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GB's men stutter in Games build-up
Team GB's men have been given a taste of just how tough their quest for a football medal will be after rising star Neymar's fine individual display ensured Brazil eased to a 2-0 win at the Riverside Stadium.
Tottenham midfielder Sandro headed Mano Menezes' side into a 12th-minute lead, while 20-year-old striker Neymar converted a 35th-minute penalty after Micah Richards had tripped Porto frontman Hulk. It was only goalkeepers Jason Steele before the break and Jack Butland after it who kept the scoreline respectable in front of a crowd of 24,721.
A bullish Team GB boss Stuart Pearce revealed in the build-up to the game that, rather than shying away from the tournament favourites, he welcomed the opportunity for his players to test themselves against the best before they begin their campaign against Senegal at Old Trafford next Thursday evening.
By the time the half-time whistle had sounded, he could have been forgiven for wishing he had taken a different route. Team GB, who will play in the men's competition for the first time since 1960, were simply outclassed as the powerful South Americans went through their full repertoire.
Leandro Damiao was asked to lead the line ahead of a potentially lethal trio of Chelsea-bound Oscar, Santos starlet Neymar and Porto's Hulk. They took the lead with Rose's Spurs team-mate Sandro heading Neymar's back-post free-kick across Middlesbrough keeper Steele, playing on his home ground, and into the far corner.
GB might have been level within three minutes when Richards met Ryan Giggs' free-kick beyond the far post, but although his downward header beat keeper Rafael Barbosa, defender Thiago Silva was on hand to clear.
However, their task became even more difficult 10 minutes before the break when, after Richards had tripped Hulk inside the penalty area to leave French referee Clement Turpin little choice but to point to the spot, Neymar stepped up to fire the ball low to Steele's right and into the bottom corner.
Pearce made four changes at the break, but they made little immediate impact as the Brazilians started where they had left off. Substitute keeper Butland, who went to Euro 2012 with England, was forced to save from Oscar and Damiao in quick succession with his defence offering little protection.
There was a glimmer of hope for Britain with 57 minutes gone when Danny Rose did well to get forward down the left and produce an inviting cross for Craig Bellamy, who was stunned to see Barbosa pull off a remarkable point-blank save, although an offside flag rendered his heroics unnecessary.
But had it not been for Butland, who clawed Neymar's 90th-minute shot out of his bottom corner one-handed and then palmed substitute Alexandre Pato's header over the bar, the margin of victory would have been even more comprehensive.