Brazil's class highlights Team GB's shortfalls

Great Britain 0 Brazil 2

the Riverside Stadium

The sun setting across one of English football’s great industrial backdrops, “Chariots of Fire” playing across the public address system and Craig Bellamy putting a brave face on “God save the Queen”. They certainly all did their best to conjure up something Olympian, but now you see why Stuart Pearce has been so spiky about the Football Association not letting him get his hands on England’s elite for the Olympics.

In fairness, Pearce has had only two weeks to prepare this side, some of whom are only just back in training and many of whom are inexperienced, but his opposite number Mano Menzies’ powers of diplomacy were stretched when he was asked if Britain might be medal contenders.

“Some teams are more up to it than others,” Menzies said. “Team GB play a different style of football.”

Pearce will not be whipping the British nation into one of those frenzies which deluded us into imagining that Italy would be getting a hiding, less than a month ago. At times, you wondered why they didn’t select David Beckham and be done with it. A little razzmatazz is infinitely better than nothing at all.

The banner which hangs at the back of Middlesbrough’s East Stand summed up what Brazil had and Pearce’s side did not. “It’s in the Blood,” it reads and Menzies’ side, incredibly seeking their first Olympic gold in London, looked like a team with a mutual understanding even before they’d ironed out the roughspots and the jetlag.

Micah Richards is a player in whom Pearce has placed great faith. He would played at the European Championships had the Olympic team manager also taken the national side to Poland but he was part of a central defensive axis with West Ham United’s James Tomkins which looked deeply, deeply uncomfortable. The romance of Britain fielding a collective football team for the first time in 40 years evaporated when the indecision of those two gifted Neymar the kind of opportunity he dreams of. It’s gratifying to known that even players with £60m price tags can put the ball over from five yards

The defenders’ next calamity carried more significance: a collective dither from a 12th minute Oscar free kick and no-one was around to tend to Marcelo at the back post, who stooped to head the ball in.

If there was any hope that the Brazilians might not fancy a chilly Friday night beneath the chemical works, then it was dispelled in the remainder of a first half during which Rafael Barbosa was not required to use his hands. Richards popped up once in the Brazilian area, to power down a header from a free kick curled over from the right by Ryan Giggs, the captain. But it was cleared from danger and that was that.

Pearce should have ended the first half with 10 men, though it was perhaps the Olympic spirit that meant the desperate challenge with which Richards felled Hulk was not punished with a yellow card from the French referee Clement Turpin. Neymar sashayed up to dispatch the 34th minute penalty low to Jason Steele’s right.

Pearce made four half-time substitutions, withdrawing Daniel Sturridge who was being eased back as he recovers from viral meningitis and will be assessed this morning to see how he has come through.

“We will see how he settles overnight,” the manager said. Two of the players he introduced, Tottenham Hospur’s Steven Caulker, at centre back, and the Southampton midfielder Jack Cork, staked a claim to a future starting place. Joe Allen’s distribution was clean and precise at times. But there was no moment of magic, before or after Pearce withdrew Giggs for Aaron Ramsey – the one player you felt might have conjured something but who felt a tightening of his groin. “Whoever beats these will have a gold medal,” Pearce reflected of the Brazilians. They have probably been preparing for two or three years. We played extremely well out from the back and passed the ball reasonably well up to the final third.”

There will be more to shout about than this – and more than last night’s 24,000 fans to shout it – when Pearce’s players face the lesser threat of Senegal, who they ought to beat at Old Trafford on Thursday. By then, someone might also have thought up a song, because it is certainly difficult to know how to chant for Britain. But if anyone was in any doubt about it, we now know that Pearce will not have found the envelope marked “Olympic domination” by then.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower