The Santos striker scored a wonderful equaliser before missing a penalty in a tight and entertaining contest against a much-improved los CafeterosBrazil came back from a goal behind to secure a 1-1 draw against Colombia at the MetLife Stadium in a match that wasn’t quite the celebration they were hoping for in their landmark 1000th international.
Mano Menezes’ men came into the match off the back of six straight victories that has saw them grab 24 goals, but failed to impress in a first half that saw them go behind shortly before the break.
Colombia have been transformed under new coach Jose Pekerman, who has led his side to six wins in seven games, and the introduction of both James Rodriguez and Macnelly Torres to the side has been key for a side that struggled to retain possession prior to the Argentine’s arrival.
It was Torres and Rodriguez who combined to give Colombia what they will feel was a deserved lead on 44 minutes. The Porto man played a neat one-two before releasing Juan Cuadrado on the right. The Fiorentina wing-back burst past an isolated Leandro Castan, who had been drawn inside after finding himself in a two-versus-one, before driving his finish beyond Diego Alves and inside the far post.
The setting held a certain resonance for Menezes – it has been two years since he made his debut on the bench led a new-look Brazil side to a stunning 2-0 win over USA in the same stadium – but there was little of the free-flowing attacking verve his young side displayed two years ago.
His 4-2-2-2/4-2-3-1 was too narrow in the first half, allowing both Cuadrado and Pablo Armero to run on unchallenged from their full-back positions and, despite Kaka hitting the crossbar with a wonderful chipped effort 30 minutes in, Pekerman’s side fully deserved their narrow lead.
Brazil found more width in the second period, pinning Cuadrado and Armero back in their own half and found their equaliser just after the hour mark when Neymar found space on the left, cut inside and curled his cool finish into the far corner.
He should have put his side ahead less than fifteen minutes later, when Dani Alves was brought down in the area by Armero. Despite Colombian protests that the Udinese man won the ball, the referee pointed to the spot. Neymar, however, got his spot-kick all wrong, leaning back and lofting his shot way over the bar.
There were half chances for both teams in the final ten minutes, but Perkerman will be the happier of the two coaches this evening. His side acquitted themselves very well and have gone some way to cementing suggestions that they will stroll into 2014 with what has already been dubbed a golden generation.
His decision to go with with Jackson Martinez alongside Falcao proved a productive experiment, if only to confirm that 'El Tigre' has looked much more comfortable with the more dynamic Teo Guttierez drifting to the left and right of him.
For Menezes, the draw largely served to raise more questions. While Kaka did his reputation no harm, the inclusion of Castan and Thiago Neves was far less productive – both were withdrawn after disappointing displays. Brazil’s striker-less system with Neymar as a 'falso No.9' may have produced a couple of victories and plenty of goals, but it failed its first test against stiffer opposition.