Neymar, Pato lead new-look Brazil over U.S., 2-0
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It didn’t really matter which players Brazil put in the famous yellow shirts with the five stars.
In the first match for both nations since a disappointing World Cup, a mostly young and largely inexperienced Brazilian team rolled over the United States 2-0 in a high-profile exhibition Tuesday night before an excited near-sellout crowd of 77,223 at the not-quite-ready $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium.
Neymar scored in the 29th minute of his national team debut, Alexandre Pato added just his second goal for Brazil in first-half injury time and the new-look Selecao moved the ball more impressively than the veterans eliminated by the Netherlands 2-1 last month in the World Cup quarterfinals.
“If we’re going to get to the next level, we’ve still got to be a lot better,” American star Landon Donovan said after a one-sided match that featured Brazil outshooting the U.S. 20-7.
In what may have been coach Bob Bradley’s final game, Donovan thought the Americans should have been awarded a penalty kick in the third minute, when he was freed by Edson Buddle’s pass in front of the goal and whacked by AC Milan defender Thiago Silva. Canadian referee Silviu Petrescu didn’t blow his whistle, and Andre Santos cleared.
That was the best American chance, and Brazil won for the 15th time in 16 matches against the U.S. and increased its goal margin against the Americans to 31-10. Still, for a team that gave up early goals in three of four World Cup matches, the U.S. started well.
“I looked at the clock at 12 minutes, and I was happy,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said.
Neymar, the 18-year-old Santos sensation, lived up to the great hype. He had just switched with Robinho, one of four World Cup veterans on Brazil’s roster, and moved from the left flank to the center when Andre Santos came down the left side and crossed. Neymar beat Jonathan Bornstein and sent a 9-yard header inside Howard’s left post.
“It’s difficult to get close to him,” American right back Jonathan Spector said.
Pato doubled the lead when Ramires’ through ball split Bornstein and American captain Carlos Bocanegra. Howard came out, the 20-year-old AC Milan forward blew past and put the ball into the open goal, 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 went the other way and maybe tried to run back.”
New Brazil coach Mano Menezes, promising to restore “Jogo Bonito (Beautiful Game)” as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup in 2014, jettisoned the dour defensive tactics of Dunga, who was fired after last month’s defeat, regarded back home as a national embarrassment. Menezes unveiled 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 through a translator.
Neymar and Pato, overlooked by Dunga for his World Cup roster despite public clamor for their selection, appear likely to be regulars during the next four-year cycle, which includes Brazil’s defense of its Copa America title next July.
“Everyone was very comfortable playing together,” Neymar told Brazilian media. “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.”
Neymar could be one of soccer’s next big stars.
“His ability to go at people and create on the dribble is something that I think is special,” Bradley said. “I think everyone knows the talent that Brazil possesses.”
Robinho put a shot off a post in the 53rd minute and Paulo Henrique Ganso, one of four Brazil starters making their international debuts, hit a post in the 78th.
Each team had a goal called off. Pato scored on a header in the 32nd minute but plowed into Howard. Michael Bradley beat goalkeeper Victor on a short header in the 57th off a cross from Sacha Kljestan following Donovan’s short corner kick, but Bradley was offsides.
Bob Bradley made six changes from the lineup that started in the 2-1 overtime loss to Ghana in the World Cup’s second round. Defender Omar Gonzalez made his national team debut, and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya made his first start. Buddle, Spector, and midfielders Maurice Edu and Benny Feilhaber also joined the starting mix.
“A very young team we had tonight as well as them,” Donovan said, “but from an experience standpoint, 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.”
Bob Bradley’s contract expires at the end of the year, and it’s not certain whether the U.S. Soccer Federation wants to retain him. Before he was hired four years ago, former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann withdrew from consideration.
“It was agreed after this game there would be some more discussions and we will see where those discussions go,” Bradley said.
NOTES: At least one of the elevators in the stadium was broken. It’s set for its first official NFL game next month. Stadium spokeswoman Alice McGillion said she could not reach anyone for comment.
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