Rather unexpectedly, Brazil found themselves a goal behind early on in their Group C clash with surprise packages Belarus at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 on Sunday. The opener, a header placed into the far corner, was scored by a player born in Brazil. Intriguingly, it was not an own goal, but rather the handiwork of Renan Bardini Bressan, a key member of the European side’s Olympic line-up.
The BATE Borisov attacking midfielder originates from Tubarao in southern Brazil, where he initially turned out for local outfit Atletico. In 2006, he was playing in a friendly match at which a Russian scout happened to be present. Fifteen minutes spent observing the player was enough to persuade him that the precocious youngster had the talent to succeed in eastern Europe, and an offer swiftly followed.
Bressan, without a contract at the time after falling foul of some underhand dealings in his homeland, did not hesitate for a minute and began to pack his bags immediately.
“I found it difficult to adjust at first because I was never given access to an interpreter or a language teacher,” he explained to FIFA.com. "I just learned as I went along. When I arrived as an 18-year-old, I knew that I would have to put in a real effort. The coach asked me, and so I really pushed myself to learn Russian."
Now fluent in the language and a holder of Belarusian citizenship, the midfield man earned his first cap for his adopted nation in February of this year. ”Although I’ve got used to things, the cold weather and the fact that people are a little more reserved can still be hard to deal with,” said the amiable 23-year-old.
It was Bressan who tested opposition goalkeeper Neto most often during the 3-1 defeat by A Seleção, after managing to direct the ball past him in composed fashion in the eighth minute. “In terms of the goal, I find myself at a bit of a loss for words. Just thinking about it makes my hair stand on end,” he explained.
“We didn’t expect to score so soon because we knew that the Brazilians were going to put a lot of pressure on us and that pushing too far forward might cost us, but when we had the ball we were actually putting some good moves together. For the goal, our right-back sent in a great cross, and I got a bit lucky, because I hardly ever score with my head."
The reason for this absence of headed strikes is not a lack of height, but rather the effect of an incident during his teenage years. “When I was 15, I had an accident while playing that caused a blood clot in my brain. I spent a month in hospital. I didn’t know if I’d be able to play or train again; I had to rest for quite some time. So that’s why I’m a bit wary of hitting the ball with my head. But today I saw the chance and didn’t think twice."
The obvious satisfaction felt by Bressan does not simply come down to the goal he scored, because in the cold light of day, the Belarusians failed to hold on to their 1-0 lead. “I’m happy with the level of play that we showed out there. We stood up to Brazil, and it was a good game overall," he said. "Obviously, the quality of their individual players made the difference in the end.
“I’m convinced we can beat Egypt in our next game. They’re a really good team, but today we showed what we’re capable of,” he added confidently. Belarus currently lie second in their four-team section on 3 points, with qualification for the quarter-finals still very much in their own hands.
The naturalised Belarusian does not hide the fact that there is another aspect of performing at London 2012 that provides him with extra motivation. “My dream is to play for one of Brazil’s top clubs. I hope that what happened today will help me to take a further step in that direction. I’m happy in Belarus, but I’d also like to play in another European country, and perhaps one day return home."