Brazil delivered a scintillating display of attacking football to defeat Belarus in their second match of Group C of the Olympics and guarantee themselves a place in the quarterfinals. After conceding a goal in the 9th minute to a Renan Bressan header, Mano Menezes’s youngsters displayed their maturity and composure by turning to their passing game. Six minutes after going down 1-0, Brazil equalized through a header from Alexandre Pato set up by a Neymar cross delivered from the right flank. Belarus, however, refused to bow down lightly and responded by packing their defense with their squad of strong, tall players. Brazil owned possession, but found it difficult to break through Belarus’s defense despite splaying the ball from wing to wing and driving down the center as well. Rafael and Marcelo pressed down the right and left flank respectively while Neymar, Oscar and Hulk attacked from deeper midfield positions. Frustrated by Belarus’s excellent marking, Brazil began to resort to long range strikes on goal and lobbed balls into the box given their inability to gain any measurable penetration into the Belarus box.
The second half unfolded in much the same way as the first, with Brazil ruling possession and Belarus taking advantage of a handful of counter-attacking opportunities to test the Brazilian goalkeeper Neto. The Brazilians decided to go one on one in advancing on goal and began to win the first of several free kicks on the edge of the penalty area. In the 62nd minute, Hulk blasted a free kick into the wall but then, three minutes later, Neymar delivered a moment of magic at an absolutely crucial point in the game. The spiky haired Santos sensation won a free kick after being fouled subsequent due to some dazzling dribbling artistry. Neymar stepped up to the dead ball and sent the free kick curling into the upper left corner of the net to give Brazil an important 2-1 lead.
The match appeared to be cruising to a 2-1 decision when Neymar, in the dying minutes of stoppage time, picked up the ball on the left flank, raced into the box and flicked a back heel to the onrushing Oscar, who smashed the ball into the roof of the net. Neymar’s goal recalled Pele’s famous assist to Carlos Alberto against Italy in the final of the World Cup 1970 since, like Pele, he hardly looked for the goal scorer but nevertheless delivered the ball on a platter. This may be one of the greatest Brazilian Olympic sides in recent memory although Mano Menezes still needs to tweak his attack as the story of Brazil’s quest for Olympic gold continues.