NEW YORK - Brazil coach Mano Menezes
offered a fascinating glimpse into the future with the 2-0
friendly win over the USA - and if first impressions count,
the team should be entertaining hosts in the 2014 World Cup.
It remains to be seen how many of those who started at the
New Meadowlands stadium on Tuesday will be in the team that
takes the field for the opening game in Brazil in four years
time but the new faces on show certainly played like they were
capable of performing on the biggest stage.
None shone more than 18-year-old Neymar, a player who many
in Brazil had urged Menezes' predecessor Dunga to take to South
Africa this year.
The Santos forward, sporting a spiky Mohican haircut, began
on the left wing but floated into the middle when the space
opened up and also switched flanks to keep a largely bewildered
USA defence even more befuddled.
The slightly built Neymar's superbly taken header to open
the scoring was an illustration that as well as superb control
and energetic pace, he also has the striker's ability to convert
chances however they may fall to him.
Nothing is certain in football but few would bet against
Neymar being a well known name, with one of Europe's top clubs,
by the time the next World Cup comes around and he certainly is
not short of confidence.
"I had some nerves early on, with this being my debut," he
told Reuters, "But it got easier when the ball began to roll and
of course the goal settled me," he said.
Likewise it is hard to imagine playmaker Paulo Henrique
Ganso not going on from his impressive debut to make his mark on
the international scene.
He may look like a scrawny schoolkid but Ganso, another from
the current outstanding crop at Santos, put the most famous
shirt in football - the gold and green one with number 10 on
the back - and delivered a performance that was as notable for
its calm composure as for its technical proficiency.
Real Madrid's Kaka, out with injury, is the current owner of
Pele's old jersey, but he will need to get back to his very best
to fend off the challenge from Ganso who is very much an
enabling playmaker, prompting others and opening up spaces.
But he also possesses a wicked shot as he showed when he hit
the post from 25 metres out against the Americans.
"The (number 10) jersey is certainly a heavy one in terms of
responsibility but it is up to me now to go away and work hard
and try to earn another call-up," he said.
With Pato close to his lively best in attack, after a season
plagued by injury and Robinho showing signs of his quality as
well, Menezes' new team, featuring just four players who were in
South Africa, already looks to be taking shape and certainly has
indicated it's character.
"Personality is not something you can really give a team,"
said Menezes after the game, "Either you have it or you don't.
This performance was a sign that they have it," he said.
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