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Brilliant Brazil bury hapless New Zealand

CONSTANT THREAT: Neymar (right)

STEPOVERS, SUMPTOUS flicks and a carnivalesque samba beat were all the rage at St James’ Park as Brazil defeated New Zealand 3-0 in Group C of the Olympic football tournament.

Cheered on by supporters who merrily played drums throughout, first-half goals from Danilo and Leandro Damiao, and a 51st minute tap in for Sandro ensured that the South Americans finished with maximum points from their group.

The only sour note for the five-time World Cup winners was Alex Sandro being red carded for two bookable offences and will subsequently miss their quarter-final fixture on August 4.

At the home of Newcastle United, Brazil began brightly as highly touted starlet Neymar found the back of the net on five minutes only for it to be ruled offside by the assistant referee.

A scissor kick by the 20-year-old narrowly went wide six minutes later but Brazil eventually scored on the 22nd minute mark.

After a precise one-two with striker Leandro Damiao, Danilo calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net for the opener.

On 28 minutes another goal followed. A sumptuous drag back from Real Madrid full-back Marcelo – who operated as an auxiliary forward for the vast majority of the match - put Alex Sandro in on goal. The Porto defender then calmly squared it to Leandro Damaio who converted from inside the six yard box.

There was no way back for New Zealand after Leandro Damaio’s finish. The All Whites had zero shots on goal during the first-half and only managed one effort on target in the entire game.

Brazil found a third goal in the early stages of the second-half. After Leandro Damiao was needlessly fouled on the left of the 18 yard box, Marcelo whipped in a low cross which was side footed into the goal by Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Sandro.

As well as Alex Sandro’s red, another negative for Brazil was that Neymar was unable to add to their three-goal tally. The Santos forward had terrorised New Zealand’s defence from the beginning, although he should have scored when he fired over from inside the six yard box on 60 minutes.

Brazil relentlessly attacked the New Zealand goalmouth with a panache that enthralled a knowledgeable Newcastle crowd.

If it was not Chelsea target Lucas and Manchester United right-back Rafael attacking down the right flank, it was Marcelo doing the same on the opposite side.

Judging from his performance today, Lucas, 19, definitely looks likely to be one for the future.

The plethora of talent on display will undoubtedly worry the rest of the Olympic football nations and few would bet against the South Americans to add gold at London 2012 to their already bulging trophy cabinet.

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