Tottenham midfielder Sandro headed the visitors into a 12th-minute lead before Neymar converted a 35th-minute penalty after Micah Richards had tripped Porto frontman Hulk.
In truth, the Brazilians won with something to spare on a night when goalkeepers Jason Steele before the break and Jack Butland after it kept the scoreline respectable in front of a crowd of 24,721 at the Riverside Stadium. Just what Team GB coach Stuart Pearce was able to glean from an intensely difficult evening is debatable, but his players were left in little doubt as to the standards they will have to reach if they are to figure at the business end of the Olympic tournament. A bullish Pearce revealed in the build-up to the game that, rather than shying away from the tournament favourites, he welcomed the opportunity for his players to test themselves against the best before they begin their campaign against Senegal at Old Trafford next Thursday evening.
By the time the half-time whistle had sounded, he could have been forgiven for wishing he had taken a different route. Team GB, who will play in the men’s competition for the first time since 1960, were simply outclassed as the powerful South Americans went through their full repertoire. Leandro Damiao was asked to lead the line ahead of a potentially lethal trio of Chelsea-bound Oscar, Santos starlet Neymar and Porto’s Hulk, and they tormented Pearce’s back four throughout the opening 45 minutes. Left-back Neil Taylor in particular did not know what had hit him as, even with Tottenham midfielder Danny Rose trying to help him out, Neymar, who squandered a glorious sixth-minute opening, and Hulk repeatedly got in behind him to expose James Tomkins and Micah Richards in the middle. When Brazil took the lead, they did so in somewhat prosaic style with Rose’s Spurs team-mate Sandro heading Neymar’s back-post free-kick across Middlesbrough keeper Jason Steele, playing on his home ground, and into the far corner.
GB might have been level within three minutes when Richards met Ryan Giggs’ free-kick beyond the far post, but although his downward header beat keeper Rafael Barbosa, defender Thiago Silva was on hand to clear. Chances were few and far between for Pearce’s men, who started with Daniel Sturridge playing as a lone striker and attempting to prove his match fitness after a bout of viral meningitis. But their task became even more difficult ten minutes before the break when, after Richards had tripped Hulk in the penalty area, Neymar stepped up to fire the resulting penalty low to Steele’s right and into the bottom corner.
Earlier at the Riverside, Scotland’s Ife Dieke was named player of the match and compatriot Kim Little also played as Hope Powell’s Great Britain women more than held their own in a 0-0 friendly draw with Sweden. GB rarely threatened the Swedes, short of Rachel Yankee hitting the post but Powell felt that their shyness around the 18-yard box was in part down to anxiety and expects the result to boost confidence.