Brilliant Brazil And Neymar Dance Their Way To 4-1 Win Over South Korea And Into World Cup Quarterfinal

After 13 minutes, Brazil’s round of sixteen match with South Korea was no longer a contest. It was Neymar, who converted a penalty. The spot-kick was questionable, but South Korean goalkeeper Kim Seung-Gyu fell to his knees as Neymar dispatched the ball with insouciance and a mundane finality. This was Brazil supreme, almost trolling their opponents, and they celebrated with a funky rondo, the dance routine they had applied minutes earlier for Vinicius Jr’s brilliant opening goal.

The joyous, double rondo epitomized Brazil’s team spirit and relief. The five-time world champion was under pressure after a disappointing group stage with two victories, an insipid defeat to Cameroon, and an all-concerning injury to Neymar. At a news conference, Brazil coach Tite had snapped at journalists, calling Gabriel Jesus’s injury news ‘evil lies’. It was off-character for a man who calls himself a humanist and is among the more eloquent and pensive coaches on the circuit.

Tite tends to be balanced, but the Brazil role is a pressure cooker. The intrusive 24/7 media and the idea that everything but a World Cup victory is a failure were destabilizing the cool Tite, but then, on a perfect night for Brazil, his team and lodestar Neymar responded with bravura, dispelling any doubt that this Brazil is not a contender for the ultimate prize. Even Tite was dancing after Brazil’s third goal – and he had every reason to: Richarlison outdid his spectacular scissors kick of the Serbia match. Here he was on the end of a mesmerizing team move that he had initiated by heading the ball repeatedly. In the blink of an eye, Brazil carved open the Korean defence and the striker sidefooted the ball home.

If it all sounds superlative, that’s because it simply was. This was the Brazil of yesteryear, the Brazil that everyone had longed for in those labored group-stage outings. There was an exuberance to this team and its dancing, repeated a fourth time when Lucas Paqueta got the South Americans’ next goal. He kneeled and prayed in celebration as well.

Tite was beaming. The West Ham United player was the key to Brazil’s balance, the link between attack and midfield, allowing the coach to field Richarlison, two wingers, Neymar and just one defensive midfielder with Casemiro in the number six role. Paqueta, again, nurtured a good understanding with Neymar. It was striking how a team of great individuals supported each other, with Neymar spearheading the team. His effect was not to be mistaken. At the back, Alisson almost kept a clean sheet with a number of superb saves, but Paik Seungho got a deserved consolation goal for the Asians in the 76th minute.

Tite and Brazil understand that in the strictest sense of the word this was not a test. It was all too easy, the game early on reduced to a training session. After the break, Tite’s team dropped its intensity and even then the opponent conceded chance after chance. It, however, mattered no longer. Asia’s World Cup dreams were over and the Brazilians marched on, demonstrating that they mean business.