Brazil marched to a decisive 2-0 victory against South Korea on Saturday thanks to goals by Neymar and Oscar. Confronted with a pacy, skilled South Korean side playing at home in Seoul, Brazil struggled to break down the South Korean defense in the opening stages despite owning the lion’s share of possession. Luiz Felipe Scolari fielded his trademark 4-3-3 formation marked by David Luiz and Dante in central defense, and first choice fullbacks Dani Alves and Marcelo on the right and left wing, respectively. Dante started alongside Luiz given the recent injury to captain Thiago Silva. With the exception of goalkeeper Jefferson, the rest of the Brazil squad remained the same as the one used for the recent friendly against Portugal with Neymar, Jo and Hulk leading the attack in front of Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho and Oscar. Scolari substituted Ramires for Hulk in the second half as the Zenit striker lacked a quality first touch on the ball and failed to find his rhythm.
Brazil attacked effectively in the first half with Marcelo and Dani Alves roaming up and down the flanks in ways that recalled the brilliance of Roberto Carlos and Cafu, from another generation. Neymar challenged the Korean keeper with a long range, free kick on target in the 10th minute and Hulk had a golden opportunity in the 14th minute when a pass from Jo left him with the onrushing keeper to beat, although he failed to flick the ball over Jung Sung-Ryong as required. Korea’s most promising opportunity came in the 27th minute and immediately thereafter, when Lee Chung Young whipped in a promising cross that David Luiz expertly cleared before either Jefferson or Ja Cheol arrived at the ball. South Korea subsequently won two additional corners that Luiz and Marcelo succeeded in clearing, leaving the match scoreless going into the last 15 minutes of the first half.
After receiving some rough treatment on the left flank from the Korean defense in the form of multiple harsh challenges, Neymar continued to lead Brazil’s search for the go ahead goal by dropping deep into midfield and orchestrating attacks that flowed through both sides of the field. The Barcelona starlet was ultimately rewarded in the 44th minute when a streaming run on goal resulted in a free kick that he deftly curled just inches inside of the near post to make it 1-0 Brazil. Neymar's spectacular free kick goal illustrated how Brazil needed a dead ball situation to break down a disciplined, speedy Korean team that had done well to neutralize the attacking threat posed by the overlapping fullbacks.
The second half continued in much the same vein, with Brazil attacking in waves and Korea responding on the counterattack, until a moment of magic from Oscar made it a two goal game. A visionary pass from Paulinho sliced open the center of the Korean defense, enabling Oscar to navigate around the keeper and score with a powerfully struck left footed shot. Up two goals, Scolari brought on Hernanes and Lucas Leiva for Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho, giving Leiva his first Selecao appearance since 2011 under Mano Menezes. Brazil later substituted Maxwell for Marcelo in an apparent attempt by Scolari to give his bench players valuable experience at the international level.
Korea delivered an admirable performance all around and displayed their legendary physical fitness and persistence until the dying minutes. Lucas Leiva and Hernanes found themselves preoccupied with defensive duties until the close of the match, as did Maxwell, who assumed more of a defensive role than his counterpart Marcelo. Once again, however, it was Neymar who stole the show for Brazil alongside a heroic performance by David Luiz in the captain’s armband. Luiz took command of the Brazil defense in the absence of Thiago Silva and cleared the ball on many an occasion in which the Korean attack opted for the aerial route into the box. Oscar, meanwhile, delivered one of his most impressive, recent performances in the Brazil shirt such that fans will be looking for the Neymar-Oscar chemistry to develop further as Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup continue. Neymar has now scored a whopping 27 goals in 43 appearances for Brazil.