(Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
Oscar is through to the gold medal game of the 2012 London Olympics following Brazil's 3-0 win against South Korea. I suspect that for most people here, Olympic football isn't really a very big deal -- Spain and Brazil aside, nobody took a particularly strong team to the tournament, and we haven't seen anything like the quality that was on display in the European Championships earlier in the summer. But it is a big deal for Brazil, and the fact that Oscar's playing in the gold medal game gives us a great stat, courtesy of Rick Glanville:
Brazil’s Oscar has become the first Chelsea player to reach an Olympic final since GB’s Vivian Woodward in 1912 – 100 yrs ago— Rick Glanvill (@RickGlanvill) August 7, 2012
Stats are great, but I suspect what you're here for is an assessment of how Oscar performed against South Korea. The answer is that he did about the same as always, which is 'quite well'. Brazil began the match on the back foot, ceding possession to their opponents and looking to counterattack, and with Oscar pushed high up to exploit the possibility of a break he wasn't very involved for the first twenty minutes or so as the Koreans had control.
This is not how I'd have used him, by the way. Yes, he's very useful on the counterattack, but if Oscar had been held deeper he'd have allowed Brazil to hold on to the ball more effectively, and Mano Menezes' strategy would have really bitten his team had South Korea scored the goal they deserved during their dominant spell.
When the Selecao finally revived themselves, Oscar went right back into being that dynamic all-around attacking midfielder we've been enjoying. He played in the hole rather than as a wing (Neymar was on the left, Alex Sandro on the right, and it's more than a little telling that Hulk was benched today), and he did a very good job of keeping things simply unless he needed to pull out a trick to get past players.
Two moments really stood out for me. The obvious one is the assist for the opening goal. After running onto a pass with the Korea defence out of position, Oscar allowed Leandro Damiao and Neymar to shepherd the back line towards the right while he cut diagonally towards the centre. He was extremely patient on the ball and incredibly aware of his surroundings, allowing him to slip in Romulo for the game's opening (if poorly-finished) goal. Here's the video:
The second really great moment came before that assist. With Oscar stranded on the left flank and three defenders closing in, the 20-year-old managed to escape by somehow spotting Romulo standing behind referee Pavel Kralovec and threading a perfect pass through his legs, allowing play to continue. It was an audaciously clever, improvisational move, and that's really impressive from a player so young.
Other than that it was pretty much business as usual. He had a hand in the third goal, but the pass that eventually set up Leandro Damiao for his brace was intended for Neymar and inadvertently flicked into the Internacional striker's boots by an unfortunate Korean defender, so I'm not giving him any credit for that. He also got fouled hard enough by Sunderland's Ji Dong-Won to earn the striker a yellow card. I was a little worried about how long he stayed on the ground after he got clipped in the knee, but he turned out a-OK.
So, that's pretty good going. Oscar remains what we thought he was -- a good prospect who shines against bad teams. Does a strong Olympics mean he's ready to step up to the Chelsea starting eleven, or that he'll excel in the Premier League? No, of course not. This isn't tough competition at all, and although he's exciting I wouldn't go around assuming he's the finished product just yet. It's been a pretty encouraging performance, however, and I'm glad we agreed a transfer fee and got the deal done before the tournament. That transfer saga would have been much more interesting otherwise.