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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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Neymar Scores Sensational Solo Goal As Brazil Defeat Portugal 3-1 In Boston

Brazil came from a goal behind to defeat Portugal 3-1 at the Gillette Stadium in Boston on Tuesday evening. The match began at an electric pace marked by end to end football and highly physical challenges that resulted in Brazil’s Neymar, in particular, finding himself on the receiving end of a series of tough tackles and an elbow to the face. Even though Portugal were missing Cristiano Ronaldo due to injury, they delivered an impressive first half in which they pressured Brazil and took advantage of Maxwell’s lack of international experience on Brazil’s left flank by whipping in dangerous crosses from the right side of the field.

Portugal’s persistence and positive attitude paid off in the 18th minute when Raul Meireles slotted the ball into the back of the net after a failed Maicon clearance, giving Paulo Bento’s team a 1-0 lead over the five time World Champions. Roughly five minutes later, Brazil captain Thiago Silva earned his second ever international goal after heading in the ball from a Neymar corner to even things up and sway the momentum of the match Brazil’s way for the first time since the opening whistle.

Posterboy Neymar scored a sensational solo goal in the 34th minute by picking up the ball outside of the box and running at the heart of the Portuguese defense despite being surrounded by five players. The Brazil number 10 maintained his balance within a flock of red Portuguese shirts and coolly dispatched the ball past the keeper’s right hand to make it 2-1 Brazil. Portugal managed to maintain their composure despite having conceded two goals in 10 minutes and continued to press the attack for the remainder of the first half with furious intensity.

Four minutes into the second half, Neymar fed Maxwell a pass on the left flank which the Paris-Saint Germain defender crossed to Jo, who tumbled the ball into the back of the net to Jo to make it 3-1 Brazil. Leading by two goals, Brazil reduced the intensity of their attack and brought on a bevy of substitutes including Oscar, Hernanes, Henrique, Lucas Moura and Alexandre Pato. Much of the remainder of the match became an exercise in Brazil defending against a determined and skillful Portugal team. Absent Ronaldo, Nani tried his hand at a number of free kick opportunities but invariably scuppered the ball over the crossbar. In the 78th minute, Nani missed another golden opportunity when Vierinha's cross was intercepted by a horizontal leap from Thiago Silva, whose header clearance ensured the scoreline stayed at 3-1.

Once again, Neymar stole the show for Brazil by assisting with one goal, scoring from a sensational solo effort and then proving instrumental in setting up Brazil’s third goal. Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will be pleased that his team walked away from the match with a decisive result and impressive performance despite the absence of his favored fullbacks, Dani Alves and Marcelo. Jo continues his resurrection of form but the most memorable moment of the game will surely be Neymar’s brilliant solo goal that recalled the pace and composure of Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Neymar and Jo Lead Brazil To 6-0 Victory Against Australia

Brazil cruised to a 6-0 victory over Australia in today’s friendly in Brasilia in an impressive display of goalscoring skill, aerial prowess, midfield creativity and defensive hussle. Brazil’s victory was all the more remarkable given the absence of Fred, Hulk, Oscar and Dani Alves due to injury, although replacements Jo, Bernard, Ramires and Maicon delivered stellar performances in their absence. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari fielded his standard 4-3-3 formation with Ramires playing the role of Oscar as the attacking midfielder behind the attacking triumvirate of Neymar, Jo and Bernard. The match marked the first game played by the Selecao in Brazil since their 3-0 victory against Spain in the final of the Confederations Cup, and the hosts were eager to please their fans on independence day at Brasilia’s Mané Garrincha Stadium. Brazil dominated the proceedings throughout the entire game by winning the ball in midfield, maintaining possession and pressuring their opponents to the point where they could barely escape their own half. Scolari’s team romped to victory on the back of six goals as follows:

In the 8th minute, Neymar found the space to float a cross to Bernard, who volleyed a shot that ricocheted off the post and fell to Jo, who tapped in the rebound.

In the 34th minute, Maicon slipped a pass to Bernard on the right flank, and the Shaktar Donetsk midfielder fired a cross that Jo dispatched by way of a two footed leap that displayed the poise of a centreforward in the hottest of form.

In the 36th minute, a visionary pass from Ramires cut open the Australian defense and gave Neymar the opportunity to flick the ball past the keeper’s left hand to make it 3-0.

In the 57th minute, substitute Maxwell found the head of Ramires, and the Chelsea man rewarded Scolari’s decision to recall him to the Selecao with a goal from a powerful, leaping header.

In the 74th minute, Hernanes lobbed a pass over the Australian defense that Neymar crossed into the path of substitute Alexandre Pato, who deftly flicked the ball into the corner of the net to make it 5-0.

In the 84th minute, the Australian defense allowed Luiz Gustavo way too much space on the ball and the VfL Wolfsburg midfielder sent a rocket of a shot into the top right corner of the net to make it 6-0 for his first ever international goal.

Today’s victory illustrated the following key points regarding the Selecao’s evolution:
  • Bernard may be the logical replacement for Hulk on the right flank, particularly if the latter continues to fail to find the back of the net. Bernard pressured the Australia defense with a sustained display of skill, speed and creativity. The Shaktar Donetsk winger lacks the physical presence of Hulk, but is clearly a viable alternative given his pace, dribbling ability and vision.
  • Ramires proved that he represents another midfield option for Scolari with his assist for Neymar, goal and inspired overall play. Today, Ramires took over the role played by Oscar in a stunning illustration of Brazil’s depth. Expect the competition for one of three spots in Scolari’s midfield to intensify as the likes of Tottenham’s Sandro and Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva regain their form as well.
  • Alexandre Pato’s goal and Jo’s performance allay fears that Brazil is excessively dependent on Fred’s predatory instincts to supply them with goals. Pato’s recovery of his fitness at Corinthians represents a boon for world football at large, and the 24 year old striker may well find his return to form synergistically boosted by international duty.
Overall, today’s game represented a phenomenal result for the Selecao. Neymar, in particular, delivered an impressive display in the number 10 shirt for Brazil by his illustrating his strengths as a team player in addition to a scorer of goals. Brazil next face a sterner test on Tuesday in their friendly against Portugal, the team that Luiz Felipe Scolari led to the European championship finals in 2004.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Alexandre Pato And Marcos Rocha Recalled For Brazil Friendlies; Kaka Returns To AC Milan

Corinthians striker Alexandre Pato and Atletico Mineiro right fullback Marcos Rocha have been recalled to the Brazilian national team to replace the injured Fred and Dani Alves, respectively, for upcoming friendlies against Australia and Portugal. Former AC Milan striker Pato has expressed delight at the call-up, noting that the chance to serve the national team was exactly what he was seeking by returning to Brazil. Pato recently scored two goals in a 4-0 victory by Corinthians over Flamengo. Pato’s first goal came from a poaching tap in from a Romarinho pass, while the second goal was scored from an almost impossible angle from the right flank after having beaten the Flamengo keeper.

Marcos Rocha, meanwhile, has been capped only once for Brazil but remained on the bench having been omitted from the team that played against Argentina in a superclassico match in 2012. Brazil’s second choice for the right fullback position remains up for grabs although AS Roma’s Maicon is likely to start against Australia over Rocha. Rocha’s selection suggests that a berth in the Brazil squad for the 2014 World Cup may be beyond the sights of Manchester United’s Rafael de Silva as a result of his poor performance in the 2011 Olympic final.

Meanwhile, Kaka prepares to resurrect his career by returning to AC Milan, the club where he won the Scudetto, a Champions League title and the Balloon d’Or. Kaka has signed a two year contract for AC Milan and hopes to reinvent himself at the Rossoneri by playing behind Mario Balotelli and using his experience and positional awareness to compensate for a slight diminishment in his explosive pace. Italy, recall, is the place where Brazil’s Ronaldo recovered his form after years of injury and heartache, before taking the World Cup by storm in 2002 by scoring eight goals throughout the tournament including two in the final. We should expect Kaka to work his heart out at the San Siro in the hopes of a World Cup recall and emphatic return to form that parallels that of the great Ronaldo.