Neymar honours Bolt in win over Belarus
30 July 2012, 14:34
England - Neymar ran to the sideline and struck the famous Usain Bolt lightning pose. It was football's biggest Olympic star honouring one of the London Games' most acclaimed athletes.
Neymar celebrated by imitating his idol after scoring from a free kick and leading Brazil to a 3-1 win over Belarus 3-1 on Sunday, securing the gold-medal favorite a spot in the quarterfinals of the men's Olympic tournament.
"It was for Bolt, we did his celebration," Neymar said.
Neymar has his own legion of fans following him everywhere he shows up, but even before heading to London he had already said he was hoping to meet with Bolt to get an autograph and take a photo with the Jamaican, who will be competing later in the Olympics.
"I haven't met him yet but I hope it happens," said the 20-year-old Brazilian, touted as the future of Brazilian football.
Neymar struck a well-placed right-foot shot into the left upper corner of the net in the 65th minute to break a deadlock as Brazil struggled to get near the Belarus goal despite controlling possession at Old Trafford.
Belarus opened the scoring through Brazilian-born playmaker Renan Bressan in the eighth, but Alexandre Pato equalized with a header in the 15th after a cross by Neymar, who also set up Oscar's final goal in injury time.
The victory gives Brazil six points in Group C, three more than Belarus. New Zealand and Egypt, which drew 1-1 earlier in Manchester, have one point each.
Brazil will play its last group match against New Zealand while Belarus will face Egypt.
"I'm glad that I was able to play well again and that I got the goal and the assists," Neymar said. "The victory was important to make sure we make it to the next round no matter what happens in the final match."
Neymar's goal was the 100th all-time for Brazil in the Olympics.
The youngster had been criticised for his lackluster play in Brazil's first match.
"It's normal, you can't always please everyone," he said. "I'm glad things changed today, though."
Brazil is trying to win its first gold medal in football. The Olympic tournament is the only significant football competition the five-time world champions haven't won. The Brazilians earned silver in 1984 and 1988, and bronze in 1996 and 2008.
"We played with more intelligence in the second half, working the ball better to find the spaces we needed to find," Brazil coach Mano Menezes said. "It was the first time this team was down in the score but it was able to overcome the deficit, that was important. A team that wants to be successful needs to go through these situations and respond accordingly, and we did."
Brazil dominated most of the match in front of more than 66 000 people at Old Trafford, but struggled to get close to the Belarus area, relying mostly on balls crossed into the box. Belarus had its opportunities in a few counterattacks.
Belarus was coming off a 1-0 win over New Zealand in its opener.
- Sapa - AFP