Manchester went all samba yesterday afternoon as Brazil's young prospects came to Old Trafford in search of qualifying for the knock-out rounds of the Men's Olympic Football Tournament. It was a Brazil team that featured superstars like Neymar, Ganso, Pato, Hulk, Thiago Silva, Oscar etc. many of whom are suggested to be on their way to England or Europe or have already joined in the case of Oscar who joined Chelsea a few days ago.
However, the first order of business was to perhaps seek who would join Brazil in the next round, with both New Zealand and Egypt narrowly losing their first matches of the tournament they desperately needed the three points.
Egypt started the better of the two, Salah who recently joined Swiss club FC Basel was lively on the wing, however despite all their early dominance, West Bromwich Albion striker Chris Wood opened the scoring for New Zealand after sixteen minutes with an attempt which tried its hardest to miss the target completely. A flick on from a corner fell to Wood who completely miss-hit the strike but luckily beat the Egyptian goalkeeper to give New Zealand a hope against an Egypt who dominated this match.
That domination would be paid off with five minutes of the opening half remaining when the lively Salah just poked the ball past Michael O'Keefe.
The second half fizzled out of life with both teams coming close and O'Keefe having to make some terrific saves whenever Egypt attacked. It was the Eqyptians who should have taken all the points when one of their three over-age players Emad Moteab who plays for Egyptian Champions Al-Ahly went round the goalkeeper but put his effort straight into the Stretford End in a moment so reminiscent of Spain and Chelsea's Fernando Torres who missed one so similar at the opposite end last season.
Still in keeping with the Olympic tradition both teams received a round of applause after the match in an atmosphere similar to one of an exhibition match than a competitive one. It was a match that although supported adequately by both New Zealanders and Egyptians was very much enjoyed by all in the stadium, most of whom were more interested in the main event.
From two teams that will now have to rely on a final game in the groups to go through, New Zealand having to hope for a heavy victory over Brazil whilst Belarus and Egypt draw and Egypt or Belarus having to hope to beat one another to qualify to a team many from every length and breadth of the country turned out to see mixed with some native Brazilians and even some Belarusians in scattered areas of Old Trafford too.
Perhaps the most hilarious moment of the day was the electronic screen showing GB's James Tomkins to be lining up for Brazil's substitutes, such a ludicrous selection that was even read out over the PA in both French and English with absolutely no hesitation or confusion. No offence to Tomkins but his name alone maybe the last thing I expect to see on a Brazilian team sheet. This was later corrected at Old Trafford when later showing the substitutes when Tomkins was replaced by Bruno Uvini although no announcement was made over the PA.
|Team GB & West Ham's James Tomkins supposedly on the substitutes bench for Brazil.|
The match itself did not end up the one sided affair most predicted, minnows Belarus who to their credit went into this game level on points with the favourites to win the group and one of the favourites to win the tournament took the lead after eight minutes when Renan Bressan, who believe it or not was born in the Brazilian city of Tubarão and holds dual Brazilian/Belarusian nationality made a great leap and got his headed effort past the young Brazilian Neto for an early lead. It was a moment that switched some of the 'neutral' crowd, many of whom came into the game solely to see Brazil presumably, did give the former Soviet nation who were competing in their debut Olympics Football event some support.
|Perhaps one of Old Trafford's more shocking scoreboard readings, although it would not read that way at 90 minutes.|
That was until Brazil began to dominate as expected, seven minutes after conceding Brazil set the record straight with a header of their own by AC Milan's Alexandre Pato. The game like the first was starting to fizzle out, amazing pieces of skill were exhibited by players like Neymar, other than that the goals seemed to have dried up a bit that was until the second half. Around a twenty-five yard free-kick saw what must go down as one of the goals of the tournament already when Neymar smashed his free-kick into the top corner that saw a bizarre celebration and a 60,000 strong crowd at Old Trafford in awe. I'm sure Premiership fans in the Stadium must be hoping the rumours he's going to FC Barcelona aren't true and one day he'll be a Premiership player for their club.
Neymar had been hyped up as big as a second-coming in Brazil and really did prove today he could challenge players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in future years, I can't help think a European move could be around the corner, although I think Santos may want quite a huge slice of money before letting him go anywhere.
He then helped new Chelsea boy Oscar show the Premiership fans what he would like to be doing in a Blue shirt of Chelsea next season when he rounded off the scoring thanks to a nice assist from Neymar's fancy movement and a quite spectacular dink finish which confirmed Brazil will be in the knock-out stages.
Much like the match before it, the players got a standing ovation and although Brazil dominated the second half Belarus gave it a very good go of things and possibly scoring that early against any other team may have seen then win, like they did against New Zealand and I'm sure only losing 3-1 when no-one gave them much hope may give them some confidence to see off Egypt and qualify with Brazil.
Brazil I'm sure will take many positives from this display and know that their top boys can take a game's rest (not that you can make too many changes with an eighteen man squad) as they make a final trip to Newcastle's St. James' Park on Wednesday to face New Zealand.
Also in a weekend that saw many justified complaints about ticketing it should be noted over 60,000 were in Old Trafford yesterday afternoon with only the closed top tier of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand empty. I think that despite perhaps not being one of the well-focussed on events of the Olympics in Britain due to GB's reluctance to compete in it, it may be one of the more enjoyed events with many football fans coming from all areas, not just Manchester, to see many foreign stars they may never see at club level and many growing talents that they can boast to have seen before their possible major rise to fame with Brazil especially with their hosting of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
As a final note, although I'm not abandoning you lovely people here at robbietktalksfootball I would like to direct you to Arsenal fan blog site www.kanubelieveit.wordpress.com where I shall be along with many other great Gooner bloggers shall be contributing as our topsy turvy season get underway, in fact you can even read an exclusive article written about Robin Van Persie by myself on there now!