Brazil ensured their qualification to the Olympic quarter finals thanks to a 3-1 victory over Belarus at Old Trafford.
The game began at a fast and furious pace, and it was Belarus who took a surprise lead thanks to a Renan Bardini Bressan header in just the 7th minute. Alexandre Pato struck the equaliser in the 14th minute with another header, and from there the Brazilians began to dominate possession.
The second half saw Neymar justify the intense speculation surrounding his possible transfer, as he scored a superb free kick then played in Oscar for the third to guarantee Brazil’s victory as Belarus could not forge many meaningful chances of their own.
Brazil made just one change to the side that beat Egypt 3-2 in their first group game, with AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato replacing Leandro Damiao up front.
Meanwhile, Belarus made a change of their own from the team that beat New Zealand 1-0, with Artem Solovy making way for Ilya Aleksievich as they changed a midfielder for a striker and switched to a 4-4-2 formation.
The first half began with Brazil dominating possession, but it was Belarus that had the first chance of the game, A cross in from the right by Aleyaksey Koslov found Renan Bardini Bressan with a free header, and in just the 7th minute he put Belarus into a shock 1-0 lead.
The Brazilians were clearly shocked by conceding an early goal, and soon forged a chance of their own as a cross in the 12th minute from left-back Marcelo was headed wide by Hulk, who had earlier been reprimanded for diving.
However, in the 14th minute, Brazil drew level. Neymar found space on the left-hand side, and sent a superb cross into the penalty area, where Alexandre Pato was on hand to head home and tie the game at 1-1 with just under 15 minutes gone.
It was a superb start to the game from both sides, with the crowd at Old Trafford very appreciative of both sides’ efforts, and just a minute after Brazil’s equaliser, Bressan saw a long-range shot go just wide of the post.
After such a fast start, the game inevitably slowed down in pace and attacking play, but with Brazil still enjoying the majority of possession.
It took until the 38th minute for either side to create another chance, as the ball broke to Brazil’s Hulk, but he blazed his shot over the bar from just outside the penalty area.
However, the Brazilians struggled to break down a solid Belarusian defence, and despite enjoying a good deal of possession, they could not make any further inroads and the score at half-time was 1-1.
The second half began scrappily, as both sides looked to regain the momentum but struggled to keep the ball, but Brazil created the first chance of the period as Oscar accelerated through the Belarus defence but put the ball over the bar.
Then, in the 50th minute, the ball broke to Marcelo just outside the box, and he fired a shot towards the top corner that Belarus goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor could only tip over the bar for a corner.
Brazil created their clearest chance of the half in the 54th minute. Marcelo managed to keep the ball in, and after his cross was cushioned by the head of Pato, Oscar was on hand to put the ball away but was blocked by a last-ditch Sergey Politevich tackle.
The new Chelsea signing was beginning to influence the game to a much greater extent from the centre of midfield, and saw another shot tipped over the bar by Gutor in the 58th minute.
Then, just a minute later, Bressan sent a speculative curling shot towards the goal from well outside the penalty area, and it took Brazilian goalkeeper Neto to intervene and avert the danger, as the ball was just creeping in.
In the 65th minute, Brazil finally gained the advantage. After Neymar was brought down just outside the box, the Santos star picked himself off the turf and hit the free kick into the top corner, giving his side a 2-1 lead.
After a quiet period, Neymar then set hearts racing in the 79th minute after a sensational surging run that took him past several Belarus defenders. But, he could not get a shot away, and the ball was cleared.
However, Belarus responded well, and begun to attack with a great deal of intent in the final 10 minutes, but Brazil’s defence just about stood firm.
Then, with time running out, Neymar was again instrumental in the play, and turned provider as he played through Oscar, who slotted the ball home to give Brazil a 3-1 victory.
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