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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, June 16, 2013

Brazil Open Confederations Cup With 3-0 Victory Over Japan

Brazil delivered an emphatic 3-0 victory against Japan in their opening game of the Confederations Cup thanks to goals from Neymar, Paulinho and Jo. The victory gave Brazil the crucial three points they were seeking as they prepare for upcoming group stage matches against Mexico and Italy. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari fielded the same starting lineup that he used against France with his trademark two holding midfielders in the form of Luis Gustavo and Paulinho, and Chelsea’s Oscar positioned behind the attacking triumvirate of Neymar, Fred and Hulk. Alberto Zaccheroni, coach of Japan, played a 4-5-1 formation with the likes of Keisuke Honda, Yasuhito Endo and Shinji Kagawa positioned behind the lone striker Shinji Okazaki.

The match got off to a cracking start when Marcelo sent in a cross from the left flank that Fred chested down to compatriot Neymar, who volleyed an unstoppable shot into the top right corner of the net to give Brazil a dream start. Neymar’s goal ended a 9 international match goal drought. Wearing the famed number 10 jersey, Neymar delivered a characteristically colorful post-goal celebration as Brazil began their quest for a third consecutive Confederations Cup title in style.

Barcelona bound Neymar continued to combine well with Marcelo on the left flank while Hulk and Dani Alves correspondingly wreaked havoc down the right flank. As in the game against France, Scolari opted to position Paulinho and Luis Gustavo deep in midfield and press through Brazil’s trademark dangerous flank attack. Brazil commanded possession throughout the match and applied diligent pressure to every occasion in which Japan possessed the ball, allowing the Blue Samurai precious few opportunities to build up rhythm and momentum. When Japan did go forward, however, they looked like they might grab an equalizer through creative play from Okazaki and Keisuke Honda, particularly given the occasional mistake by David Luiz and Marcelo in Brazil’s backline.

Japan started the second half with vigor and determination, but it took only three minutes for Brazil to double their lead. Neymar collected a throw-in from Marcelo, weaved through a tangle of defenders toward the center of the box, and passed to Hulk, who fed Dani Alves on the right flank. Alves whipped in a cross to Paulinho, who turned like a striker and fired a low shot past the hand of Japan’s goalkeeper Kawashima. The strike marked Paulinho’s second goal for Brazil in three matches and illustrated the depth of Brazil’s attacking options given that they have recently benefited from goals from deeper lying midfielders such as Paulinho and Hernanes on more than one occasion.

Japan lacked their usual midfield creativity and looked sluggish in the second half. Up by two goals, Scolari decided to rest his attackers and substituted Neymar, Hulk and Fred for Lucas, Hernanes and Jo in quick succession. Brazil appeared content to hold onto possession and grind out a victory until the dying minutes when Oscar raced down the left flank and delivered a killer pass to Atletico Mineiro striker Jo, who dispatched the ball with clinical precision into the back of the net to make it 3-0 Brazil.

Today’s victory came head upon the heels of Brazil’s impressive 3-0 victory against France, and suggested Brazil is progressing in the right direction after several lackluster displays in the early matches of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s tenure as coach. Brazil must now prepare to face Mexico, the team that defeated them in last year’s Olympic final, on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Spain play Uruguay in the opening match of Group B and Mexico play Italy in the second match of Group A on Sunday.

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