Brazil, Neymar survive Egyptian scare
Gold-medal favorite Brazil scored three first-half goals then held on for a 3-2 win over Egypt in its opening Olympic match in Group C on Thursday.
Rafael opened the scoring in the 16th minute, Leandro Damiao added another in the 26th and Neymar scored in the 30th to give Brazil a comfortable halftime lead before Egypt made it interesting with goals by captain Mohamed Aboutrika in the 52nd and substitute Mohamed Salah in the 76th.
Brazil was able to control the rest of the game and held on for the victory, staying on track for its first gold in Olympic men’s soccer.
"We got what we needed in the opening match, and that was the victory," Brazil coach Mano Menezes said. "We built our result with a very good performance in the first half but we couldn’t repeat it in the second, in part because Egypt improved and in part because of our own mistakes."
The Olympic tournament is the only significant soccer competition the five-time world champions haven’t conquered. Brazil earned silver medals in 1984 and 1988, and bronze ones in 1996 and 2008.
Brazil is one of the few teams with many of its top players in the Olympic tournament and is one of the top contenders for the gold. Several of its players likely will be on the team that will try to win the World Cup at home in 2014.
Egypt dominated the first few minutes of the match at Millennium Stadium but Brazil slowly grabbed control.
The Egyptians entered the competition trying to restore some of the country’s soccer pride nearly six months after the stadium riot that killed more than 70 people and forced the suspension of the national league.
Manchester United right back Rafael scored the first goal after a perfect through ball by newly signed Chelsea playmaker Oscar. Rafael cleared a defender with one touch and fired a low left-footed shot into the net.
Oscar set up the second goal too, beating a defender and the goalkeeper to a long ball lobbed into the area and sending a pass back toward Damiao, whose shot easily got past the lone Egyptian defender trying to block the net.
Neymar, seen as Brazil’s future star, added to the lead after finding Hulk open on the left side of the area. The FC Porto forward crossed the ball back and Neymar headed it in from close range.
Egypt pulled one closer after a set piece from just outside the area in the 52nd. Meteab Emad struck the post after the cross into the box and Aboutrika scored off the rebound.
Salah got the Egyptians even closer after the defenders failed to clear a ball inside the area and allowed him to get a shot into the left corner.
"If we hadn’t the mistakes in the first half maybe we could’ve had a better result at the end, but that’s football, we will have to learn from it," Egypt coach Hany Ramzy said. "I’m proud of my team, especially in the second half."