Egypt 1-1 New Zealand
Brazil 3-1 Belarus
I was trying to find something to write along the line of a ‘Herculean’ effort in the title, but the only thing Herculean about the day was the effort put in by the Egyptian team to NOT score a winner against a completely torn-apart New Zealand defence.
I wasn’t expecting too much from the two games, if I am honest. Having watched a significant amount of English, Champions League and other International tournament football I have always rated the Olympics as a watered-down version of what I am already used to – like a Muller Lite yoghurt sat next to a Sherry Trifle; unappealing and limited. Some of the women might like it though.
Turning up halfway through the first half I’d already missed Chris Wood’s goal and it was Egypt swarming forwards, time and again creating space on their right hand side. This continued all through the game and they were clearly the dominant side. Even with Egypt’s equaliser, the amount of chances missed was staggering. The NZ goalkeeper was busy but didn’t have to pull off any great saves; it genuinely looked as though Egypt were trying not to score.
After severe dallying when 6 yards out with an open goal with about 20 minutes to go led to another simple chance go begging, I began to seriously consider whether this was a little bit sinister. Several missed chances later including 2 or 3 sitters in injury time alone, and I became more certain of wrongdoing with each refusal to shoot when presented with the ball. Even on sober reflection, I am unsure as to how Egypt failed to put a decidedly ordinary if plucky New Zealand away if they weren’t fixing the result. It was that bizarre.
The second game, Belarus vs Brazil, started on a similar note. I began to wonder what kind of sick, parallel universe I’d entered as Belarus neatly worked a crossfield ball into a crossing opportunity with a great touch over the head of left-back Marcelo, for the fullback to bend a precise cross to land on the proverbial sixpence of Bressan’s bonnet, which diverted the ball neatly into the bottom corner.
Then Brazil turned it on. Neymar’s cross was headed in by Pato, and he then scored a perfect freekick before the two best players on the pitch combined, Neymar’s cute cute cute backheel set up Oscar for a fine finish on the stroke of fulltime. Oscar’s performance running the show in midfield will excite Chelsea fans for the coming season, whilst Neymar’s direct dribbling and pace will no doubt have seen admirers pump up their interest before the summer’s end.
Credit to Belarus and New Zealand, who I’ve omitted to tell you could have nicked it at the end; both were plucky underdogs and didn’t give anything away. Brazil were always going to play their part in front of 66k who’d turned up to mainly watch them, and Egypt at least produced a very end-to-end game and presumable a truckload of Egyptian pounds to a shady bookmaker no doubt currently sunning himself atop a pyramid next to the Nile back home.