Neymar and Oscar Guide Brazil to Korea Win, but Hulk Problem Remains
Brazil celebrates the Dia das Criancas, or Children's Day, on October 12, and it was two of the country's young stars that helped the Selecao to victory over a well-organised South Korea side on Saturday evening.
With both sides already assured of their places at the World Cup next summer, the game represented an opportunity for both managers to gain experience playing against an opposition with a vastly different playing style and, for the most part, both will be content with what they witnessed.
Luiz Felipe Scolari's side were given a real test by a Korea side that set up in a 4-4-1-1 formation and looked to hit the Confederations Cup champions on the break.
At moments in the first half, it looked like Hong Myung-Bo's men could unsettle Brazil, but they ultimately failed to really test Jefferson over the course of the 90 minutes.
Brazil, for their part, also failed to create much against a compact Korean side that put them under a lot of midfield pressure for much of the match. What Scolari does have at his disposal, though, is players who can conjure up match-winning contributions when in trouble.
Neymar broke the deadlock for his side in the minutes leading up to halftime, curling home a free-kick from 20 yards out with a little help from Korean goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong.
Moments after halftime, Oscar put Brazil up 2-0 and killed off Korean hopes of a momentous victory. The Chelsea man burst through the middle of the Korea defence onto a delicate Paulinho through ball, rounded Jung, and slotted the ball home from a narrowing angle.
After so much good work and expended effort, a five-minute spell either side of halftime had undone the Korean resistance.
The match soon began to fragment as both sides made a raft of substitutions after the break, leading to the game fizzling out on around the hour mark. Both managers, though, had learned enough about their sides by that point.
For Scolari, it was familiar problems that arose. The lack of a quality passer deep in midfield hinders Brazil in matches when they are not able to rely on the counter-attack and, once more, the performance of Hulk left much to be desired.
Those were issues that arose both before and during the Confederations Cup and, thus far, nothing appears to have changed.
The Selecao were incisive and well balanced in friendlies against Australia and Portugal last month, but opted to return to the setup that was so successful this summer—with Ramires dropping out and Hulk coming in.
The Zenit forward, though, was ineffective throughout and once more looked out of tune with the direction that Oscar and Neymar were looking to take the selecao's play. Substituted at halftime, it may be some time before Hulk is handed a starting berth again.
Looking forward to the World Cup, the game told us more about Korea than Brazil. Given their familiarity with hot and humid conditions, Hong's side will be a real threat to some established footballing powers next summer and have some technically strong players to rely upon.
First pass out into and out of midfield been an issue since Scolari arrived. He said yesterday, again, that he likes to play Hulk against...— Rupert Fryer (@Rupert_Fryer) October 12, 2013
...weaker teams when they will have ball and attack. Hernanes may be better idea. Neither Gustavo, Paulinho or Ramires are strong passers.— Rupert Fryer (@Rupert_Fryer) October 12, 2013
The lack of a truly impressive centre-forward, though, would appear to be their biggest issue. In defence, Kim Young-Gwon continues to build a reputation as one of Asia's best central defenders.
Brazil will be real contenders for the title next summer. They have the players to tear through some of football's best national sides. They must, though, still smooth over a couple of rough edges that have been consistently highlighted over recent months prior to the tournament getting underway next June.
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