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This blog reflects on soccer qua football all over the world. The blog has a specific investment in attractive, attacking football and, as such, focuses on Brazil, the most emphatic historical exponent of the beautiful game.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Neymar, Ganso, Robinho and Pato Lead the New Brazil to Victory

Brazil produced a scintillating display of one touch passing and attacking football in a 2-0 victory over team USA. In his first game as coach of the Brazilian national football team, Mano Menezes opted to give the uncapped Ganso the famed number 10 jersey while assigning the hallowed number 11 and 7 shirts to wingers Neymar and Robinho respectively, with number 9 going to AC Milan striker Alexander Pato. Mano chose a 4-2-3-1 formation with Andre Santos, David Luiz, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves in defense, followed by Ramires and Lucas as defensive midfielders, Neymar, Ganso and Robinho as the attacking midfield trio and Pato in the role of the lone target striker.

Football aficionados and casual fans alike saw a young Brazilian team find each other, maintain possession of the ball and create dangerous scoring opportunities from every inch of the field. Gone was Dunga's strategy of keeping eight men behind the ball and bursting forward with lightning speed on the counter-attack. Similarly, Mario Zagallo and Luiz Felipe Scolari's formulaic strategy of attacking down the flanks with players such as Roberto Carlos and Cafu, and a predominantly defensive midfield, rapidly became history.The Brazilian team went back to their roots in one touch passing, maintaining possession and creating opportunities to score wherever they presented itself.

Neymar and Robinho exchanged places on the left and right flanks throughout the game and similarly, Ganso followed the attack on both flanks and through the center. Ganso approached his wingers whenever they needed help and shadowed left back Andre Santos as he came forward and contributed to the Brazilian attack. The 18 year old Neymar, however, was the real star of the game, tearing down the left flank and then coming into the center, finding Andre Santo's cross from the left corner and burying the ball in the bottom left corner of the net with his head to score the first goal in the 29th minute. The second goal featured Ganso going forward, deep into the heart of the U.S. midfield, calmly passing to Ramires who in turn found Alexander Pato. Pato rounded the keeper and tucked the ball into the back of the net in the 46th minute with a degree of poise that recalled his compatriot Ronaldo's composure in side-stepping keepers as a starlet in Europe. Robinho played a phenomenal game in the captain's arm-band, appearing on the left to support Neymar and Ganso in various moments and facilitating the attack on the right side of the pitch with Ramires, Lucas and Dani Alves as well.

Brazil's possession and passing were simply magnificent. Minutes flew by in the second half when Bob Bradley's team obtained possession only in the event of a Brazilian give-away or an inadvertent foul that lead to a rare U.S. set piece. Admittedly, Brazil could have made more of their scoring opportunities but critics should keep in mind it was the first game both for the coach and many of the players, away from home, in a stadium packed with 77,223 fans. In the second half, Mano brought on substitutes Hernanes, Carlos Eduardo, Jucilei, Andre and Diego Tardelli but the fluidity and pace of the game hardly changed a blink.

Bob Bradley and the U.S. soccer federation, meanwhile, encountered the familiar problem of getting a U.S. striker involved in a high percentage scoring play, let alone scoring a goal. Brazil neutralized a strong U.S. midfield and came close to scoring a third goal on at least 3-4 occasions. Mano and the CBF are off to a promising start while Sunil Gulati and the U.S. Soccer Federation, conversely, have much thinking to do about the upcoming path for the U.S. national team.

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