MIDDLESBROUGH, United Kingdom, July 20 – Brazil showed Team GB the standard required to win gold at the Olympics as the tournament favourites warmed up for the London Games with a 2-0 win at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on Friday.
First-half goals from Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Sandro and Santos forward Neymar earned the South Americans a deserved friendly success and suggested that manager Stuart Pearce has a considerable amount of work to do ahead of Great Britain’s first Olympic fixture against Senegal at Old Trafford on Thursday.
Brazil’s swaggering display confirmed their status as leading contenders for Olympic gold, the only major honour to have so far eluded the five-time World Cup winners and eight-time Copa America champions.
It was a chastening experience for Pearce and his players in a fixture that was supposed to showcase their qualities ahead of Great Britain’s first appearance in the Olympic football event since 1960 in Rome.
The creation of the British team has not been without controversy as the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Football Associations had all been vehemently opposed to the move and effectively tried to block their nations’ players from taking part.
There was Welsh representation in the form of Neil Taylor, Joe Allen, Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy, supplementing the core of a side that was largely made up of English players who had played under Pearce in the Under-21s.
There was no David Beckham though, with the former England skipper having been overlooked as Pearce selected Giggs, Bellamy and Micah Richards as his three over-age players.
Team GB play their opening Olympic fixture against Senegal in six days’ time, and their only warm-up game pitted them against the strongest possible opposition.
Only one member of Brazil’s 18-strong squad is not a senior international, and the quality at the disposal of head coach Mano Menezes was apparent from the outset at the Riverside.
Brazil should have claimed the lead as early as the sixth minute, but while long-time Chelsea target Neymar outpaced James Tomkins to reach Leandro Damiao’s flick-on, he blazed a wild shot over the crossbar.
The visitors did not have to wait long to claim the lead though.
Six minutes later, Neymar floated over a bouncing free-kick from the edge of the penalty area and Sandro peeled off at the back post to head home from an acute angle.
Richards saw a 15th-minute header cleared off the line by Paris Saint-Germain new boy Thiago Silva, but that was to prove a rare positive moment for Team GB amid a barrage of Brazilian attacking.
Brazil went close again when Leandro Damiao headed Rafael Da Silva’s right-wing cross over the crossbar, but the South Americans deservedly doubled their lead 10 minutes before half-time.
Richards fouled Hulk as he twisted beyond the British back four, and Neymar calmly drilled a powerful penalty beyond Jason Steele’s right hand.
Steele was replaced by Jack Butland at the interval, and the Birmingham City goalkeeper produced smart saves to deny both Oscar and Leandro Damiao in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
Bellamy drew an excellent point-blank save from Brazil goalkeeper Rafael Barbosa, although the Liverpool striker had already been flagged offside, and the hosts at least enjoyed a greater share of possession in the latter stages.