Neymar impressed as Brazil warmed up for the FIFA World Cup with an easy victory over Panama, 4-0, at the Estadio Serra Dourada in Goias, Brazil, on Tuesday.
Neymar scored the opener, via a free-kick, in the 27th minute, and had a hand in two more as the Brazilians showed off their considerable attacking talents ahead of hosting the World Cup. Dani Alves, Hulk and Willian scored the other goals.
With the World Cup fast approaching, Brazil and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari are making final preparations ahead of their quest for what would be a record sixth world title. After touring the globe for the last few years, and winning the 2013 Confederations Cup as hosts, Brazil showed with Tuesday's performance that they will be a force on home soil during FIFA's showpiece event.
Brazil will play one more friendly, against Serbia on Friday in Sao Paulo, before beginning play in Group A. The Selecao will open with Croatia on June 12 before facing Mexico and Cameroon.
As multiple journalists noted on Twitter during the match, the scene is set for both Brazil and 22-year-old superstar Neymar to make their mark as the world watches.
Brazil struggled to break down Panama in the early stages but went ahead in the 27th minute via a piece of skill from Neymar. After drawing a free-kick just outside Panama's box, the Barcelona star curled his shot over the wall and inside the near post for a spectacular opening goal.
Alves doubled the lead in the 40th minute with another fine finish, toe-poking into the net at the far post from outside the box. Brazil led 2-0 at half-time.
Within a minute of the restart, it was 3-0. Marcelo played a long, angled pass to Neymar in the middle, and Neymar passed to Hulk with a clever, back-heel flick. With his first touch, Hulk curled the ball into the net with the outside of his foot to put the hosts out of sight.
The score remained the same until the 73rd minute, when substitute Willian made it 4-0. Neymar was again the catalyst, laying off for Maxwell on the left. Maxwell crossed back into the middle for Willian, who finished from close range.
Brazil came close to a fifth goal during a bizarre sequence in the 81st minute. Brazil's Henrique hit the crossbar with a powerful header before the referee showed a red card to Panama's Gabriel Gomez for clearing the ball with his fist inside the box. But instead of awarding a penalty to Brazil, the referee rescinded the red card and instead awarded Panama a free-kick for a previous infraction.
It mattered little, however, as Brazil had already built a big lead on the back of Neymar's considerable gifts. And with the World Cup closing in, their supporters will be hoping the best is yet to come.
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Though his side won by four goals, Scolari said Brazil can still improve ahead of the World Cup. Speaking to reporters at a post-match press conference (Reuters, via Yahoo! News), the Brazil boss said:
We still have a week and a half left There's a good way to go. But keep calm, we'll get there. Today was reasonably better but I am still demanding more.
We had problems with the transition. It was off in the first 20 minutes of the match and things could have been different against a better team.
If I had to choose one half it would be the second in which we showed more movement, better possession and more agility. I liked the end of the first half and the whole of the second.
Meanwhile, Neymar claimed that, despite his fine performance, he is not fully fit. As quoted by Goal.com, he told reporters:
I'm not ready yet. I'm still lacking a bit of match fitness and I'm a little tired at the end of the game - but we will arrive at the tournament in perfect physical shape.
I would like it if there was a little more patience from our fans from the start. We were not used to this pitch but then the team picked up the pace and we were getting used to it and we improved.