'Special' Neymar leads Brazil back to their roots
Thursday 12 August 2010
One game, one win and already the beautiful game is back. Brazil – led for the first time by their new coach Mano Menezes – beat the United States 2-0 in New Jersey on Tuesday night. That was enough for some to herald the return of the Joga Bonito.
"Welcome back Brazil," proclaimed the O Dia newspaper after Neymar scored on his debut and Alexandre Pato added a goal late in the first half.
Neymar's goal came after the 18-year-old Santos star had just switched with Robinho and moved from the left flank to the centre. He beat Jonathan Bornstein to an Andre Santos cross and angled a header inside Tim Howard's left post in the 29th minute.
Pato doubled the lead in first-half stoppage time when Ramires' through ball split Bornstein and Carlos Bocanegra, and the 20-year-old Milan forward shot past Howard. It was his second in nine appearances and first since his debut against Sweden in March 2008.
"They put you in such difficult spots defensively," Bocanegra said. "I made the decision to step, and probably should have gone the other way and maybe tried to run back."
Both Pato and Neymar were overlooked by Dunga for the World Cup despite public clamour for their selection in Brazil. Dunga was fired after the 2-1 World Cup quarter-final loss to the Netherlands last month and replaced by Menezes as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup in 2014.
Menezes replaced the dour defensive tactics of Dunga with an attack-minded 4-3-3 formation with Pato between Neymar on the left and new Brazil captain Robinho on the right. "That's the line that we will establish from now on," Menezes said.
A near sell-out crowd of 77,223 attended the high-profile homecoming for a US team that drew record television ratings during the World Cup.
With young, swift players, Brazil showed glimpses of the renowned ball movement that took a back seat in South Africa to a more defensive game. Brazil won for the 15th time in 16 matches against the US and have outscored the Americans 31-10. "If we're going to get to the next level, we've still got to be a lot better," Landon Donovan of the US admitted.
Ganso, Victor and defender David Luiz also made their international debuts for Brazil, along with substitutes Andre, Ederson and Jucilei.
"Everyone was very comfortable playing together," Neymar said. "Mano gave us a lot of freedom to do what we always do on the field, and that helped a lot. That's why we were able to play so well."
The US coach, Bob Bradley, had nothing but praise for Neymar. "His ability to go at people and create on the dribble is something that I think is special," he said. "I think everyone knows the talent that Brazil possesses."
For both nations, rebuilding began in New Jersey. Criticised for his line-up during the 2-1 overtime defeat to Ghana in the World Cup's second round, Bradley made six changes from that starting 11.
He used Maurice Edu in midfield in place of Ricardo Clark, and started Benny Feilhaber and 23-year-old Alejandro Bedoya in the midfield instead of Donovan, who moved up to forward, and Clint Dempsey, who remained in England with Fulham ahead of the Premier League opener this weekend.
"A very young team we had tonight," Donovan said. "They had a lot of guys that have played in a lot of big games and we haven't, and I think that showed through."
The MLS top scorer Edson Buddle started up front in place of Robbie Findley, who was ineffective in South Africa. Omar Gonzalez made his international debut at central defender in place of Oguchi Onyewu.
Bradley may have been coaching his last match as US coach – his contract expires in December and it's not clear whether the US Soccer Federation wants to retain him.
"It was agreed after this game there would be some more discussions and we will see where those discussions go," Bradley said.
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