Neymar and Lucas blaze trail for Brazil's next golden generation
Brazil 2 Scotland 0
Monday 28 March 2011
A new generation of canary-shirted magicians was introduced to British audiences here in London yesterday and they did not disappoint. A pair of teenage tyros, Neymar and Lucas, confirmed there is no downturn in the production line of talent which has so far delivered five World Cups and is expected to win a sixth on home soil in 2014.
Scotland were reduced to the status of the supporting cast as Brazil cruised to victory. Both goals came from the 19-year-old Neymar, a kid from Pele's old club Santos with a daft haircut, knee-length socks, a sublime touch on the ball and unerring eye for goal.
The teenager was named player of the tournament in the recent South American Under-20 finals, in which he scored nine goals, and Neymar was the subject of a rejected £20m bid by Chelsea even before he made his international debut in September. Santos have since put a €45m price on him, and sold five per cent of any future fee for €3m to an investment company, but the only uncertainty about his future is which club he will join in Europe, and when.
For Mano Menezes, the Brazil coach, it cannot happen soon enough. Asked, with reference to Chelsea's interest, whether a move to the Premier League would be good for the player, Menezes said: "Yes. It would make him the complete player. His style would not disappear through playing in England but it would give him a stronger physical sense, making him more able to escape strong marking."
One unsavoury aspect of Neymar's appearance is that it appears to have induced one idiot to throw a banana at him and a few to racially abuse him. "Lamentable," said Menezes, which is true, but a few daft, possibly racist, probably drunk, fans in a crowd of 53,000 should not claim the headlines.
Neymar spoke afterwards of an "atmosphere of racism", but that was not obviously apparent. His habit of going to ground easily – under some admittedly heavy tackling, and one crude off-the-ball shoulder barge from Scott Brown – did provoke anger which he may have misinterpreted. That, certainly was the view of a spokesman for the Tartan Army, Hamish Husband, who condemned any racism.
It is not just Neymar who will be in demand by European clubs. Lucas, making his debut with an 18-minute cameo, looked even better. He justified all his advance billing as he drove at a tired defence with a balance and physique that evoked memories of Diego Maradona. He also knew when to release the ball, rare in a player so young.
Leandro Damiao was another home-based debutant who impressed. While less polished than the others, the striker hit the bar with a powerful header and was a handful leading the line. All of which made one fear for future opponents when Menezes said, "they will evolve and become more confident as individuals as they play more games."
The trio, and others from this team, will be back in England next year for London 2012, which is as good a reason to buy tickets for the Olympic football tournament as any.
Menezes needed this performance. He arrived in London on the back of defeats to Argentina and France and another failure would have added to the sense that he is only keeping the dugout warm for Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led the seleção to victory in 2002 and is now back in Brazil after lucrative sojourns in Portugal, west London and Kazakhstan. On the eve of the match Menezes was asked if he "was worried about my job". He noted: "In Brazil we are used to winning, maybe you cannot win every game when you are changing a team, but we always think we should."
There was never any chance of a first defeat to Scotland. Craig Levein's side were dogged and well-organised but given their attacking threat was negligible it was always going to be just a matter of time before their defensive cover was stretched too far. As it was, they survived to the 42rd minute. It was the midfield runners who were the problem and after Lucas Leiva and Jadson had both gone close Brown failed to track Neymar as he broke onto a cross from Andre Santos – who had been beautifully released down the flank by Ramires. The youngster had space to fumble his first touch before curling a shot inside the post.
Soon after the restart, Neymar burst forward from midfield and skimmed the bar from 20 yards. Allan McGregor, the Scotland goalkeeper, then denied Lucas Leiva after James McArthur was caught in possession. Ramires wasted another chance before, with 13 minutes left, Charlie Adam tripped Neymar in the box. He converted the kick himself. Any fans suspicious that an English referee had given the penalty had reason to be grateful to Howard Webb as he refrained from awarding another when Gary Caldwell blocked Jonas's goal-bound shot with his arm
Scotland's best chance came at 0-0, Steven Whittaker glancing Adam's free-kick wide. The Blackpool midfielder later shot over from 25 yards when well-set, but there was little else for all their endeavour. "It was always in the back of my mind we might get turned over, but that didn't happen," said Levein. "We can play better, but I'm pleased with the way they stuck at it and worked their backsides off. I'm sure the players have learned an awful lot." So will the Premier League scouts.
Substitutes: Scotland Bannan (McArthur, 56), Commons (Whittaker, 64), D Wilson (Berra, 73), Snodgrass (Adam, 78), Mackail-Smith (Miller, 86), Cowie (Morrison, 90). Unused Gordon (gk), Hanley, Maguire, Davidson, M Wilson, Bell. Brazil Lucas (Jadson, 72), Jonas (Damiao, 78), Elias (Elano, 82), Sandro (Lucas Leiva, 86), Renato Augusto (Neymar, 89). Unused Victor (gk), Maicon, Luisao, Luiz, Henrique, Jefferson.
Man of the match Neymar Match rating 8/10.
Possession Scotland 30% Brazil 70%.
Attempts on target Scotland 1 Brazil 8.
Referee H Webb (England). Att 53,087.
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