When Tommy Smith came up against �50m Brazilian genius Neymar at London Olympics
IT was never likely to have an Olympic fairytale ending.
Tommy Smith against Neymar, a New Zealand lionheart against a Brazilian genius. A promising centre-back who has no Premier League appearances to his name against a �50million-rated playmaker coveted by Barcelona.
Yesterday, these two very different players went head-to-head and, predictably, it was Neymar and Brazil who came out on top against the brave Oly-Whites.
The magicians in yellow found their rhythm as quickly as the samba drums in the stands of Newcastle’s St James’ Park.
And New Zealand, who needed to cause one of the shocks of the Games to have any chance of continuing their Olympic dream, had no answer.
It was damage limitation from almost the first whistle with Smith just about clearing a dangerous cut-back from Leandro Damiao.
But it was not long before the football truly flowed and the goals duly followed.
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When Smith looks back proudly at becoming the first player on the books of Ipswich Town to compete in the Olympics, he will surely marvel at the passing quality that produced Brazil’s two opening goals.
Smith could do little about Neymar’s wizardy when he ghosted past the Blues defender as if he wasn’t there in the eighth minute.
And his team-mates were equally powerless as Brazil marched into a 2-0 lead through Danilo and Damiao.
At one stage, it looked like New Zealand’s only mission would be to keep the scoreline respectable.
Brazil, amazingly, have never won Olympic gold and they seem hell-bent on ending that omission from their glittering football CV.
A third goal followed in the second half through Tottenham’s Sandro before Neymar proved he is human after all by missing a sitter at the back post.
Brazil’s number 11 was treated to a standing ovation when he was brought off, perhaps saved for tougher tests in the knockout stages, but Smith could not rest against subs Alexandre Pato from AC Milan and Chelsea new boy Oscar.
The brave men in white came close to a consolation as Brazil saved themselves but a 3-0 scoreline was probably a fair reflection of the game.
Smith, as has become customary for him at Ipswich, took time afterwards to applaud the fans of all persuasions before patiently posing for photos and signing autographs.
His Olympic dream is over but he can look back on his journey with great pride.
Now it is time to kick-start his 2012/13 Championship campaign with Ipswich Town.