Hulk scored early and Robinho scored late for Brazil, their goals book-ending Eduardo Vargas’ temporary equalizer as the 2014 World Cup hosts defeated Chile 2-1 in Tuesday’s international friendly at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
With both sides awaiting next month’s Group Stage draw, this match represented their final outings of the calendar year, and over the balance of the 90 minutes they served up an encounter to remember heading into the final seven months before the tournament proper.
Brazil, on the front-foot from the get-go, got their first meaningful opportunity after just five minutes when Neymar lashed his shot wide of the post from the right, and only nine minutes later they found themselves in front after Hulk’s second goal in as many matches for his country.
Chile defender Marcos Gonzalez was largely responsible for a play that put his side behind after only 14-minutes. His errant ball was intercepted by Oscar, whose on-surface, cross-field pass picked out Hulk, who unleashed an unstoppable, left-footed drive that found the back of the net inside the far post.
Brazil continued to apply pressure after taking the lead, and their dominance forced Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli into a 23rd minute change, withdrawing Jose Fuenzalida with Jorge Valdivia in a tactical move.
The substitution quickly paid off as La Roja managed to settle into the match, and just prior to the half-hour mark Valdivia found Gremio attacker Eduardo Vargas with a searching ball that was deflected out for a corner.
Valdivia and Vargas linked up again shortly after the restart, with the latter pulling his shot just wide of goal following a neat one-two.
Valdivia clearly on to help Chile retain possession better. Fuenzalida did nothing going forward & offered no help Jara. Great substitution.— Rupert Fryer (@Rupert_Fryer) November 20, 2013
But the next chance fell to Brazil—Robinho, having replaced Jo, forcing goalkeeper Claudio Bravo into a superb stop after being sprung by Neymar. Seconds later Hulk hit the upright as the five-time World champions looked for a second.
It was to be Chile, however, that was next to score.
Bravo, who was heroic on the night, began the route-one move with a long goal-kick that was headed into the path of Vargas by Jean Beausejour, and catching Brazil ‘keeper Julio Cesar rooted to the spot Vargas smashed the ball inside the near post to equalize.
But, as they have so often in 2013, Brazil had an answer.
Just eight minutes after Vargas’ strike, the Selecao were back in front, and Robinho had his first international goal since 2011.
Neymar, having dragged a pack of red shirts away from the goalmouth as he went on a dribble, dished the ball to his right to Maicon, whose delightful cross found the head of Robinho in the goalmouth.
In the dying moments, Eugenio Mena tried to pick out Carlos Munoz with a long, ambitious ball, but it was weighted too heavily and went out for a goal-kick.
Key Player Grades
Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari withdrew him with a minute remaining so he could soak up the applause at Rogers Centre. It wasn’t one of his best games for the national team, but he still had a hand in a goal, created numerous opportunities on the counter-attack and showed a willingness to be flexible in his role when Hulk moved out to the left.
He earned an assist on Hulk’s opener, but once again his contribution included much more than involvement in the attacking third. In the moments when Chile probed for openings, he dropped back between Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo and threw himself into more than one defensive action on the night.
Alexis Sanchez: B+
His skill was there for all to see, but at the final whistle he hadn’t created a goal and had faded considerably as the match wore on. That said, he’ll be dining off his Wembley brace for some time, although he now owes Neymar dinner after losing to Brazil.
Both sides will await their fate in next month’s World Cup Group Stage Draw in Bahia state.