BROCKIE BACK HOME (facing Brazil's dazzling duo): How the Kiwis handled Neymar and PSG star Lucas
I recently caught up with my Wellington Phoenix teammate Ian Hogg to talk about last year's Olympics.
23-year old Hoggy, who recently joined the Nix from MLS side Portland Timbers, was part of the New Zealand team which competed at the 2012 London Games and had the unenviable task of manning one of Brazil's up and coming stars, Lucas Moura.
At the time, Lucas was with Sao Paulo but was being linked with a number of Europe's bigger clubs, including Manchester United and Chelsea, before signing for Paris Saint-Germain, however, Hoggy did a great job in keeping him quiet as Brazil won 3-0 in Newcastle.
This is what Hoggy had to say about the 20-year old attacker:
"I think I contained him well, obviously you aren't going to do things 100% right against a player of that calibre but I feel I handled it well. There was a lot in the papers and on the TV about who he was signing for in the days leading up to the game, whether it was going to be Man United, PSG, (Real) Madrid etc. so I definitely knew he had serious ability going into the game.
"He was a very quick player and like all players at that level he was very strong on the ball. You try not to give those type of players time to turn and run at you and in the right areas of the pitch you aim to show them into the traffic where midfield players are covering you."
Hoggy also had some complimentary words to say about Lucas' Brazil teammate Neymar, who is commanding plenty of interest from massive clubs all over the world.
"I personally feel Neymar has the potential to become the best player in the world. It seems he has chosen to remain in Brazil until after the World Cup so it will be interesting to see what he does after that. The NZ coaching staff basically said to go out and enjoy the experience because it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but not to give him too much respect.
"On the field there were few surprises with Neymar. We had all seen the Youtube videos on him. It was more off the field where he was more down to earth than we expected. We shared the hotel with Brazil and he was always up for a game of table tennis and a chat in the downtime between trainings. I guess his personality is why he is so popular in Brazil.
"If I played him again I don't think I would do too much different. Having played Brazil in the 2008 Olympics as well, I wasn't as nervous or anxious as some other players might have been to come up against a player of that ability. I would just play my natural game again.
"For other players playing him for the first time I would say not to dive in and commit yourself when defending him. He is looking for this and will punish you."
And I also asked Hoggy about the hype, or lack thereof, surrounding football at the Olympics. He begged to differ with the opinion of those sceptics, especially the people involved at the clubs of the players on duty.
"For some reason a lot of people are anti-Olympic football. For me personally it is one of the greatest moments of your life to represent your country at any level but as a kid growing up you always want to play at the Olympics.
"I guess a lot of issues are to do with clubs and clashes with pre-season, injuries etc.
"The ultimate stage in football is the World Cup but the Olympics provides great exposure for players and should be supported more by the footballing community in my opinion."
This weekend, the Phoenix host Perth Glory who are having a rough time of it, as we are. I feel our recent form hasn't been too bad despite the results and a victory is certainly on the cards as we continue to chase a spot in the final six.