Neymar Steals Show in Brazil with Differing Auditions for Dante and Ramires

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportJune 3, 2014

Buda Mendes/Getty Images

It took a while, but Brazil got there. Until Neymar's sublime free-kick curled in deliciously just before the half-hour mark, there had been huffing and puffing, but the Panama house was not falling down.

In the end, Brazil brushed their limited opponents aside, 4-0, with almost business-like efficiency.

A fine long-range effort from Dani Alves, an excellent team goal from Hulk, who played the full 90 minutes for the first time under Luiz Felipe Scolari, and a second goal in as many internationals for Willian rounded off a promising start to Brazil's World Cup preparations.

But the initial ploy failed to spark. Captain Thiago Silva and midfielder Paulinho had not travelled with the squad to Goiania and their replacements, Dante and Ramires, had a vital audition to prove their credentials.

The Bayern Munich stopper put in a solid performance alongside stand-in captain David Luiz. The 30-year-old signalled his intent from the off with a crunching tackle the first time Panama entered the Brazilian third of the pitch.

For Ramires, it was a different story. Starting as a central midfielder alongside Luiz Gustavo, the Chelsea man failed to obtain a stranglehold in the middle or create a cohesive partnership with club teammate Oscar.

At the beginning of the game, Hulk switched from his customary position on the right to the left flank. Neymar started in a more central role, closer to No. 9 Fred.

Dante put in a good performance against Panama.
Dante put in a good performance against Panama.Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The tactical switch provided Ramires with space to run into, but he often looked uncertain of where he was supposed to be playing, indecisive on whether to stick or twist. Were the Serra Dourada pitch a Las Vegas casino, Ramires would be slouching home, shoulders hunched, penniless and deflated.

As such, the link between midfield and attack became static, and it was telling that a set-piece would finally give Brazil the lead to silence an increasingly impatient crowd of 31,000.

With little sign of forward movement and impetus, murmurings of discontent were beginning to fill the Serra Dourada air. Scolari could be seen on the touchline, arms cast wide, brow furrowed, barking orders.

Neymar silenced them with one kick, Brazil's first shot on target in the contest. Having been felled, the No. 10 picked himself up and curled the dead ball into the top right-hand corner.

As he will be expected to during the World Cup itself, he settled the nerves when it was needed most. Now Brazil could play.

The 22-year-old then set up a chance for Fred with an exquisite nutmeg and cross, but the Fluminense forward could not quite get his head to the ball.

Dani Alves doubled the lead just before the interval, the full-back given far too much space to pick his spot before rifling in a low drive.

At the break, Scolari made three substitutions, the fundamental change being Hernanes for Ramires.

Following an anonymous showing, Ramires may well have played himself out of immediate contention.
Following an anonymous showing, Ramires may well have played himself out of immediate contention.Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Within three minutes, the game was put to bed. David Luiz's 70-yard pass was pulled out of the air by Neymar, who once again provided a moment of magic.

His precise backheel found Hulk to confidently finish with the outside of his boot. Game over.

The second half could be noted for the absence of a screaming Scolari on his feet, content to sit in the dugout and observe a significantly improved 45 minutes of football.

With Hernanes operating in the middle, the side's trajectory was more defined and assured. Granted, the side had the cushion of playing with a three-goal cushion from the 48th minute, but Hernanes played the hand he was dealt and came up trumps.

In his post-match interview, Scolari admitted his initial tactics had failed. Against Serbia on Friday, he will have a full squad to pick from, and should select the players who will start at the Arena Corinthians on June 12 against Croatia.

That will mean a return to the lineup for Thiago Silva, but Dante did himself no harm in Goiania.

Ramires, however, has likely played himself out of immediate contention, with Paulinho, Hernanes and the returning Fernandinho waiting in the wings.