine pitch of the Riverside. The stadium would have been packed, a first in many years that is, a spectacle that Boro fans would have enjoyed, not just for the football they would have witnessed but also for the buzz for the forthcoming new season. Team GB now go on their Olympic journey without David Beckham and without the packed stadiums but still have a chance of progressing through to the knock-out stage, even with a chance of winning a Bronze medal.
We will leave you with a bit of fun. Whilst gathering some stats about the Brazilian players on show last night we discovered the fascinating names and nicknames given to the current crop of boys from Brazil, but we have started the list with a couple of legends you may already be familiar with.
Edison Arantes do Nascimento – Pele
Osvaldo Giroldo Júnior – Juninho
Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior – Ronaldo
Juan Guilherme Nunes Jesus – Juan
Givanildo Vieira de Souza – Hulk
Marcelo Vieira da Silva Júnior – Marcelo
David Robert Joseph Beckham – Golden Balls
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior – Neymar
Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior – Oscar
Follow The Boro Brick Road…