Brazil produced the most spectacular display of attacking football and goal scoring power in its recent memory with an 8-0 victory over China today that put their 4-0 victory against China at the 2002 World Cup to shame. Ramires began the drubbing in the 23rd minute by bursting down the left flank after receiving an assist from Oscar and flicking the ball over the diving keeper. Three minutes later, Neymar scored the first goal of his hat-trick from an Oscar pass but the flood gates really opened only in the second half, with additional goals by Lucas Moura, Hulk, two more by Neymar, a Chinese own goal and an Oscar penalty. The scoreline and performance is sure to momentarily ease the pressure on beleaguered coach Mano Menezes who now faces the task of preparing a squad for stiffer opposition against Argentina on September 19 and October 3 in their annual clasico.
Some quick thoughts:
• Brazil’s midfield clicked in a glorious fashion in this match. Yes, it was against China, who failed to offer a whole lot of resistance, but we saw something tonight Brazil fans haven’t seen in decades: four creative playmakers in the middle of the park. Romulus and Ramires were positioned behind Oscar and Lucas Moura and all four did impressive work in initiating attacks. Today, Romulus and Ramires were anything but holding midfielders in the vein of Gilberto Silva or Carlos Dunga. They were key to the attack and supplied pace down the center as well as delivery to the flanks.
• Oscar has finally arrived, and tonight, he arrived with style showing that the number 10 jersey belongs to him and no one else for the time being. He assisted on three goals, scored from the penalty spot and showed his ability to read Neymar’s runs and unconventional style of play. Oscar assisted on two of Neymar’s goals, roamed all over the pitch and showed the courage to shoot at will, from long range included.
• Lucas Moura added pace and creativity to the Brazilian attack alongside Oscar and demonstrated, again, his willingness to go one on one against defenders. Dribbling ability such as Moura's will be key to Brazil’s performance with this squad and style of play because, with the exception of Hulk, the attackers are not built like Ronaldo, Adriano or even Ronaldinho. Neymar, Oscar and Lucas Moura compete with sheer skill and ball trickery as opposed to a strong physical presence in the box.
• Dede delivered a fine performance alongside David Luiz as Menezes juggles his lineup and competition heats up for a place in the Brazilian central midfield. Dede’s physical presence renders him an attacking threat from set pieces as well, one of which he almost converted tonight via a header from a Dani Alves free kick.
• The key to Brazil’s victory today was their pace through the midfield, and once again, the credit goes to Romulus, Ramires, Oscar and Lucas. Yes, Neymar and Hulk put the ball in the back of the net as needed but Brazil, today, attacked down the center, through the heart of the midfield. Brazil did use the flanks, on occasion, but Dani Alves and Marcelo had a relatively quiet game and posed little in the way of a sustained attacking threat.
Overall, this was a goal scoring feast from a Brazil team that, despite its illustrious history of footballing success, is not known for lopsided victories, partly out of sheer respect for the game and their opponents. Menezes’s team can now face Argentina on September 19 with their heads held high and will hope to avenge this summer’s 4-3 loss in a June U.S. based friendly.