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
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits