Football: Brazil leave warmed-up Great Britain feeling cold
Great Britain’s men were taught a harsh lesson ahead of the Olympic football tournament as they were outclassed by Brazil in Middlesbrough.
A header from Tottenham’s Sandro and Neymar’s penalty gave the Olympic favourites a 2-0 win in GB’s only warm-up match, as Stuart Pearce’s new side struggled to create chances bar an effort from an ultimately offside Craig Bellamy which was well saved by Rafael Cabral.
GB goalkeeper Jack Butland made several fine saves to keep the score down in the closing stages.
A tight opening had left the crowd at the Riverside Stadium somewhat on edge, and with no recognised chants to encourage a unified Great Britain playing in its first match since 1974 – a year after captain Ryan Giggs was born – a nervousness quickly took hold.
That uncertainty manifested itself as early as the 12th minute when Neymar, despite threatening to shoot, dinked a free-kick over the top of the static GB defence for Sandro latch onto and send a free header past Jason Steele into the corner of the net.
To their credit though, Great Britain responded with a free-kick from Giggs that Micah Richards couldn’t quite turn goalwards, before Daniel Sturridge drove wide via a deflection.
All of the quality was coming from the Brazilians though, and after Neymar ballooned a chance over the bar it wasn’t long before Hulk drew the naïve Richards – whose communication breakdown with centre-back partner James Tomkins has caused the first goal – into a desperate lunge in the penalty area. Richards was fortunate to escape with a booking, but Neymar punished him from the spot for the second.
Stuart Pearce sought to change things for GB at half-time but Brazil stayed on top, with the highly-rated Oscar and Leandro Damiao forcing half-time substitute Butland into saves, before a rare GB break almost ended with the offside Bellamy turning home from close range only to be denied by Cabral.
Neil Taylor did brilliantly to block Neymar as he looked for Brazil’s third, and with the qualities of Alexandre Pato and Lucas Moura added to their side in the second half, Brazil twice came close through Neymar again.
In the end, Butland became the only barrier between Brazil and an extended lead, as the Birmingham ‘keeper saved from Lucas twice, the terrific Neymar and Pato with the clock ticking down on a tough night for Pearce’s side.
Earlier on in Middlesbrough, GB’s women had warmed up for their Olympic tasks with a drab goalless draw against Sweden.
Fit-again forward Kelly Smith went close for the Brits with a long range effort before seeing a strike ruled out for offside.
Substitute Rachel Yankey fired an effort against the post as Hope Powell’s side searched for a winner, but GB were left thankful that Swedish forward Caroline Seger missed a host of chances in the second half, as the team that came third at last year’s World Cup had to settle for a draw.
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