Brazil, led by AC Milan star Ronaldinho, beat Vietnam 2-0 in a friendly on Friday that served as a pre-Olympic warm-up for the South American giants and meant the world to Vietnamese fans.
Alexandre Pato of AC Milan scored the first goal in the sixth minute before a packed-out crowd that included Vietnam's President Nguyen Minh Triet in Hanoi's 40,000-seat My Dinh stadium.
But his second attempt to score in the 46th minute was warded off by Vietnam's goalkeeper, Brazilian-born Fabio Dos Santos, who became a naturalised Vietnamese citizen in December.
Vietnam nearly equalised just after half-time, when striker Nguyen Viet Thang took a shot which keeper Diego Alves deflected away to safety, and again when Nguyen Minh Duc hit the goal post with a long shot.
In the 81st minute Thiago Neves, voted the best player in the Brazilian league last year, scored Brazil's second goal.
Two minutes later, left-footed Brazilian forward Jo, who recently inked a four-year deal with English Premier League club Manchester City, found the net, but the goal was disqualified as a Vietnamese player got pushed.
Ronaldinho, according to a Vietnamese official translator, said after the match: “Tonight the Vietnamese team had a good match. The weather tonight was nice, and I liked this match very much.”
Brazilian coach Carlos Dunga said: “I'm happy with the match although we had little training. We would like to thank Vietnamese fans and the hosts for giving us a warm welcome and good preparation.”
Despite the loss, for many Vietnamese fans just having the samba kings on their home turf came close to a religious experience.
“Having the Brazilian players in Vietnam is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” enthused Nguyen Bich Lien, 50, from southern Ho Chi Minh City.
“It's a great opportunity to see Ronaldinho, Pato and Anderson,” agreed Tran Hung Dung, 28, wearing a yellow Brazil shirt and a Vietnamese conical hat.
“It's unbelievable to see them playing football in Vietnam. The Vietnamese are like the Brazilians in their love for soccer.”
Pato said at a post-match press conference: “I'm very surprised about the warm welcome and the enthusiasm from the Vietnamese fans for soccer. I will have a lot of things to tell my friends back home.”
The Brazilian Olympic team flew in from another exhibition match in Singapore this week to play Vietnam before travelling on to Beijing where the Olympic tournament begins August 6, with the final on August 23.
Brazil have won the World Cup a record five times — but they have come up short at the Olympics, finishing with a silver medal in the 1984 and 1988 Games, and bronze in 1996.
Ronaldinho said earlier this week Brazil will blend youth and experience in their bid for Olympic football gold.
“There are many young players who have a lot of experience and I think that will make the difference for us,” he said.
“We have let many chances (of gold) slip … Many good teams have played the Olympics and we have never managed to win it. Now we have the opportunity — we have a very good team.”
Pato said Friday night: “I consider all of our competitors in Beijing equally strong — but I hope Brazil will win.”