Brazil extended its win streak to 3 games with a 2-0 win over Mexico in its second game of the Confederations Cup. With the win, Brazil has qualified for the semi-finals along with Italy who defeated Japan 4-3 in a thriller. The Saturday match-up between Brazil and Italy will decide the group’s winner which could be crucial because the winner will most likely avoid playing Spain in the semi-finals. Brazil will win the group with a draw or win because of goal differential which gives them the upper hand entering the final group stage match.
The Brazilian national team has enjoyed a recent revival of success with three straight win over France, Japan, and Mexico. This comes after a long stretch of poor form which saw Mano Menezes fired and Scolari struggling to win in his first matches back as the Brazilian manager. It seems like the 3-0 win over France in a friendly leading up to the Confederations Cup has given Brazil the confidence and swagger needed to play their famous style, Joga Bonito.
One reason Brazil has played well is because of Neymar. The 21 year old has been at the center of attention around the world with his transfer to Barcelona and the Confederation Cup is the perfect place for Neymar to show the world that he is the real deal. There have been lots of doubters of Neymar’s talent and he has been called a “Youtube Player” because many have only seen his highlights on Youtube. To quiet his haters, Neymar has opened this tournament with a bang, scoring two sensational volleys and adding a sensational assist.
While Japan and Mexico may not be the two toughest opponents in the world, Neymar is showing that he can produce at FIFA’s biggest tournaments with two of his best international performances . There is still work left for Neymar to prove himself worthy of the hype, but he is headed in the right direction.
On the other hand, Fred and Hulk have been no-shows so far for Brazil. Other than Fred’s assist on Neymar’s volley, both have done little to generate scoring chances and Hulk has failed to finish his scoring chances. Although Brazil’s form has improved in the last matches, there is still many questions to be answered offensively for them to re-establish themselves as a Top 5 team and to have a chance to win the World Cup in 2014. Jo, Atletico Mineiro’s striker, has provided two goals in the few minutes he has played as a substitute and could be an interesting prospect to replace Fred, who is not regularly involved in the flow of the game. Scolari most likely will stick with Fred and Hulk for a while longer, but there is a chance they could be replaced soon if they do not produce.
In the midfield, Oscar has performed well for the most part in the attack and Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo have been used as holding midfielders. Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo have been good, but seems like there may be a better combination that Scolari could use that would be a bit more dominant. Fernando and Hernanes are both viable options for Scolari to experiment with to change the dynamic a bit. Again, Scolari will most likely stick with the line-up he has used in the last games because of the team’s recent results.
The defense has been steady for Brazil but with Dani Alves and Marcelo pushing so far up the wings, Brazil is vulnerable to counter attacks. Luckily, David Luiz and Thiago Silva have anchored the defense with their superb play, and Luiz Gustavo has focused much of his attention to help the center backs. I don’t see why any changes would be made in the back four, but Thiago Silva received a yellow card against Mexico which means he will miss the semi-finals if he is booked again against Italy.
Brazil remains a work in progress, just like Neymar, but they are showing glimpses of their true potential. With more practice and time together, the team should develop the chemistry needed and gain the experience to have a real shot at winning their third straight Confederations Cup and a sixth World Cup on home soil.