In Thursday's featured match, at the 42nd edition of the Toulon Tournament in France, the reigning tournament champions, Brazil, defeated the their South Korean opponents 2-0. The tourney, a gathering of young up and coming talent, and a showcase for such subsequent senior stars as Alan Shearer, Rui Costa, Thierry Henry, Kaka, Cafu, Javier Mascherano, has at times been a harbinger of near-future senior national team performances.
The tournament has featured national team clashes since 1974 in stadia ranging in capacity from 1,000 to 17,000 spectators and it is noted as much for the caliber of the young players' performances as for the number of agents and scouts that descend upon the small French towns hosting the event. The games are played with unlimited substitutions and 40-minute halves.
This year the Brazilian team at Toulon will form the basis of the host team for the 2016 Olympic Games. Today, both teams featured players already playing first and second level professional football in their countries and in some cases abroad.
The game was a free flowing back and forth affair with Brazil controlling possession but with South Korea defending and counterattacking well. One of their counters led to a hand ball in the box by a Brazilian defender who earned an immediate yellow card. The referee awarded the penalty. The ensuing kick, at the 10th minute, was saved by the tall Brazilian goalkeeper, Marcos, who waited until the last second and then guessed correctly, diving to his left.
It would be an additional seventeen minutes until Brazil finally had a good shot on goal, that is they took advantage of a well wrought opportunity as opposed to missing the previous half-dozen chances. This time Thalles took advantage of a poor clearance with a thundering shot that bounced off a defender, nicked the crossbar and shook the net for the opening score.
The first half would end with both teams having had opportunities to change that score line.
The second half, was a copy of the first, but played at a higher intensity and providing more scoring chances. None of those chances materialized until the 80th minute, but it was great saves and good play that created and erased the opportunities.
At the 80:29 minute, Luan, a substitute with fresh legs, sprinted down the middle of the field for nearly 50 yards. He ran nearly unopposed and dribbled through everyone who did come at him, until he reached the South Korean box. Entering it at full gallop he managed to toe poke the ball past the vacillating goalkeeper for the final score.
Three things came out of this game. First, almost all of the Brazilian starters are first team, first division professionals and they will form a strong core for future national teams. Second, South Korea's youth programs are very strong and are producing candidates who have already shown their capacity to play at the highest levels including in Europe's Premier League and Serie A. Finally, we saw a number of players who will be on their national teams' rosters in the very near future.