Team GB were outclassed by Brazil in their first and only
serious outing before they start their Olympic campaign against Senegal
at Old Trafford on Thursday. Stuart Pearce's team were given an
indication of the huge task facing them if they are to win a medal at
the Games as Brazil, one of the pre-tournament favourites, cruised to
victory at the Riverside Stadium.
It was always going to be a difficult task for Pearce's side
against a hugely talented team not only determined to win their first
Olympic football gold but also looking to build towards the World Cup
they host in 2014. Tottenham midfielder Sandro headed his team in
front with just 12 minutes gone after a free-kick was allowed to reach
him at the far post and Neymar doubled the advantage from the penalty
spot before the break.
All of Brazil's Olympic 18-man squad have played for the
senior side whereas only seven of the Team GB squad have
played for either England or Wales at full international
level. Mano Menezes's side were certainly worthy of their lead
at half-time and looked like a team keeping plenty in reserve,
although their opponents certainly improved as the match wore
Brazil took an early grip on the contest and at times mesmerised
their bewildered opponents with a well-honed willingness to pass and
move, constantly seeking space to exploit. Oscar, reportedly heading
to Chelsea, was particularly superb in this respect, with a gift for
finding space both to receive possession and pick out a team-mate.
In contrast, and understandably, there were times when Team GB
looked like a group of strangers, particularly in defence. The central
defensive pairing of James Tomkins and Micah Richards - changed at the
break when Steven Caulker replaced Tomkins - allowed Leandro Damiao to
flick a goal-kick on to Neymar just minutes into the contest. The
striker was clean through but smashed his shot wide.
Neymar showed the theatrical side of his game when he went down on
the edge of the GB area just before the half-hour mark and stayed
there for an extended period, much to the consternation of the crowd,
who sprung into life by booing him and then subjecting him to a slow
hand clap. Before that the atmosphere inside the ground had been very
flat, almost as though nobody quite knew what to chant.
The 20-year-old Santos forward was unfazed and shortly afterwards
showed great composure in slotting his penalty into the bottom corner
after Richards had lost track of Hulk and fouled the Porto forward
GB made changes at the break, with goalkeeper Jack Butland the busiest
of the new arrivals, first denying Oscar and then Damiao.
The home team did briefly threaten when Danny Rose drilled a low
cross that Craig Bellamy, booed throughout by the Boro crowd as a
consequence of his former association with Newcastle, stabbed
goalwards, only to be ruled offside. And there were certainly more
encouraging signs for Team GB after the break as they slowly grew into
the contest, which is their first serious outing following a
behind-closed-doors match against Mexico last weekend.
But the cutting edge continued to belong to Brazil, who open their
Olympic campaign against Egypt in Cardiff, and Neymar drew a brilliant
one-handed save from the excellent Butland, who also smothered an
attempt from Lucas and palmed over an effort from Alexandre Pato. By
the end there had been 12 substitutions and the tempo had dropped
considerably, but Team GB will need to step it up quickly if they are
to qualify from a group that includes Uruguay and United Arab Emirates
in addition to Senegal.