While the United States National Team was in Columbus clinching a World Cup berth, some real fireworks were on display at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Surrounded by a raucous crowd of 62,310 rabid fans, Brazil and Portugal put on a show to rival any match ever played in the 11-year old arena. In the end, it was Brazil who had the best game, winning by a 3-1 scoreline.
Raul Meireles opened the scoring for Portugal, but Thiago Silva, Neymar, and Jo piled on for the Seleҫão. Neymar in particular was brilliant on the night, assisting directly on the first goal, scoring the second, and setting up the assisting cross on the third.
"Brazil and Portugal was a great spectacle, it's always a show," said the Barcelona man, through a translator. "Portugal is always a strong team; one that always plays hard. I'm happy for the team's performance. We were able to play good football."
Meireles' opener came in the 18th minute, in a period where Portugal was the ascendant side. Miguel Veloso fired a shot from just outside the box that was deflected high into the air by a Brazilian defender. Right-back Maicon, filling in for the injured Dani Alves, measured up a light header back to his keeper, Julio Cesar. However, he didn't track the run of Meireles, who burst into the box, latched on to the lax header, and just six minutes after sending a bullet header off the base of the post, finished his chance easily to give Portugal the lead.
Brazil was not easily cowed. In the 24th minute, Neymar delivered an excellent corner toward the far post, where Thiago Silva soared over the Portugal defense and hammered home an emphatic header to equalize. At this point, the teams looked evenly matched, and while more goals were a certainty, it was unclear who would score them.
"It was a game evenly played in the first half," said Brazil head coach Luis Felipe Scolari, through a translator. "If you observe in the first half, there was some balance missing."
Nani headed wide of the near post in the 32nd minute, and suddenly it became clear who the side more likely to score would be. In the 34th minute, Neymar took the ball off of Luiz Gustavo's feet and took off toward goal, slashing into the box with a tremendous burst of speed before crushing a shot into the far post netting.
Brazil killed the game early in the second half. Neymar played a great pass in to Maxwell in the 49th minute, and the fullback reached the touchline in the box before cutting back across goal. From there, it was a simple bumper finish for Jo to bury from point-blank range to put the score at 3-1 and the result beyond doubt.
"In the second half after Brazil made it 3-1 the game pretty much ended," said Portugal coach Paulo Bento through a translator. "After that the game was somewhat tepid without any opportunities for either side. Brazil was able to control the game defensively as well, and what is left is a deserved victory from Brazil."
Both coaches took the opportunity at the end to get a little time in for a few fringe players, and after about sixty minutes of frenetic action, the match settled in to a languid pace that saw Brazil ease into victory comfortably.
"It would be too extreme [to blame the loss on his absence]," he said after the match. "We have to praise the match and we can't attribute that to the absence of a player. Naturally, he's an important player, we're talking about one of the best players in the world, and naturally he has a great influence on the way we play. But, we didn't lose naturally this game due to his absence."
The highlight of the night, apart from Neymar's stellar play, was easily the atmosphere. With over 62,000 people in attendance, it felt like a meaningful, competitive international on the pitch. One like, perhaps, you see in the World Cup.
"This is a game like the World Cup, and the World Cup is even worse than this, and we have to be ready," said Scolari. "That's why we are playing these exhibition games, playing teams like with the quality of Portugal."
It's a normal game, that's how it's going to be in the World Cup, that's how it's going to be in the qualifying games that they are about to finish, and that's how teams are formed to win championships."
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