IMG Cup | Brazil's Cruzeiro wins opener with flair

Brazilian club cruises past England's Stevenage as Super Group play begins

jdill@bradenton.comDecember 19, 2013 

BAYSHORE GARDENS -- The Portuguese phrase, "Joga Bonito," has long been associated with Brazilian soccer.

It simply means beautiful play, referring to the skillful technique displayed by Brazil's national team through the decades.

There's been a rebirth of that style after transition to a more physical game took root.

Showcasing that artistry on the pitch in Wednesday's opening day of the annual IMG Cup was Cruzeiro, which dusted off English club Stevenage 3-1 in a Super Group match at IMG Academy.

"It's always good to start off with a win," Cruzeiro coach Hudson Barbosa said through IMG translator Danny Pinho, "because it's going to build confidence, especially when they are coming into a competition where they are under-17 and they are playing against under-18s."

The skillful flair known to longtime viewers of Brazil's brand of soccer was most noticeable in the 71st minute of Wednesday's match.

That's when Gabriel Louzada made Stevenage pay for a poor clearance attempt off a corner. The ball floated to the area outside the 18-yard box, and Louzada connected on a half-volley that swerved inside the far post to break a 1-1 deadlock.

"It's a little bit of luck and a little bit of technique," Louzada said with help from Pinho. "It's kind of a little bit of everything that went into that goal."

The momentous goal came after Cruzeiro cranked out a steady attack and pressure on the ball when it didn't have possession.

Louzada's goal highlighted the second-half barrage. Cruzeiro tacked on an insurance score when Elias Franco converted a penalty in the 85th minute.

"(We) made two substitutions at the half," Barbosa said. "And then (we) adjusted and put pressure up to kind of keeping them in their own half, which made things much more difficult for them to get out of their own half that gave (us) more control."

While London-based Tottenham Hotspur is the big draw to this week's event, fans on this side of the Atlantic would be remiss if they avoided the importance of Cruzeiro's participation.

The senior team captured the Brazilian league title in 2013, and the youth team competing this week benefits from the accolades attained by the professionals.

"The entire club, it becomes more visible," Barbosa said through club translator Pedro Moreira. "People have their eyes more on the club. And it's important for us, because on this team that won the national championship, we had seven players that came from the youth. So the responsibility in the youth department becomes bigger, because people expect more young players will move up to the first team and help the first team win more titles."

In other Super Group matches, the IMG Academy U-18 squad defeated Baltimore Celtic 3-0; Tottenham Hotspur defeated Queretaro 3-0; and Alliance Academy U-19 downed the USA U-17 men's national team 2-0.

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