In the first match of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, Brazil got off to a great start by earning a 3-0 victory over Japan.
The host country is the two-time defending champion of this event after winning in 2005 and 2009. Brazil has loads of talent and is expected to be one of the favorites to win the entire tournament.
After the first match, the squad did little to hurt that projection with an impressive performance against a talented team in Japan.
It did not take long for Brazil to first get onto the scoreboard. In the third minute, Marcelo crossed the ball toward the top of the opposing box, which Fred chested directly to Neymar. The star then fired a shot off one bounce directly to the top corner of the net.
Opposing goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima gave a valiant effort, but he never truly had a chance.
Neymar recently signed a five-year contract with Barcelona, and the 21-year-old player will enter next season with high expectations. After the first goal, however, ESPN felt he is ready to live up to it:
Is Neymar living up to the hype? Yes.— ESPN (@espn) June 15, 2013
For the rest of the first half, Brazil held most of the possession, although the squad was unable to build on the lead. Japan also could not get much going on the counter-attack, and the score remained 1-0.
Considering how much Brazil controlled the opening half of the match, some were concerned about the lack of scoring, including Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe:
Attention Brazil's holding midfield: DO SOMETHING #ConfedCup— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) June 15, 2013
However, it once again didn't take the squad long to score once the second half began. Dani Alves crossed the ball to the middle of the pitch, and Paulinho turned and shot it into the goal.
FOX Soccer thought it was a ball that should have been stopped:
GOAL Brazil! Paulinho makes it 2-0. Some shoddy goalkeeping, but a nice touch and finish in the box regardless. #Confeds— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2013
Throughout the remainder of the match, Japan couldn't get more than a few opportunities near the net, all of which were stopped by Julio Cesar in net.
The last 15 minutes mainly consisted of Brazil maintaining possession until Jô scored a third goal while one-on-one with the keeper, clinching an important victory for the home squad.
Competing in a group with Mexico and Italy, every point is necessary in the attempt to advance in this eight-team tournament. Brazil is now in good shape with three points, although there is a lot remaining in this competition.
Meanwhile, Japan is not done in the competition, but it will have an uphill battle to get one of the top two spots in the group.
This tournament is a big way to gain confidence heading into the 2014 World Cup. After this win, Brazil should feel pretty good going forward.
Neymar, Brazil: A+
Coming into the Confederations Cup, few players were under more pressure than Neymar. He is on the brink of becoming a world-wide superstar, but he has yet to accomplish a lot of success at the international level.
His impressive goal in the opening minutes against Japan helped silence his critics, and it provides a lot of hope for the future.
Paulinho, Brazil: A
After the league season, Paulinho's coach called him "the best player in Brazil, even ahead of Neymar" (via Callum Fox of Sambafoot). While this is certain to be debated, there is no denying that both players will be very important for this squad going forward.
Who was the Man of the Match?
Paulinho has struggled to get on the scoreboard at times, but he made a huge contribution in this match with the second goal. If he can continue to display this type of quality play, Brazil will be tough to beat.
Shinji Kagawa, Japan: B-
As Japan's top offensive threat, Shinji Kagawa needs to be productive for his team to have any chance against the better opponents in the world. He struggled to get touches against Brazil, and when he did the opportunities were quickly ended.
Going forward, the Manchester United player will need to carry Japan, or else there will be more losses in the future.
Eiji Kawashima, Japan: B-
It is tough to be a goalkeeper against an outstanding offensive attack like Brazil. The opponent continues to get strong opportunities, and it requires near perfection to help his side remain close.
Unfortunately for Japan, Eiji Kawashima was far from perfect on the day, and his mistakes gave his squad little chance for victory. While he did have a few impressive saves, it was not enough.
|M||Neymar (Off 74')||A+|
|M||Hulk (Off 75')||C+|
|F||Fred (Off 81')||B+|
|M||Lucas Moura (On 74') ||C+|
|M||Hernanes (On 75')||B-|
|F||Jô (On 81')||A-|
|D||Yuto Nagatomo ||C+|
|D||Atsuto Uchida ||B|
|M||Keisuke Honda (Off 89')||A-|
|M||Yasuhito Endo (Off 81')||B|
|M||Hiroshi Kiyotake (Off 51')||B-|
|M||Makoto Hasebe ||C+|
|M||Ryoichi Maeda (On 51') ||A-|
|M||Hajime Hosogai (On 81')||B|
|M||Takashi Inui (On 89')||B|
Confederations Cup action continues for both teams on Wednesday, June 19. Brazil will take on Mexico, while Japan will have a tough battle against Italy as both teams look to keep their title hopes alive.
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