In the wake of Brazil’s 3-2 victory against Honduras in the quarterfinals of the Olympics, I have a few quick thoughts:
(1) Brazil has now scored three goals in each of four consecutive Olympics games with scorelines as follows: Brazil 3 – Honduras 2; Brazil 3 – New Zealand 0; Brazil 3 – Belarus 1; Brazil 3 – Egypt 2. With 12 goals scored so far, Brazil has scored almost twice as much as the next highest scoring team, Mexico, which has seven goals to date. Semifinalists Japan and South Korea have scored five and three goals respectively.
(2) Today’s match marked the arrival of Leandro Damiao in a big way. Damiao scored two crucial goals and won the penalty that Neymar converted to make it to 2-2. The Internacional hit man has now scored four goals in the tournament thus far and established himself as the man Brazil will look to in the box. He can play with his back to goal and has great balance and composure in the penalty area.
(3) Brazil are playing very loose at the back, and that’s clearly part of the philosophy without being a specific objective. The theory is, you score three goals, we’ll score four. Mano Menezes isn’t too worried by the goals conceded as long as Neymar and company can find the net on more occasions than those on which goals were conceded.
(4) Neymar can go one on one against virtually any defender, meaning he can dribble his way into the box and either score, assist or draw a penalty. Watch for the rapid acceleration down the left flank as he cuts inside, with the ball pinballing between the right and left foot as he leaves defenders for dead.
(5) Brazil is starting to earn a reputation for being able to come from behind. Historically, Germany is the most famous example of a national team legendary for their ability to win given one or two goal deficits. Under Mano Menezes, Brazil came back against Belarus and Honduras, and has recently done so against Mexico as well.
(6) Honduras played today with pace, passion and style. Honduras deserves a lot of credit for their spirited overall play and Roger Espinoza's goal and performance.
(7) As in the game against Spain, Honduras delivered a highly physical performance. This kind of tactic almost paid off against Brazil, but it ultimately backfired in the form of the two red cards earned by Wilmer Crisanto and Roger Espinoza, respectively.
(8) Brazil now play South Korea in the semifinals at Old Trafford, in a match where they will be challenged by South Korea’s legendary physical fitness and their tactical discipline. Neymar and Oscar will need to step up and take control of the match for Brazil as South Korea will press relentlessly for 90 minutes.
The semifinal matchups are Mexico versus Japan and Brazil versus South Korea. The Asian teams have clearly come a long way in the last ten years and Japan and South Korea should be feared by their Latin counterparts.