Brazil progressed to the quarter-finals of the World Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory against fellow South Americans Chile yesterday, after a 1-1 draw in normal and extra-time.
In truth Brazil was not that impressive and their opponents could have easily snatched victory.
The Brazilian national team are associated with attacking football and style, but there was very little of that in yesterday’s victory.
The Selecao were poor in possession and constantly gifted the Chileans the ball.
In the game against their fellow South Americans, Brazil just seemed to lack that x-factor, the thing that makes a team different from others.
There is doubt that Brazil’s poster boy Neymar is fulfilling his role as the Selecao’s star turn. Unfortunately he cannot do it all on his own. Chile found a way of combating the Barcelona star, they tried to foul him as much as they could, which ultimately worked.
Neymar will once again be the man they look to for inspiration in the quarter-finals against another fellow South American country in Colombia, who will be no pushovers. Highly-rated attacking midfielder James Rodriguez will cause the Brazilians lots of problems.
Every team has a weakness, even the greatest teams in the world had flaws and they were eventually exposed. This current Brazil team are not a great one, but with time may develop into a very good one.
The biggest thing that seems to be missing from their team at the moment is a striker. Fred has scored goals at international level in the past, including five at the Confederations Cup last summer in his homeland.
However, at times he seems to be stuck on the spot, not capable of playing with the more football intelligent players around him like Neymar or Oscar. He must be one of the least mobile strikers in international football.
Unsurprisingly Fred has not scored at the World Cup and has been replaced by the equally inept Jo in the majority of games.
Jo was once a promising young striker, who had the world at his feet. He moved to Manchester City in a big money move and completely flopped. He then joined Everton on-loan and fared slightly better on Merseyside.
However, his scoring record has improved slightly since his days in the Premier League and he did help Atletico Mineiro win their first ever Copa Libertadores in 2013. His international goal scoring record of five goals in 23 appearances is not great though.
Teams have won the World Cup by having a striker that does not score goals. France in 1998 had Stephane Guivarc’h, who was prolific in Ligue One, but only found the net once in his 19 appearances for Les Bleus.
France proved that you do not need a prolific striker to win the World Cup and after all the Selecao have the irrepressible Neymar in their team, who may just play the Zinedine Zidane role at this World Cup.
It does beggar the question though, is there not a better Brazilian striker out there in a country the size of Brazil? Even Spain’s adopted Brazilian Diego Costa struggled at the tournament, but that was down to still carrying an injury picked-up at the end of the season.
Chelsea playmaker Oscar is one of my favourite Premier League favourites, but I have to admit I have been disappointed by his performances so far at the World Cup. The youngster is playing in a wide position for the Selecao, something he is accustomed to at Stamford Bridge.
However for Brazil he does not see as much of the ball, as his national team have players who like to keep hold of the ball, such as Neymar or Hulk. Against Chile Oscar was anonymous and must be frustrated by his lack of possession during the game.
Oscar is regarded by many as one of the Selecao’s shining lights. At the moment though many fans must be wondering why the playmaker sees such little of the ball.
Brazil seriously has to improve in the next few games or they could be in trouble. Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men got a touch of luck in extra-time against Chile when Mauricio Pinilla’s powerful effort cannoned off the bar with one of the last kicks of the game.
Brazil cannot always rely on such luck to get them through. Chile performed well against them, but there are bigger and tougher tests to come for the hosts. On the evidence of the tournament so far, they may very well fail them and not achieve their objective of winning the World Cup on home soil.
Brazil is still favourites for the World Cup at odds of 5/2, at the moment they do not look very good value for those odds.
Will Brazil win the World Cup this summer?