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This blog reflects on soccer qua football all over the world. The blog has a specific investment in attractive, attacking football and, as such, focuses on Brazil, the most emphatic historical exponent of the beautiful game.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Neymar Scores Two as Brazil Beats Scotland in Style

Brazil 2-Scotland 0 (Neymar, 42; 77 (penalty))
Venue: Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, London

Brazil beat Scotland 2-0 in a glorious display of samba football that showcased the national team's depth, one touch passing, offensive vision and willingness to play the beautiful game. After withstanding some early pressure in the opening 10 minutes, Brazil burst forward in waves, utilizing both the overlapping fullbacks and the midfield as a source of attack and creative play. Elano's inclusion added spice to the attack as his wicked crosses and corner kicks found the lively Leandro Damiao on a number of occasions in his debut for the Selecao. Damiao narrowly missed converting Elano's assists twice in the first half, and Jadson threatened in the opening twenty minutes as well. Neymar, however, was the star of the show as his dribbling abilities and extraordinary positional awareness gradually began to destabilize the Scottish defense. In the 42nd minute, Andre Santos raced down the left side and found Neymar open in the box. Neymar proceeded to use his defender like a shield in curling the ball into the back of the net in a move reminiscent of the cat like prowess of Romario in the penalty area. Andre Santos, meanwhile, seems to have inherited the role of Roberto Carlos on the left side although he has a couple of years before the 2014 World Cup to master the art of defending.

Neymar threatened again immediately after the break by bursting forward from midfield and hitting the cross bar less than a minute after the half time whistle. The match was replete with high percentage scoring opportunities for Brazil. In the 53rd minute, Ramires skied a ball over the cross bar from a Dani Alves cross. Minutes later, Damiao illustrated his climbing abilities yet again by heading yet another Elano corner just wide. Neymar finally settled things in the 77th minute after one of his dribbling moves resulted in him being brought down in the box and earning a penalty kick for Brazil. The Brazilian number 11 stared at the goalkeeper's right hand side with uncanny composure for a player his age and buried the ball in the same corner of the net for a 2-0 lead that freed coach Mano Menezes to make a bevy of substitutions. The game was marred by a banana thrown onto the pitch following Neymar's penalty in what Brazil has historically understood as a gesture of racism. The banana represents a claim of primitivism about Brazil, particularly when experienced against European opponents on European soil. Roberto Carlos was recently shown a banana in Russia by a fan in one of his first matches for Anzhi, against Zenit, on March 21.

Overall, this was a fantastic result for Brazil, Neymar and for Mano the magician, in particular. We saw the midfield come alive for the first time since Brazil's match against the USA. Jadson, Lucas, Ramires and Elano combined neatly to advance the attack down the center, left and right. Damiao looked like a Brazilian number 9, even though he's clearly not ready to wear Ronaldo's shoes just yet. Neymar is easing into the number 11 jersey and will need to stay fit and put on more muscle to develop into the center forward Brazil desperately needs. Most importantly, the match against Scotland displayed that Brazil can play attacking, creative football without Robinho, Pato, Kaka, Ronaldinho and Maicon. With Paulo Henrique Ganso still recovering his form after a layoff from injury, and the likes of Hernanes, Elias, Casemiro and Lucas of Sao Paulo making their case for a place on the starting 11, the sun is suddenly shining very brightly on the Selecao.

Starting Formation:

Goalkeeper: Julio Cesar
Defense: Andre Santos, Thiago Silva, Lucio, Dani Alves
Midfield: Lucas (Liverpool), Ramires, Jadson, Elano
Strikers: Neymar, Leandro Damiao

Notable jersey numbers:

Neymar: 11
Jadson: 10
Damiao: 9
Elano: 7
Alves: 4
Santos: 6

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