Resting regulars, Brazil cruises

Brazil easily defeated New Zealand 3-0 on Wednesday despite resting some regular starters for the quarterfinals of the Olympic men’s soccer tournament.

Already in the next round, Brazil earned the comfortable win with goals by Danilo in the 23rd minute, Leandro Damiao in the 29th and Sandro in the 52nd.

The result eliminated New Zealand, which needed to win to have any chance of advancing from Group C.

Brazil played a man down from the 76th after Alex Sandro received his second yellow card of the match for diving inside the penalty area.

Trying to win its first Olympic gold in football, Brazil will play the quarterfinals against Honduras.

The Olympic tournament is the only significant football competition Brazil hasn’t won. It earned silver in 1984 and 1988, and bronze in 1996 and 2008.

The Brazilians controlled possession from the start and moved the ball around while patiently awaiting for its chances up front.

The first goal came after a give-and-goal play between Damiao and Danilo, who received the ball near the penalty spot and easily sent it past New Zealand goalkeeper Michael O’Keeffe.

Damiao added the second, finding the open net after a low cross by Sandro. Real Madrid left back Marcelo started the play with a backheel pass to Sandro inside the box.

Marcelo also took the left-side free kick that led to Sandro’s goal from near the far post. The ball crossed the area behind the defenders and the Tottenham midfielder easily found the net.

Coach Mano Menezes took the opportunity to rest some regular starters and give playing time to some of reserves. He made five changes from the team that beat Belarus 1-0 on Sunday, leaving out Hulk, Alexandre Pato, Oscar, Romulo and goalkeeper Neto. Gabriel, Lucas, Leandro Damiao, Danilo and Alex Sandro got to play.

Playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso came off the bench in the first two matches and was expected to play on Wednesday but didn’t fully recover in time from a minor left thigh injury.

Neymar had a fifth-minute goal called off for offsides. The Brazilian star also nearly scored with a volley from near the penalty spot in the 12th, just missing over the crossbar. He missed an incredible chance from just in front of the goal in the 61st, sending a high shot over the open net. Neymar, who was substituted in the 76th, set up two goals and scored one in the team’s 3-1 win over Belarus.

New Zealand’s only significant chance was an 86th-minute shot by Michael McGlinchey that was deflected in front of the net. It threatened occasionally on set pieces.

New Zealand leaves the competition after scoring only one goal. The nation still is seeking its first Olympic or World Cup victory. This is the team’s second consecutive time participating in the Olympics. It has also played in two World Cups, in 1982 and 2010.

Brazil beat New Zealand 5-0 in the group stage four years ago in Beijing.