5 Things We Learned from South Korea vs. Brazil
The Selecao made light work of potential World Cup opponents, who hardly threatened despite the considerable backing of the home crowd.
Here's a look at five things onlookers may have learned from the encounter.
Neymar Again Makes Brazil's Difference
The Barcelona winger faced some pretty rough treatment by South Korea throughout the 90 minutes, but in the end he had the last laugh, as his considerable class shone through once again.
There are still people who doubt the 21-year-old and his talent despite the outstanding Confederations Cup performances and the slapping he gave Spain in the final. Seemingly, Neymar is making it his mission to ram those negative opinions back down the throats from which they came. Once again, he was the Selecao's difference-maker.
A showing full of driving runs, intelligent passes and the usual array of flicks and tricks was settled with Neymar at the heart of both Brazil goals. The first, he both won and scored the free-kick to give his side the lead, while the second saw him flick a wonderful five-yard pass to Paulinho in acres of space. The Spurs man then sublimely played through Oscar, who coolly finished. It appeared simple, but the precision and perfect weight to free Paulinho was anything but.
Wearing the fabled No. 10, there is no doubt that he is looking the part and he continues to lead Scolari's side from the front, making one key contribution after another.
At present, there are few more dominant performers on the international scene.
No Thiago Silva Opens Brazil
Make no mistake, Dante and David Luiz didn't have much to do here. And what they had to do, they did well. Nevertheless, without captain Thiago Silva, Brazil's defence once again appeared a bit more open.
We all know that Marcelo and Dani Alves love to bomb on, and the double pivot of Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo cover for them very well. However the problem comes when Thiago Silva isn't there, thanks to the differing styles of Dante and Luiz. Here, both were largely excellent, particularly Luiz, but the space they leave between them is potentially problematic.
Luiz is very much an impulsive defender who wants to attack every ball. He wants to be first to everything and push his defensive line up the pitch.
Bayern Munich's Dante, on the other hand, far prefers to drop off the play, hold his position and wait to see how the game develops before committing. Thiago Silva is very much somewhere in the middle, keen to attack when necessary, happy to drop his line if he feels it's the best course of action. The ability to make such decisions is why he's widely considered the best centre-back in world football today.
Thus the contrast between today's pairing causes something of an imbalance at the heart of Brazil's defence. Luiz was seemingly always three or four yards ahead of Dante in Seoul, which makes gaps appear.
Fortunately, they faced a rather impotent South Korea on Saturday. Against better opposition, it's something that could be punished, as it was by England—who are by no means world beaters—back in February.
Brazil Not Merely Going Through the Motions
Having romped to Confederations Cup success with a series of swashbuckling attacking and furious pressing displays, you could forgive the Selecao if they went into international friendlies such as this in an overly relaxed mood and played with the metaphorical handbrake on.
However, while this success wasn't Brazil at their most competitively dynamic, they aren't merely going through the motions. That may be because Scolari won't let them relax and is insisting on doing everything at 100 percent ahead of next summer. It could also be because the fight for definite places among the 23 next summer means players want to give their all each time they step on the field.
Either way, at a time when all focus is already gearing toward next summer and motivation for friendlies may not be the easiest thing to find, Scolari's troops are showing a maturity that will hold them in good stead as the tournament draws ever closer.
Hulk's Place Still Under Threat
This was the kind of match where the Zenit St. Petersburg forward should have thrived and showed that, despite his poor showing at the Confederations Cup, he is rightfully Scolari's first pick on the right wing.
Hulk should have had the proverbial field day, as he had a major power advantage over his marker, Jin-Su Kim, and was playing alongside his fine attacking colleagues. Instead, he showed absolutely nothing to suggest that he deserves a starting place next summer.
Rather than actively looking to make an impression, Hulk just skirted around the edges of the game, even as Brazil dominated possession and worked the full width of the pitch. His best chance came in the first half when he rolled through on goal, but his touch wasn't good enough and Sung-Ryong Jung was able to smother.
Alas, the former Porto man was replaced at halftime by Chelsea's Ramires, and Lucas Moura remained an unused substitute. Scolari has options for the attacking role alongside Neymar and Oscar, and surely he's getting closer to changing Hulk's role as he continues flattering to deceive.
South Korea's Attack Lacking Threat
While Myung-Bo Hong has put together quite a neat passing side who work incredibly hard and make it difficult for opponents to play, they're sorely lacking in the final third.
A 4-4-1-1 formation gave them a more than solid defence, but striker Ji Dong-Won lacks physical presence to lead the line alone—not to mention the lack of a killer instinct in the penalty area, something most Sunderland fans will attest to. The playmaker and captain Ja-Cheol Koo had an off day and struggled to create openings.
The Wolfsburg man is a fine player and capable of playing key passes in the final third, but when he's below his best, the whole side struggles to penetrate. That was certainly the case here.