Brazil underlined their position as favorites for Olympic soccer gold when they gave a masterful performance to complete a 2-0 win over hosts Britain, who fielded a united team for the first time in 41 years.
Brazil won the friendly on Friday with a header from Sandro and a penalty from Neymar just five days before the start on Wednesday of the London Games soccer competition, which features an under-23 lineup with three over-aged players.
Brazil, seeking to win the Olympic title for the first time, sent a powerful message of intent to the other 15 teams in the competition with a silky display in their final warm-up before the Games.
On an unusually sunny summer’s evening at the Riverside, there was excitement that the Olympics was drawing closer.
Britain struck gold in three out of four Games from 1900, but in recent years, fielding a Team GB has been blocked by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland soccer associations amid fears that they might lose their independent status within soccer world body FIFA.
No British team took part in Olympic soccer since a qualifying defeat to Bulgaria in May 1971 cost them a place in the 1972 Munich Games, but when London was awarded the Games, the hosts were obliged to compete.
Friday’s match was Britain’s only warm-up before the start of their Olympic campaign against Senegal at Old Trafford on Thursday.
Judging on this performance though, coach Stuart Pearce has plenty of work to do over the remaining few days if Britain are going to come anywhere close to the golds they won in the far simpler sporting times of 1900, 1908 and 1912.
Starting with seven Englishmen and four Welshmen, including captain Ryan Giggs, Britain looked uncomfortable on the ball and far from a cohesive blend.
They allowed Brazil too much time and space on the ball, and with players like Neymar facing them, that was a dangerous tactic to pursue.
The opening goal came after a lack of communication in the Britain defense, allowing Sandro, who plays in London for Tottenham Hotspur, to loop in a header.
Neymar doubled the lead 10 minutes before the interval, when Hulk was tripped by Micah Richards and the 20-year-old striker beat ’keeper Jason Steele from the penalty spot.