Brazil underlined their position as favourites for Olympic gold when they gave a masterful performance to complete a 2-0 win over hosts Britain, who fielded a united team for the first time in 41 years.
Brazil won the friendly with a header from Sandro and a penalty from Neymar just five days before the London Games football competition, which features an under-23 line-up with three over-aged players, kicks off. Brazil, seeking to win the Olympic title for the first time, sent a powerful message of intent to the other 15 teams in the competition with a silky display in their final warm-up before the Games.
“I am not worried about sending a message to the other teams,” said Brazil coach Mano Menezes. “My main concern was to get my European-based players, returning from holiday, back in the rhythm of the team. That took maybe 20 minutes at the start, but then we played very well for the rest of the half and the match.”
Friday’s match was Britain’s only warm-up before they start their campaign against Senegal at Old Trafford next Thursday. Judging by this performance, coach Stuart Pearce has plenty of work to do over the remaining few days if Britain are going to come anywhere close to the gold they won in the far simpler sporting times of 1900, 1908 and 1912. Pearce said the performance proved that Brazil are the favourites for gold.
“They are one of the outstanding international teams around now, let alone Olympic teams or under 23 sides,” said Pearce. “This squad shows how seriously they are taking this tournament, I think they are all internationals apart from their goalie. They are the team everyone will have to beat if you want to win the gold medal.”
Team GB coach also admitted the hosts are playing catch-up in their bid to produce a home success in the London Games.
“We now understand the magnitude of the task ahead, because whoever beats Brazil will earn the gold medal. We know we need to come to the boil before next Thursday and beyond. Brazil have probably been preparing for the Olympics for the last two or three years. We’ve come through two games now and we’re getting used to playing with each other. We’ve got five or six training sessions before the Senegal game. It’s a steep learning curve.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2012.