Familiar failings on show as Brazil struggle

SHENYANG Thu Aug 7, 2008 11:34pm EDT

SHENYANG (Reuters) - Brazil showed all their familiar failings as they struggled to break down nine-man Belgium in their opening Olympic games match before winning 1-0.

Despite their wealth of talent, the Brazilians performed only in fits and starts and needed a 78th-minute strike from midfielder Hernanes to subdue the battling Belgians.

Dunga, who coaches both the senior and Olympic teams, was lucky not to pay for a typically cautious approach as he overpopulated his midfield and left his strikers isolated and frustrated in the Group C encounter.

Alexandre Pato, substituted in the second half, was forced to battle alone against two or three big Belgian defenders.

Ronaldinho, the other half of the partnership, spent much of the game stuck out on the left touchline, calling for the ball in vain.

Ronaldinho, captaining the team after being included as one of three permitted overage players in the under-23 tournament, showed some of his familiar repertoire of tricks but found the going tough despite being the oldest player on the field by several years.

ENORMOUS PRESSURE

Dunga is under enormous pressure to bring home a first gold medal for Brazil and make up for the poor recent performances of the senior team, who recently lost to Venezuela and Paraguay in successive games and have not scored in three outings.

He blamed his opponents, the pitch and Brazil's lack of preparation time for the difficulties in Thursday's game.

"We were facing opponents who have been training for four months whereas we got together 15 days ago," he said.

"It was difficult to play against a team who put all their players behind the ball and on a pitch which doesn't allow you to control the ball."

"The first game is always tough," he added.

Ronaldinho, hoping to use the Olympics as a springboard to re-launch his career, promised both he and his team would do better as the tournament wore on.

"The first game at the Olympics is always complicated so we are going to try and get better with every game," said Ronaldinho, whose final few months at Barcelona were plagued by injury and fitness problems.

"I haven't played an official football match for four months. I'm happy to return."

(Editing by Miles Evans)