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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.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Brazil Clinch Olympic Quarterfinal Berth With Impressive 3-1 Victory Over Belarus

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.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Brazil Defeat Egypt 3-2 In Group C Olympic Thriller

Brazil scraped to a 3-2 victory over Egypt in their first round match of the Olympics thanks to first half goals by Rafael, Leandro Damiao and Neymar. The Selecao conceded two second half goals but managed to hold on to claim the three points and go top of group C. Oscar set up both of the first two goals and shone in his attacking midfield role in the number 10 jersey. Meanwhile, Hulk assisted on Neymar’s header goal to ensure that all three Brazilian strikers players a pivotal role in scoring today’s goals. Brazil will be ecstatic to have finally broken Leandro Damiao’s goalless run and also for Neymar to have scored from the run of play as opposed to a set piece such a penalty kick. This was a good first match for Brazil, particularly since the offense is starting to click. Expect Hulk to step up to the plate in the next match against Belarus and power his way toward goal.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Brazil Selects Marcelo, Thiago Silva and Hulk For 2012 Olympics

Brazil coach Mano Menezes named a star studded squad for the London 2012 Olympics today featuring Thiago Silva, Marcelo and Hulk as Brazil's three players over the age of 23. Brazil travel to the London Olympics in search of the elusive Olympic gold medal, the only major soccer trophy they have yet to win.

Previously, the Brazil men’s Olympic soccer team earned two silver medals and two bronze medals. Brazil won the silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and 1988 Olympics in Seoul and the bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the 2008 games in Seoul. This year’s squad is widely considered one of the strongest ever and correspondingly, Brazilian football hopes are pinned on the Olympics in the absence of positive results by the national team at the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 Copa America.

Highlights of Brazil’s 2012 Olympic squad include the following:

• Overage players in the form of Thiago Silva, Hulk and Marcelo
• Selection of Rafael and Danilo as right-backs and the omission of Barcelona's Dani Alves
• Two deeper playing midfielders in Romulus and Sandro
• Three attacking midfield options in the form of Oscar, Paulo Henrique Ganso and Lucas Moura
• Four strikers as represented by Neymar, Hulk, Pato and Leandro Damiao

Brazil are in Group C along with Egypt, Belarus and New Zealand. Mano Menezes’s team kick off their quest for Olympic gold with an opening match in group play against Egypt on July 26 in Cardiff. They play Belarus on July 29 and New Zealand on August 1. AC Milan’s Thiago Silva is likely to captain the team.

Brazil 2012 Olympic Squad

Goalkeepers: Neto (Fiorentina), Rafael (Santos).
Defenders: Alex Sandro (Porto), Rafael (Manchester United), Danilo (Porto), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Bruno Uvini (Sao Paulo), Juan (Inter Milan), Thiago Silva (Milan).
Midfielders: Romulus (Vasco), Sandro (Tottenham), Oscar (Internacional), Paulo Henrique Ganso (Santos), Lucas Moura (Sao Paulo).
Strikers: Alexandre Pato (Milan), Hulk (Porto), Leandro Damiao (Internacional), Neymar (Santos).