The enormous Brazilian support that poured out of the Fortaleza stadium last night went home in good spirits having witnessed a few truly breath-taking moments from the scintillating Neymar. It’s easy to fixate on the highlights of Brazil’s 2-0 Confederations Cup win over Mexico, particularly when they’re so eye-catching but for long periods in the game, the ‘Samba Kings’ were noticeably offbeat and that will be a cause for concern for Luiz Felipe Scolari.
A zestful start to the game from the hosts seemed to have overwhelmed Mexico and a sensational finish eventually killed them off but the rest of the encounter proved to be uninspiring. Brazil started off with a jolt and had the Mexicans on the ropes for the entirety of the opening fifteen minutes. They played with pace and flamboyance while making it a point to press high up the pitch.
Neymar in particular stood out as he outfoxed defenders and looked the most threatening player on the pitch. Marcelo’s marauding runs, Dani Alves’ audacious chipped effort and Hulk’s overhead kick to knock the ball back across goal all pointed towards Brazil’s exuberant start. The pressure paid off in the ninth minute when the ball fell kindly for Neymar to unleash a fierce volley past a hapless Jose Corona with his so-called weaker left foot.
With Neymar looking like a man on a mission, Brazil playing at such a high tempo and the crowd driving their side on, it seemed as if the South Americans were on their way to an emphatic victory that would strike fear into the rest of the teams.
It wasn't all easy for Neymar and Co.
However, Mexico gradually found their feet and began to play their way back into the game while Brazil backed off. The play became fragmented and apart from the odd half-chance at either end of the pitch, the game settled into a midfield tussle. With Oscar producing one of his weaker performances, the Selecao seemed to be missing a creative force in midfield to orchestrate their attacks.
When they did come forward, it was primarily from wide positions while Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho offered very little in attack. Perhaps the Brazilians lack a deep-lying playmaker in the mould of Andrea Pirlo, Xavi Hernandez or Xabi Alonso. Even someone like Michael Carrick would do wonders for them with regard to simply linking their play together and pulling the strings from midfield.
The two goals they scored last night were primarily down to Neymar’s genius and for a side vying to win the World Cup in twelve months that should be of some concern. Even their best chances came through the 21 year old. Hulk benefitted from an excellent exchange with Barcelona’s latest recruit in the second half but only managed to hit the side-netting.
Brazil’s second came from a spectacular Neymar assist which matched up to his earlier strike. He bamboozled two defenders before squeezing through the tiniest of gaps between them but the classy bit was his composed pass across the face of the goal for Jo to finish. One would dread to think how sinfully unexciting the game might have been if not for the youngster providing the occasional spark.
There was no stopping Neymar
That second goal took away from the fact that the enthusiasm and verve which encased the stadium in the early moments were replaced with nervousness and apprehension towards the end. Brazil had lost their way and put in a dreary performance for most of the game.
They retreated into their own half and started to invite pressure on themselves. They did look a bit vulnerable at the back and Marcelo in particular endured a few nervy moments. Had it not been for a fantastic interception from David Luiz, Javier Hernandez may well have scored for Mexico.
Over the last few games, Brazil have lunged at their opponents in the opening 15-20 minutes before they gradually begin to lose their intensity as the match goes on. Fortunately, they’ve made the most of those opening periods by getting on the score sheet but the increasingly worrying question is what happens if they don’t get that early goal?Do they have the guile, creativity and patience to carve a team open when things settle down? How will they cope with going a goal behind? They are already in the semi-finals but if they’re going to win the tournament, these are the questions that need answering. Neymar may be in inspiring form but even he can only take them so far.
|What did you make of Brazil's performance? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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