Neymar returns as exceptional Brazil storm into quarter-finals

61
Brazil v South Korea – Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022

The South Americans confirmed a last-eight date with the 2018 runners-up Croatia.

  • Brazil stunned Korea Republic with four goals in 29 first-half minutes
  • Fit-again Neymar converts penalty for scoring return
  • Coach Tite’s team face Croatia quarter-final on Friday

Brazil 4-1 Korea Republic

Goals: Brazil: Vinicius Junior (7), Neymar (13 pen), Richarlison (29), Lucas Paqueta (36) Korea Republic: Paik Seungho (76)

Match review

Brazil conjured a dazzling performance to sweep aside Korea Republic and secure a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ quarter-final tie with Croatia on Friday.

The good news did not stop there for the rampant South Americans. Neymar defied expectations to return from injury and the inimitable Paris Saint-Germain forward was celebrating after only 13 minutes. Brazil were awarded a penalty after defender Jung Wooyoung was surprised by Richarlison’s sudden emergence on his shoulder and clipped the attacker’s ankle when attempting a clearance.

Neymar stuttered and shimmied in his run-up, completely deceiving Kim Seunggyu, who was static as the ball rolled past him on the left. Brazil were already one goal to the good at this point. Vinicius Jr controlled Raphinha’s right-wing cutback across the box, then with a barely perceptible backlift punched a strike beyond goalkeeper Kim and into the top corner.

Richarlison scored Brazil’s third following a glorious passage of play. The Tottenham Hotspur player initially employed a succession of headers to gain control of the ball, before transferring a pass to Marquinhos. He fired a ball across the perimeter of the box for Thiago Silva, who spied Richarlison continuing his forward run and zipped a wonderful first-time pass for his teammate to comfortably finish for a third goal of the tournament.

It was four goals inside 29 minutes when Lucas Paqueta arrived in the penalty area to meet Vinicius J’s cross from the byline on the full. The ball was past Kim before he could blink.

Kim made good saves from Richarlison and Raphinha, twice, to limit the bleeding, while opposite number Alisson was not entirely unemployed. Far from it. Alisson flew to his left to tip round Hwang Heechan’s rising drive after 17 minutes and used his shoulder to deny Son Heungmin following the restart. Hwang was thwarted, once more, when Alisson flung out his right hand to repel a close-range blast.

Substitute Paik Seungho eventually got the better of Alisson with a howitzer of a strike – but Brazil’s minds were already turning to Friday evening and Croatia at Education City Stadium.

Key moment

The more pessimistic reports were ruling Neymar out of this exhilarating World Cup, The ankle injury sustained in Brazil’s opening victory over Serbia would deprive coach Tite of his leading light, went the doom-mongers’ narrative.

The noises from the Brazil camp around Neymar’s fitness remained defiantly positive. But was it hope or expectation underpinning the upbeat medical bulletins? When Neymar exuberantly celebrated his cheeky penalty conversion with his return only 13 minutes old, we had our answer.

Brazil, on all available evidence from a largely one-sided game, would have won this without Neymar. There is no question over the 30-year-old’s uplifting influence on his team-mates, however, with a number of the younger squad members, Richarlison included, citing the player as their footballing idol.

The presence of Neymar allows Brazil to believe. Remember how all optimism drained away, with catastrophic consequences, when the poster-boy was injured in the quarter-final at Brazil 2014. The message seems to be that if you have to get hurt at a tournament, do it early. Neymar is back and, with 81 minutes in his legs, coming to the boil nicely ahead of tougher tests ahead.

Key stat

Neymar is the third Brazilian to score in three or more World Cups after Pele (1958, 1962, 1966, 1970) and Ronaldo (1998, 2002, 2006).

Quotes

Brazil ace Neymar, who returned from the ankle injury suffered against Serbia 11 days ago: “I was really afraid. The injury I suffered was pretty bad. I spent the whole night and another day crying a lot. But it was worth the effort. I stayed until 11 in the morning doing physiotherapy that day and then in other days the sessions went until five and six in the morning.

“All this suffering is valid so that in the end we can crown something so beautiful. Now it’s time for us to go way further. The trophy is a dream, obviously, but we have to go step by step. There are three more games to go, and we’re focused on the trophy”.

Korea Republic forward Son Heungmin: “We gave everything. Don’t blame us. With these Brazil players, if you give one of them spaces they score. I don’t want to blame any of our players because they gave everything.

“I am so proud of what they did. It’s not easy to play, especially for young guys who came on and played from the start – they did a great job for our country and I hope they don’t stop working and I hope the young guys realise how important it is to play in the World Cup. I am very proud and very happy that the young guys did an amazing job for the national team and for the country.

Player of the Match

  • Neymar