Early Doors

Boys from Brazil outdone by Marta

Early Doors

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It was all so typically Brazilian. Two stepovers, a swerve away from an opposition defender and a clinical finish into the bottom corner. But this spectacle did not occur in La Plata as Brazil took on Venezuela in the Copa America. Instead it came 7,000 miles away in Wolfsburg.

Because while Robinho, Neymar, Pato et all were were labouring to a sterile 0-0 draw, Brazil's women's side looked like far more legitimate purveyors and protectors of what Pele called 'The Beautiful Game' when enjoying an impressive 3-0 win over Norway in the World Cup.

Richard Keys look away now: Sunday was very much a victory for the X-chromosome.

After Marta inspired Brazil to victory in Germany, the headline act of the selecao disappointed their millions of fans back home with their unexpected draw. It was a strangely insipid, and decidedly un-Brazilian, performance from Mano Menezes's side against Venezuela.

Unexpectedly, Brazil's most distinctive quality was their hard pressing and their hard-working approach. So much so that the player who best embodied their qualities was Liverpool's cult villain Lucas Leiva.

It was a like a symphony orchestra taking its direction from a novice triangle player, and ED suspects it was an uncomfortable position for Brazilian fans to find themselves in.

Menezes was expected to bring fantasy and flair back to the national side after the reign of Dunga, who though he won two trophies was never forgiven for the pragmatic direction he took the team in, and was dismissed quickly after Brazil's World Cup exit at the hands of Netherlands 12 months ago.

The current incumbent certainly has made steps towards cultivating a more attractive style that Brazilians can more readily identify themselves with, and Sunday's front three of Robinho, Neymar and Pato was on paper a thrilling prospect.

Though Neymar did not look quite the £45 million player that Santos have billed him to be, mindful of course of strong interest from Real Madrid and Chelsea, the teenager was dangerous and he lent cohesion and menace to the attack, bringing out the tricks where necessary as he drifted inside from his position wide on the left to good effect.

Menezes has shown great faith in the young forward, and has been rewarded with some sparky displays, but it is his anointment of Santos team-mate Ganso that is even more audacious, and risky.

Though making only his second senior appearance on Wednesday, the 21-year-old has already been acclaimed as the next great No. 10, and told by his manager that the most storied team in international football will be built around him.

At a stroke he has supplanted Kaka, Which ED cannot help but conclude is a vastly impressive feat.

Even the great Socrates recently said: "Ganso is the greatest revelation Brazil has produced in the last decade."

So the legacy of Socrates, Zico, Rivaldo and others lives on in this lanky, slightly awkward but phenomenally gifted kid. In that daunting context, Sunday was a pretty humbling experience.

Little went right for the young man as pass after pass went astray in an error-strewn performance that had ED reflecting that, in a cruel role reversal, it was just like watching Barnsley.

Ganso has been linked with both Milan clubs this summer and it's fair to say this performance probably won't have convinced Massimo Moratti and Silvio Berlusconi to start fighting over him with bundles of euros grasped in each hand.

In Ganso's defence, though, he has only just returned from a lengthy injury lay off, and the state of the pitch in La Plata was particularly horrible, with any pass liable to bobble all over the place. Hardly the perfect environment for a refined playmaker.

It was a complaint articulated by Menezes following the match.

"It looks to me that the pitch hindered faster plays and plays of more quality," Menezes said. "However, that is not our problem. We have to look over our performance and correct our problems."

Of those there were many, according to the selecao boss.

"The result was bad, because we played better than Venezuela," he added. "We had the control and the initiative of the match, but we lacked clarity in some choices, mainly to find players in the finishing moments.

"We were too obvious. The ball got to the players who were wide, but they were too far away from Pato and the play could not flow. That is something we have to work on during the week."

That elusive final product was supplied in spades by one Brazilian though, as in Germany Marta gave another thrilling demonstration of her ability to tear teams apart against Norway, scoring two excellent goals and claiming a neat assist.

The forward, who has enjoyed an unbroken reign of terror that has seen her collect the World Player of the Year award for five consecutive seasons, exists on a different planet to any of her contemporaries in the women's game. Such is her ability she transcends the sport, and it makes for thrilling viewing.

Like Michael Schumacher or Ronnie O'Sullivan in their prime, Marta exudes ultra confidence, a total faith and trust in her own ability and superiority. Never hurried or panicked, she glides through games and opposition players like a force of nature; unplayable and unstoppable.

As coach Kleiton Lima said: "Thank God Marta's Brazilian. She has two great qualities - she's down to earth, and she's a genius."

How Menezes could have done with one of his own.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Some of the referee's decisions weren't the greatest. But that's how the game is." - Australia midfielder Lisa DeVanna displays an admirable capacity for understatement when reflecting on one of the most bizarre decisions seen on a pitch. You will probably have seen the video by now, as ref Gyoengyi Gaal somehow missed the fact that Equatorial Guinea defender Bruna caught the ball and held onto it for three seconds. Remarkable stuff.

FOREIGN VIEW: "The Sunday Mirror publishes an interview with me today. All that content is false. I have never spoke with the newspaper, and never made those statements." - Cristiano Ronaldo denies ever saying that he would have joined Manchester City this summer if Jose Mourinho had left Real Madrid.

COMING UP: The Copa America continues as Uruguay play Peru (23.15) and Chile face Mexico (01.45). To keep you busy in the meantime, Paul Parker is bringing us his latest blog and we turn our attention to the centre-midfield spots as we continue our Greatest Premier League XI series.

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