Brazil kicked-off their Confederations Cup campaign with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Japan in Brasilia. The hosts were given the perfect start when Neymar scored a stunning goal after just three minutes to out the crowd and subsequently the team at ease.
It was a similar story in the second half when Fred made it 2-0 within three minutes and from there Brazil’s victory never looked like coming under threat from a Japan side that failed to create a meaningful chance throughout. The scoreline was given an even more secure feel in injury time when substitute Jo finished off some fine work by Oscar.
There was plenty of doubt about the state of the Brazilian side ahead of the tournament and, indeed, next year’s World Cup. But they passed their first test well with a solid performance without the ball and the odd moment of quality on it, particularly from Oscar and, of course, Neymar.
With the tournament just underway, it was a goal of breathtakingly clinical efficiency to get Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side going. Marcelo played a pass into center-forward Fred on the edge of the area, who chested it down for Neymar and the new Barcelona signing met the ball with a strike of exemplary technique to send it soaring past Eiji Kawashima and into the top corner. The Brazil bench and the new stadium in the country’s capital was sent into raptures. Their team and their star had arrived with a bang on the big stage.
Japan continued to struggle to get going, perhaps with the travails of having to play a qualifier in Iraq just four days ago earlier weighing heavily on their legs. Yet, despite Brazil dominating possession and some clever movement by Neymar, Oscar and Hulk behind Fred, the Selecao were not seriously threatening to add a second goal. Gradually Alberto Zaccheroni’s side started to get a foothold in the contest with their short passing. However, they were largely unable to bypass Brazil’s pressing and solid organization, with their one threat on goal coming courtesy of a bouncing shot from Keisuke Honda that briefly appeared that it might cause Julio Cesar a problem.
For Brazil, Hulk was seeing a lot of the ball down the right and he almost made the most of it in the final five minutes of the first half with a trademark drop of the shoulder to get the ball onto his favored left foot before unleashing a rasping drive that, on this occasion, crashed into the side netting.Brazil came even closer to doubling their lead just a short time later. Another dangerous Brazil break saw Neymar feed the ball into Fred on the edge of the box and the Fluminense striker controlled well before firing a low shot across goal that Kawashima did well to palm away.
But that good work from the Japan stopper was undone three minutes into the second half. There was much to admire about the strike from Brazil’s point of view as Paulinho again demonstrated his eye for goal from midfield by controlling a poor cross from Dani Alves before swiveling and hitting a strong low strike. There was no excuse, though, for Kawashima allowing the effort to bypass him into the net despite being in a position to get a strong hand to the ball.
That goal came after Japan had started the second period brightly but the strike deflated the Samurai Blue once more. In truth, the match had now been ended as a contest with Brazil comfortable on the ball and continuing to stifle any Japanese attempts to catch Brazil out of position, often by fouling when necessary. While the Selecao remained in control, there was one worrying moment when Neymar was forced to go off after a knock.
But Brazil still had Oscar. In the final minute of injury time, the Chelsea midfielder drifted forward before playing an inch-perfect through ball that led Jo perfectly though on goal and the Atletico Mineiro striker coolly slotted a low shot past Kawashima to put an exclamation point on an encouraging debut for the hosts. Brazil will now hope to build on an encouraging first performance when they take on Mexico on Wednesday, while Japan will need a significant improvement when coming up against Italy on the same day.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.