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Brazil Close Year in Style and Look Ahead to 2014 World Cup
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Two more games and two more victories for the Selecao Brasileira. Following the spectacular mauling handed out to Honduras on Saturday night in Miami, Brazil edged past a stubborn Chile side 2-1 Tuesday in Toronto, Canada.

Brazil closed the year on a high. 2013 has certainly been the year of Scolari.

There were uncertain footsteps at the beginning of his reign. Defeat to England was followed by unconvincing draws with Italy and Russia.

But Scolari got it wrong when he could. Come the big kick-off, he and his team were ready.

Now his side is playing like a well-oiled machine. This Brazil outfit, whilst not the most dazzling to grace a football pitch, nevertheless functions smoothly using different components.

Like the fearless Spartan armies, it doesn't matter if one man falls; another enters the fray, and the unit continues to move forward regardless.

Brazil proved once again against Honduras that they can stand up to what might be termed cruel and unusual punishment. Honduras didn't try to play football. They didn't even have a shot on target.

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Bernard scored his first goal in international football against Honduras

Neymar and Co. overcame some heavy-handed and cynical tactics to deliver a 5-0 thrashing. Best of all, five different players got on the scoresheet. The Barcelona front man wasn't one of them.

There was a first international goal for Shakhtar Donetsk's Bernard. The former Atletico Mineiro playmaker still looks slight but is a Scolari favourite and looks to have an exciting future in the game.

There was also a first goal under Big Phil for Zenit forward Hulk. Felipao has persevered with the right-sided attacker and was rewarded in both outings.

But over the last two games, the biggest story was the emergence of a former favourite. A.C. Milan forward Robinho played a part in each game and performed well, scoring the winner in the second.

Brazil's task was always going to be much harder against their fellow South Americans. Chile were coming off a 2-0 win away to England and are well-known across their home continent for their rapid counter-attacking style.

But goals from Hulk, who latched onto a perfect Oscar through ball, and Robinho gave the Selecao their 12th victory in 13 games.

For Robinho, it was his first goal in the famous yellow jersey since August 2011. That day, the Selecao lost 3-2 to Germany. The 29-year-old has done himself no harm with his performances over the last four days.

Robinho played with purpose, drive and determination, something his abundant talent always promised but so often the player himself failed to deliver.

With time ticking down until Brazil 2014, he looks focused for the first time since he was a leading light under Dunga.

Brazil's only defeat in the last 13 was a 1-0 reverse against Switzerland in the side's first outing after the Confederations Cup.

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Robinho performed well in the past two friendlies, giving himself an excellent chance of earning a place in Brazil's World Cup squad

And after one year back in the job, the numbers look good for Scolari. Many thought of his appointment as an easy way out, the recalling of a fan favourite to placate the crowds following the dismissal of Mano Menezes.

Scolari can disprove his doubters. In 19 games with him at the helm, Brazil have scored 47 goals, an average of two and a half per match.

Their defence, led by Thiago Silva and David Luiz, has conceded only 15. Debate continues to rumble on about the abilities and temperament of the Chelsea centre-back, but alongside Silva they have formed one of the most formidable partnerships in international football this year.

Under Menezes, Brazil never managed to defeat a major international rival. Under Scolari they have beaten world champions Spain, as well as Italy and Portugal.

They are the kind of displays, boosted by last night's gutsy win over Chile, that can give the players confidence they can lift the country's sixth World Cup title on July 13.

 

 

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