After being given a slight scare by its eastern European opponent, the gold medal favorite ensure its progress to the quarterfinals thanks to the Santos star
Brazil ensured its qualification to the Olympic Games quarterfinals thanks to a 3-1 victory over Belarus at Old Trafford.
The game began at a fast and furious pace, and it was Belarus who took a surprise lead thanks to a Renan Bardini Bressan header in just the seventh minute. Alexandre Pato struck the equalizer in the 14th minute with another header, and from there the Brazilians began to dominate possession.
The second half saw Neymar justify the intense speculation surrounding his possible transfer, as he scored a superb free kick before playing in Oscar via a backheel for the third to guarantee the three points.
The first half began with Brazil dominating possession, but it was the eastern Europeans who had the first chance of the game as a cross in from the right by Aleyaksey Koslov found Renan Bardini Bressan with a free header, and he duly put Belarus into a shock 1-0 lead.
The Brazilians were clearly stunned, and set about righting the wrongs soon after with a cross from left-back Marcelo being headed wide by Hulk in Selecao’s first meaningful effort.
And Brazil had to wait just three more minutes to level, as Neymar found space on the left-hand side and sent a superb cross into the penalty area where Alexandre Pato was on hand to head home and tie the game at 1-1 with just under 15 minutes gone.
It was a superb start to the game from both sides, with the crowd at Old Trafford very appreciative, and just a minute after Brazil’s equalizer, Bressan saw a long-range shot go just wide of the post.
After such a fast start, the game inevitably slowed down in pace and attacking play, but with Brazil still enjoying the majority of possession.
It took until the 38th minute for either side to create another chance, as the ball broke to Brazil’s Hulk, but the Porto striker blazed his shot over the bar from just outside the penalty area.
However, the Brazilians struggled to break down a solid Belarusian defense and, despite enjoying a good deal of possession, they could not make any further inroads and they went into the break level.
The second half began scrappily, as both sides looked to regain the momentum but struggled to keep the ball, but Brazil created the first chance of the period as Oscar accelerated through the Belarus defense and put the ball over the bar.
Then, in the 50th minute, the ball broke to Marcelo just outside the box, and he fired a shot towards the top corner that Belarus goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor could only tip over the bar for a corner.
Brazil created its clearest chance of the half in the 54th minute. Marcelo managed to keep the ball in, and after his cross was cushioned by the head of Pato, Oscar was on hand to put the ball away but was blocked by a last-ditch Sergey Politevich tackle.
The new Chelsea signing was beginning to influence the game to a much greater extent from the center of midfield, and saw another shot tipped over the bar by Gutor in the 58th minute.
Then, just a minute later, Bressan sent a speculative curling shot towards the goal from well outside the penalty area, and it took Brazilian goalkeeper Neto to intervene and avert the danger, as the ball looked to be dipping under the bar.
In the 65th minute, Brazil finally gained the advantage. After Neymar was brought down just outside the box, the Santos star picked himself off the turf and hit the free kick into the top corner, giving his side a 2-1 lead.
After a quiet period, Neymar then set hearts racing in the 79th minute after a sensational surging run that took him past several Belarus defenders and only a superb last-ditch challenge stopping a seemingly certain candidate for goal of the tournament.
However, Belarus responded well and begun to attack with a great deal of intent in the final 10 minutes, but Brazil’s defense just about stood firm.
Then, with time running out, Neymar was again instrumental in the play, and turned provider as he played through Oscar with a disguised backheel for the new Chelsea boy to slot the ball home to confirm the victory.