Brazil vs. Zambia: 6 Things We Learned
Brazil beat Zambia in their final game of a mini-tour of East Asia on Tuesday, easing to a comfortable 2-0 scoreline.
Oscar scored a heavily deflected effort to open proceedings before Dede made it two with a powerful header just minutes later, and the Selecao wasted several further chances to pull further ahead.
Here are six things we learned from the contest.
Ramires Would Struggle as a No. 10 Against Top-Tier Opposition
Luiz Felipe Scolari selected Lucas Leiva, Paulinho and Ramires in his midfield to start the contest, which prompted many to suggest he was chancing a 4-3-3 formation.
But from kick-off it became apparent Ramires was playing in the No. 10 role—the one Oscar usually plays—and although he produced a few moments of excitement, he looked a little awkward on the whole.
He's not technically assured enough to play the position against top-tier opposition, and his dynamism and athleticism is wasted in such a physically limited role.
He went close after a wonderful one-two with Neymar, but the Chelsea midfielder lacks the nous to sniff out those chances (centrally) against better defences.
Hulk Could Be on the Verge of Losing His Job
Ever since Luiz Felipe Scolari was appointed, he's made the head-scratching decision to start Hulk over Lucas Moura in every competitive game of note.
Criticism has been difficult to throw Felipao's way on account of him leading the nation to victory in the 2013 Confederations Cup, but deep down the large majority of Brazilians are sick of the sight of Hulk now.
Fans want Moura starting ahead of the Zenit attacker, and the victory over Zambia was the stage of yet another mini-shootout between the two. Moura won this round, as he looked energetic, explosive and creative, while Hulk continually stunted attacks by getting caught offside.
Neymar's Deliveries—Criminally Underrated?
Much will be made of Neymar's third-minute free-kick that struck the crossbar, but what many will miss is the consistent, inch-perfect deliveries he provides when not shooting for goal.
He curls balls in a wonderfully flat fashion, quick enough to prevent the goalkeeper rushing out to claim them and low enough to allow a runner to generate serious power on the header.
Dede's goal looked easy, but he followed a simple, routine run-up to meet a beautiful delivery sent dangling in front of his forehead.
Zambia are a far more capable outfit than the 90 minutes in Beijing showed, and it's fair to say the occasion got the better of them.
That's understandable, as this will be the biggest game most, if not all, of the side play in their entire careers, but those jitters stopped them representing their true selves.
In the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, the Chipolopolo were more than a match for some of the continent's most illustrious attacking forces. They won it the year before.
We just didn't see that Zambia today.
Brazil's Centre-Back Depth Is Incredible
It's pretty much a given at this point that Thiago Silva and and David Luiz will partner up to start the 2014 World Cup for Brazil.
Luiz has come on leaps and bounds in the past 12 months, and calls for UEFA Champions League winner Dante to replace the Chelsea man have lessened considerably.
Add in the fact that Luiz Felipe Scolari has Marquinhos and Doria to call on, and that makes six brilliant centre-backs contesting for two spots.
There are very few nations, if any, that can boast that level of competition.
Neymar the Constant
Wherever Neymar is on the pitch, Brazil attack through that channel.
For a while the Selecao's left side has been obscenely strong thanks to the presence of the Barcelona star, and on the occasion he bows out of the XI, Marcelo ensures that flank remains potent.
Now when Neymar is moved across the field to try new areas, the ball—and in turn, Brazil's method of attack or emphasis—follows him, meaning Neymar as a No. 10 sees Brazil play central and Neymar on the right sees Dani Alves prosper.
So long as he stays fit, the ability to move Neymar around and subsequently change the approach taken will be a dangerous tool for Luiz Felipe Scolari to use at the 2014 World Cup.