How Olympic football affects the World Cup

Olympic football may not be the main event of the Olympic Games but those teams taking part have an excellent opportunity to try things out as they prepare for the next World Cup.

This has rarely been clearer than at Old Trafford on Sunday, when 2014 hosts Brazil were confronted with a problem they will surely meet time and time again in two years` time. Opponents Belarus put 10 men behind the ball and looked to frustrate them, forcing them to pass sideways, hoping that Brazilian frustration would lead to error and then launching the counter-attack.

What made this match especially interesting was that Belarus took the lead, scoring a beautifully worked goal on almost the first occasion they crossed the halfway line. The true test of a team is always when they go a goal down. How would Brazil respond?

In the event they were level just six minutes later - but it took them another forty to get in front. And the three points were not safe until the third goal was scored in stoppage time. A crowd of 66,000 turned up, many of them Brazilians well aware of the importance of Olympic football.
Like many Brazilian national team crowds, after the initial euphoria wore off they went very quiet when things were not going well on the field. That was interspersed with moments of impatience, such as calling for substitutions. This was a fascinating test for the full ninety minutes.

Arguably Brazil made their task harder for themselves by replacing centre forward Leandro Damiao with Alexandre Pato. Damiao had scored one and made one in Thursday`s 3-2 win over Egypt, but coach Mano Menezes thought Pato`s characteristics were more suited to this game. Throughout his reign, the 4-2-3-1 system has worked better with an out-and-out centre forward and this was surely all the truer against Belarus.

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