Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sports Magic: Brazil's Amazing Golden Boys

This past weekend Brazil captured the FIFA Under-20 World Cup beating Portugal 3-2 in overtime, in a thrilling final. Brazil wasn't even at full strength because its precocious 19-year old phenom, Neymar, has already cracked the top national team. No matter, this team was deep with talented kids. Watch No. 20 Negueba flip the ball over the man marking him, in a play of uncommon panache that is called a "hat" or a "sheet" — as in floating a sheet over a bed when making it. It's rarely seen because it's considered showing up the other team. But kids will be kids.

Watch the goals of the campaign below (excusing the video quality, but I couldn't find better). A festival of great goals, crisp passing and teamwork, showcasing the best football in the world. All the kids were great, but No. 11 Oscar in particular impressed me the most. Oscar scored a "hat trick" against Portugal, notching all three of Brazil's goals. He was a joy to watch, gliding effortlessly over the pitch, hitting his passing targets with pinpoint precision. I thought, 'this kid is really good!'

Then he scored his third goal, which clinched the championship. There's an imaginary window, about the size of the strike zone in baseball, that floats just outside the goalkeeper's reach and below the far corner goalpost. That was Oscar's target. He had the ball on the right wing and noticed Portugal's keeper was only slightly off his line, anticipating a cross. Oscar launched the ball, then fell back still in his follow-through motion, arms swinging freely, as he looked up to admire his masterpiece-in-progress. He laid it in perfectly, past the goalkeeper's desperate outstretched arm. Oscar is seen admiring his shot from afar, then the ball comes into the frame. Nothing but net. The deadly arc of the ball reminded me of a Michael Jordan fadeaway three-point shot at the buzzer.

Man, what a beautiful game.

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