In the opening match of the 2013 Confederations Cup, host Brazil took on Asian Cup champion Japan in the nation's capital. With a goal coming in the first three minutes, and two more coming in the second half, Brazil took away a convincing 3-0 win. Superstar Barcelona signee Neymar scored first on an unbelievable volley, and rising star Paulinho knocked in the second before Jo could put home a fantastic effort from Oscar at the final whistle.
The opener went exactly according to script for the hosts. Neymar is expected the carry the burden for Brazil throughout the tournament, and his fantastic shot perfectly eased the team in. This solved one of Brazil's major issues, which is loosening up. This young squad faces enormous pressure just playing for La Selecao. In the past, this has resulted in a tense form of soccer that lacks the creativity and movement that defines Brazilian soccer.
Neymar didn't let that happen today though. His speed and runs along the left side caused trouble for Japan throughout the game. In fact, the best 10 minutes for Japan were easily those immediately following Neymar's exit.
As good as Neymar was though, he may not even have been the best player of the game. Chelsea attacking midfielder Oscar was the heart of the Brazilian offense and allowed for significant ball movement and forward momentum. His pass on the third goal is simply perfect, and representative of his day. Along with Paulinho, who also had a solid showing, Oscar will be vital in giving Brazil a necessary spark in the following games. The balls they can produce forth take the pressure off of Neymar and involve the other forwards.
On the other side of the pitch, Hulk had a very good showing and was far more active than Fred, who was really only visible twice. Hulk almost blasted home a stunner in the first half, and was dangerous on the right side. His form dipped a bit in the second half, but overall he gave La Selecao what it needed. His passing, however, is a very noticeable flaw in his game. This puts pressure on Dani Alves to make runs along the side, as he is a proficient passer.
As efficient as Brazil was in the final third, there was a slight issue ahead of the defense. A few times Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa found space on counterattacks and the defense found itself without any support. Luiz Gustavo simply wasn't good enough at balancing defensive support with offensive distribution. A possible solution to the problem would be to put David Luiz at the defensive midfield position.
Luiz was the leader of the Brazilian defense but showed an interesting lack of offensive desire as opposed to his play at Chelsea. At Stamford Bridge, Luiz is often the source of offensive pushes and is willing to take risks. Against Japan, though, Luiz was very focused on defense and pushed up limitedly. He effectively, and without antics, took care of business. Perhaps he wants to show Jose Mourinho that his occasional mistakes can be eliminated?
The only note for the Brazilian defense is to significantly decrease the amount of fouls. They likely won't be gifted a referee this generous every game, and they will eventually be punished for giving up numerous free kicks within range.
Overall an ideal opening for Brazil, but the young squad must remember that one good game does not a tournament make.
Well, it's pretty tough to fly all the way from Japan to Brazil only to give up the fourth-fastest goal in tournament history in front of a raucous home crowd. Neymar made a play quickly, and Japan was out of it just like that.
There were sparks of attacking plays, but the final touch just wasn't there when it needed to be. It just seemed like the squad was either tired from the trip or deflated from the early goal. It could be both. A team that is usually so creative simply held back too much and found too few spaces.
Japan was never expected to finish ahead of Brazil though. If the squad can bounce back and perform as it can, Japan has a chance to move on ahead of Mexico and Italy. Granted, it will be difficult, but if Honda and Kagawa can push the ball up quickly and to the sides, then Japan can score. Their defense has been known to suffocate forwards and efficiently close gaps. Additionally, Honda could be very dangerous from free kicks, as evidenced by his early shot against Brazil.
The one thing there isn't an immediate cure for, however, is the poor play of goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima. He 100 percent should have saved the second goal, and has never inspired much confidence in his teammates. He will need to step up, though, because after this opening game, Japan is out of chances.