De Futebol Thoughts from the 2018 World Cup

The 2018 World Cup is in the books. France is the champion. No one expected France to win the whole enchilada.

The French did.

This team flew under the radar. Everyone expected Brasil, Germany, Argentina, Spain and even Mexico to win it. Oh, how wrong the so-called pundits were.

The American press were building up the great pretender Mexico. After the Mexican win over Germany The USA press expected Mexico to make it to at least the quarterfinals.

Not so fast bucko, Brasil stood in the way and won with a strong 2-0 win.

Brasil lost to Belgium 2-0 in the quarterfinals.

Argentina barely made it out of the group stage. Thus, Argentinos earned the right to battle France in the round of sixteen.

In a matter of ten minutes in the second half France turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-1 advantage.

France won 4-3 however the final score was not the true reflection of how the French blew doors off of Argentina in that deadly eleven minute span to grab the match by the neck and choke the life out of a helpless Argentina squad.

The biggest surprise was Germany losing two matches in the group stage and thus bombed out and this quick exit shocked the Futebol world.

Japan almost made Belgium eat their own lunch in the round of sixteen. Belgium didn’t quit and scored three second half goals to win 3-2.

Belgium and France hooked up in the semifinals. The difference in the match was France’s lighten quick speed that led to the only goal in the match a header by Samuel Umtiti for the one nil win.

England came out of nowhere to earn a spot in the semifinals. Three Lions were the third youngest club in the World Cup. Nigeria was the youngest. France was the second youngest team assembled.

England lost a heart breaker to Croatia 2-1 in the semifinals. This devastating loss came on the heels of a thrilling 4-3 PK shootout win over Columbia the quarterfinals.

The two shockers of the 2018 World Cup were Russia making it to the quarterfinals. Russia defeated Spain 4-3 in a PK shootout. Spain crashed and burned out of the 2018 World Cup.

The other huge surprise was Croatia making to the finals against France.

The Croatians claimed Denmark, Russia and England on the way to the finals before losing to a superior French side 4-2.

Thus, in the end this 2018 World Cup was full of surprises however the quality of play was below par compared to other World Cups.

The cool thing about this World Cup the favorites wore the choke collar.

The Dogs won.

De Futebol Belgium dominates Brasil 2-1! Belgium and France hook up in the Semifinals

Brasil crashed and burned out of the World Cup. Belgium took it to Brasil winning 2-1 to advance to the semifinals where they will duke it out with France.

The Daily Mail:” It was a picture of devastation at the end: Neymar down on his haunches and Fernandinho flat on his back, staring into the black night sky after their nation’s third quarter final loss in four World Cups.

What Brazil discovered last night is that all the old assurances about football supremacy have gone. Belgium, a nation of 11 million people, have developed the technical and tactical capacity to beat Brazil, a nation of 207 million.

They out-thought and out-played them for 75 minutes of quite stunning counter-attacking football from which Tite’s side could not find a way back, despite two gilt-edged chances in a devastating finish of their own.

There will be an understandable sense of South American injustice today. As the Belgians tired in the last 15 minutes, Brazil seemed justified in their demands for a penalty after Jesus nutmegged Vertonghen and seemed to be clattered by Kompany. VAR ruled that the ball had already run out of play, though it was in play at the moment of Kompany’s initial contact.

But Belgium did enough. Their golden generation, whose ascent to the higher plateau has been long awaited, delivered at last. And on a night which enhances Roberto Martinez’s hugely, their tactics were smarter, surprising Brazil for a first half which saw the game put out of their reach.

Martinez switched Romelu Lukaku to the right of the attacking line and created space to deploy de Bruyne as a withdrawn striker, driving forward between the midfield and defensive lines. Though the usual back three also became a four as soon as they fell out of possession, Belgium took the bold risk of keeping two men up.

‘I think that when you play Brazil, you have to get a tactical advantage,’ Martinez said last night. ‘It would be too easy to hope that you bring your game and win the football game. We had to be brave, tactically.’

Brazil contributed to their own fate, too. The suspension of Casemiro – the granite-like presence in front of the Brazilian defence – had always seemed beforehand to create a chink of light for the Belgians but no-one imagined quite how much.

Defensively, they were fragile. The pace of de Bruyne, with Lukaku and, gradually, Hazard, blew a hole through heart of their side.

There was early good fortune for Belgium. Nacer Chadli’s inswinging corner glanced off the top of Vincent Kompany’s head and was diverted in off the Manchester City midfielder’s shoulder.

But it was as they looked to draw level that Brazil looked vulnerable. They left space behind and Belgium had them precisely where they wanted. Lukaku’s contribution had been erratic for the first half hour but gained possession in front of his own penalty area, stormed beyond Fernandinho and drove a ball out right to De Bruyne.

Marcelo allowed him the Manchester City player a criminal amount of time to stop, assess and and take aim, which he did despatched the ball into the bottom left hand corner.

‘I think we switched things up, tactically speaking,’ de Bruyne reflected. ‘Brazil didn’t know what they had to do.’ Marouane Fellaini added steel in a monumental display at the back of the Belgium midfeild and Jan Vertonghen contributed to Belgium’s fierce defensive resolve.

For Brazil, there was no way through. Neymar was a marginal presence. Gabriel Jesus skewed a headed chance he was presented with. Coutinho was reduced to taking aim from distance.

Tite went all out for salvation and to turn back the weight of history. Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino was sent into a 4-2-4 formation and the side did begin find a way back.

After the penalty appeal, Jesus made way for Douglas Costa on the hour and he was dangerous. Thibaut Courtois’ leap to his right to save was part of a monumental display from him.

For pure, individual attacking talent, Belgium continued to deliver what generations have come to expect of Brazil. In the blink of an eye, they cleared two thirds of the field and almost scored again. Chadli dispossessed Fernandino on the Brazil right and found De Bruyne, who flashed a left foot shot inches wide.

As Brazil drove on and on, looking for a foothold in the game, it became a question of whether the Belgians could on. With 15 minutes to run they were tiring, Fellaini and the defenders were struggling to find the same competitive intent which had put them on the brink of this victory.

The attacking menace all came through Coutinho who was given a fraction of space on 767 minutes which allowed him to deliver the cross for which substitute Renato Augusto leapt, this time leaving Kompany and Alderweireld standing, to direct home a header.

Then, the two chances which will be haunting Brazil today. Augusto ran through on goal, fed by Coutinho, and blasted wide. Coutinho ran in himself, fed by Neymar, and did the same.

In the aftermath, Tite rejected the Europeans – who have all four semi-final berths – possess a pragmatism that the South Americans lack.

‘It’s a team that solid and aggressive,’ he said. ‘Randomness happens and it was harsh on us. There are European teams left – that is normal. I dont think [pragmatism] is a determining factor.’ So Brazil repair home, their wait for a sixth World Cup extended to 20 years at least, wondering what they must do to clinch it again.

De Futebol Brasil defeats overrated Mexico 2-1! Two goals down Belgium scored a 3-2 win over Japan

Yes! Brasil is on to the quarterfinals with a hard fought 2-0 win over Mexico. The so-called experts told us Mexico is better than Brasil. Not so fast bucko Brasil wins with a total team effort.

So once again the experts were and are wrong. The Conventual wisdom is wrong once again.

So how can these clowns be called experts when they are wrong all the time?

Go figure!

With each match Brasil is playing better and better.

The difference is that Brasil is one hundred percent better on defense.

Goals by Neymar 51st minute and Roberto Firmino 88th minute to seal the deal for guys.

Belgium had the scare of their lives when Japan jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Belgium clawed their way back to earn a 3-2 win over Japan.

Brasil-Belgium will battle in the quarterfinals.

The Daily Mail put it this way: “Nacer Chadli’s dramatic 94th-minute winner — going from one end to the other in 9.94 seconds — completed an incredible Marouane Fellaini-inspired comeback to break Japanese hearts.”

The Guardians Jonathan Wilson:” Beneath the fancy hair, the absurd solipsism and the antics of a latter-day Sun King, it is good to be reminded sometimes that Neymar is an exceptionally gifted footballer. It was his goal that broke the deadlock and if his influence on this game was far more positive than in any in the group stage, it was almost entirely because he played without that same furious determination to be the protagonist.

But, of course, he is the same Neymar, the same diva who must always be the centre of attention. Just when everything seemed to be going well, just when it seemed there might be an argument he was growing into his role, he reacted ludicrously as Miguel Layún picked the ball from between his feet as he lay by the side of the pitch. Perhaps the Mexican midfielder did brush his ankle, but the fourth official was roughly six inches away and saw nothing untoward, and neither did VAR.

Neymar, though, bucked and writhed as though he had just trodden on the third rail. Within seconds, once no card had been produced, he was back up and running as normal. It was hard to paint that as anything but the most scandalous simulation by a player who combines the most sublime skill with the most shameful self-indulgence.

It was a great shame, for until then everything had been going so well, both for Neymar and the team that keeps threatening to emerge from his shadow. Until they tired towards the end of the first half, Mexico had controlled possession and territory. Neymar had been reduced to a peripheral role, an occasional outlet, played high up field to be a conduit for breakaways, to attack Edson Álvarez, something he did so well in combination with Philippe Coutinho that it was Brazil who looked the more dangerous. But at half-time it remains goalless and there was a sense that Brazil could be facing a long battle in the sapping heat.

But six minutes into the second half Neymar picked up the ball on the left. In familiar style he skipped inside, scuttling past his full-back. Mexico got back, packed the edge of the box. It seemed certain that Neymar who take on a right-footed shot and the ball would be blocked. But then he did something utterly unexpected: he passed.

It was a backheel, but this was not one of his needless tricks designed to showcase his own ability or demean a defender, punishing them for having the temerity to stand up to him. This was a pragmatic backheel, one that changed the shape of the attack, that set Willian, making a crossover run in space on the left side of the box. He crossed low and Neymar was there at the back post to claim his reward.

As a parable of the benefits of playing for the team it could hardly have been bettered.

The goal was not just a symbol of Neymar’s improved display, but of Tite’s clever game plan. There were moments of rapid interplay, little darts and flurries that gave an indication of potentially great side lying not too far beneath the surface. For all that Mexico offered the idea of a threat, only a string of fine saves from Guillermo Ochoa, reprising his excellent display against Brazil in the last World Cup, prevented Brazil from having the game comfortably sewn up before the hour. The game was eventually sealed by Roberto Firmino a minute from time. Neymar will claim an assist, although there is no doubt he was shooting when Ochoa deflected the ball into the path of the Lverpool forward.

But this side is about far more than Neymar. his is a Brazil of many parts that are looking increasingly coherent despite a possible weakness at full-back. Fagner, brought in at right-back in place of Danilo, struggled against both Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano, who switched flanks repeatedly as though both were desperate to have a go at Dani Alves’s replacement’s replacement.

Set against that apparent vulnerability, though, is Brazil’s most underrated quality. They are prepared to play without the ball, prepared to draw opponents on, and the two central defenders, Thiago Silva and Miranda, protected by Casemiro, are good enough to at least restrict the clear chances they give up.

Yet to an extent Mexico were complicit in their own impotence. It has been a feature of Mexico’s tournament so far that they do not make the most of their chances, that they sweep forward in green waves that do not necessarily produce much, a result of a lack of ruthlessness with the final ball and perhaps of a reluctance on the part of the midfield to get forward and support the forward line. Decision-making, again and again, let them down.

But it would be wrong to portray this as the Germany game redux, just with a different result. There was a sense of control about Brazil that Germany never approached, a feeling throughout that they were holding Mexico at arm’s length, restricting them, by the end, to hopeful charges at the box or speculative long-range efforts.

It was a game won with an impressive defensive performance and enough attacking flair that it always seemed a matter of when rather than if they would score. There are even signs that Neymar is beginning to use his talent for the collective.

De Futebol Brasil Wins! Tops Group E!

Brasil defeated Serbia 2-0. The Guys win Group E with seven points. Switzerland and Costa Rica tied two all.

Up next for the guys is Mexico. Switzerland will square off against Sweden.

In Group F Sweden beat the crap out of Mexico 3-0 and South Korea shocked Germany winning 2-0. This loss sent the defeating World Cup champions packing.

The Daily Mail:” Some may say this is not a vintage Brazil team, not yet anyway. But they do have classic Brazilian traits.

Coach Tite’s team are talented yet capriciously vulnerable and isn’t that just how we have always liked them?

Nobody likes a flawless football team and this is certainly not one. They won deservedly here and have recovered admirably from the shock of drawing their opening group game against Switzerland.

But the way that Serbia were applauded from the field by their noisy, vibrant supporters told us that this had been a little bit closer than Brazil would have liked.

Brazil will now face Mexico in the last sixteen in Samara. They remain beguiling to watch and will probably get better from here. Last night, for example, there were signs that Neymar is growing in to the tournament after recovering from his long-term ankle injury.

They were not always convincing, though, and this remains a tournament that feels as though it could throw them from the tracks at any moment.

When the Mexicans – and anyone else who may yet face Brazil – look for encouragement then all they require is to watch the first 20 minutes of the second half. A goal down and needing victory, Serbia pushed hard at the Brazilian door and more than once it almost flew open.

The problem, really, is quite simple. Brazil are not adept at dealing with quality crosses. They have a goalkeeper who prefers to punch rather than catch and central defenders who do not communicate with him or indeed with each other.

That is never a good combination and it really was only through a smattering of good fortune that it was not their undoing.

Tite may wake up this morning and look at the remainder of the competition and wonder if his team may have been better to finish second in the group. They are now in the tougher half of the draw by far.

But he will see progress and after the way they started the tournament that would be right

Here they were the better team in the first half and deservedly led.

Serbia began the game cautiously and at least had a plan. They sat in behind the ball in numbers and that made it hard for Brazil to pierce them early on.

The South American sections of the crowd got excited early on when Gabriel Jesus looked as though he may score but he was actually offside while another movement involving the Manchester City player ended with Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic pawing away an effort from Neymar that may have passed safely across the face of goal anyway.

Jesus then got clear down the left in the 29th minute but chose to cut back inside instead of trying the shot from an angle. He successfully stepped inside Milos Veljkovic but that allowed other defenders to arrive and the shot struck a Serbian leg and went behind for a corner that came to nothing.

That rather summed Brazil up for a while. Nearly but not quite. And when their goal arrived it was rather more direct.

The excellent Philippe Coutinho spotted the surging run of Paulinho and dropped a perfect pass over the top of the Serbian back four and in to his path.

Unlike the ball that Lionel Messi turned in to a goal for Argentina 24 hours earlier, this one only required one touch and that was to lift it over the top of the Serbian goalkeeper. Maybe Stojkovic had committed himself a little early but maybe there wasn’t much choice.

So Brazil were ahead and Serbia had no choice but to attack. Twice early in the second half they came close, Thiago Silva clearing an Aleksandar MItrovic header off the line after goalkeeper Alisson palmed a clearance straight to the Newcastle striker and then the same attacker heading a cross powerfully down for the keeper to save on the line.

There were other moments of panic, too, as Brazil struggled to cope but moments after City’s Fernandinho was sent on to shore up the midfield, Thiago Silva headed in a corner at the near post and that settled the game.

It was not a very Brazilian goal towards the end of what had been, at times, a very Brazilian performance.

De Futebol Brasil Wins! The Guys are atop the heap in Group E

Brasil missed by that much in the first ninety minutes of the match against Costa Rica. The guys didn’t give up scoring twice in injury time to win 2-0.

This win was huge for the guys.

Switzerland came back from a goal down to beat Serbia 2-1. Both my guys from Brasil and Switzerland each have four points in Group E. Brasil is the top dog with a plus two while the Swiss is a plus one. Serbia is third with three points and Costa Rica has zip-zero-nada.

The Guardians Barney Ronay:” Well, that was late; and indeed more than a little ugly. On a breezy, bad-tempered afternoon by the Gulf of Finland Brazil defeated Costa Rica 2-0 at the St Petersburg Stadium to ease them towards the knock-out stage of Russia 2018.

The goals were both scored in injury time, the key one by their best player Phlippe Coutinho who came haring through a crowd on to a miscrontrolled touch from Roberto Firmino to poke the ball through the legs of Keylor Navas and send the yellow shirts into a wild, squealing catharsis in the stands.

As the clock ticked down Neymar added a second, the Costa Rica defence parting after some fine, dogged efforts. Brazil’s captain celebrated like a World Cup winner having stabbed the ball into an empty net from Douglas Costa’s cross.

It was an eventful day for the world’s costliest player, who was a source of constant friction, who grumbled and moaned and threw himself to the floor constantly and might have been sent off for a combination of dissent and cheating. Neymar wept dramatically on the pitch at the final whistle, shoulders shuddering, hands shielding his visage from the world. Indeed.

Brazil now have four points in Group E. A draw with Serbia will guarantee progress, if not in the wider sense of the word after another performance that stuttered and stumbled. In reality this game will be remembered for Neymar’s antics more than a fine showing from Coutinho, excellent defending from Costa Rica and an important win for Tite’s team.

A turning point seemed to have arrived around the hour, as the Dutch referee Björn Kuipers finally snapped. For the preceding 60 minutes Neymar had been chirping, chattering, groaning, writhing, winging in his ear, enraged at some perceived rough treatment from a gnarled Costa Rica defence.

As Brazil defended a corner Kuipers could be seen telling Brazil’s captain to be quiet in the way an exasperated father might speak to a sullen and spoiled teenager. Seconds later Neymar broke with the ball down the left wing, finding finally a huge green steppe of space in that white-shirted defence.

Seventeen minutes later Kuipers was finally, and briefly, beaten into submission. No doubt it just wears you down. As Giancarlo González touched, briefly, the Neymar abdomen Brazil’s captain toppled backwards in a ludicrous pantomime of a dying sapling. Kuipers gave the penalty. Neymar lay on the floor being cosseted and nursed by his teammates, preposterous spectacle, as though finally victorious in his battle with injustice.

Out of his sight Kuipers trotted off, looked at the VAR screen, and reversed the decision. He should also have booked Neymar. Well played Mr Kuipers, and well played VAR. A penalty would have been a reward for superstar strops, diva-pouts, and utterly graceless behaviour from a man who carries his nation’s name and its sporting reputation.

This World Cup has been waiting for somebody to provide a statement performance, for one of the usual Alpha teams to pull themselves up to their full height and decide that, in fact, this tournament is there for the taking if somebody can get the thrusters lined up, the gears to click, and point all that star power in the stronger squads the right way.

This wasn’t it, at least not for the opening 85 minutes or so. The St Petersburg Stadium is out on the water, lodged beside the stunning cantilevered bridge that swoops in above the tide and funnels the main traffic arteries into the city centre.

It is, as ever at this World Cup, a stunning thing, another enormo-drome with the most astonishingly vast and heavy roof fanned out around steel girders of dizzying scale and heft, ranged above the pitch like a vast iron giant cradling his fingers. The stands were the usual wallpaper-setting of Brazil gold, broken up by some wildly enthusiastic blocks of Costa Rican red as Brazil kicked off with the afternoon sun on the pitch. With Cost Rica unchanged Fagner came in at right‑back for Brazil who pressed early on, Coutinho shooting just over after Bryan Ruiz had given him the ball.

But the blue shirts were slow through midfield, a porridge of sideways passing and sludgy movement. It was Costa Rica who should have taken the lead on 12 minutes, as Celso Borges came striding forward and shot low and hard but past the left‑hand post from a cut-back from Ruiz, with Brazil’s midfield equally static chasing back. A couple of minutes later Neymar was down once again in howls of agony as he turned his ankle, rising to limp on a little sullenly.

Neymar is targeted. But he doesn’t half make it easy, never once hiding his disgust and his distraction, shuddering with celebrity disdain at these lesser beings, these rough boys. Again Neymar went down, this time after “putting a hat on” Cristian Gamboa (nicking the ball over his head) a terrible humiliation in Brazilian football. Again there were chunterings to the referee, a loss of focus, pointless quibbling from a group that would be better served trying to inject some snap into its passing, some venom into its movement.

There were dives and triple-pikes and wonderfully dramatic falls, constant TV closeups of that pained, tearful Neymar face. This is a different player right now to the sprightly warrior of 2014 already an A‑lister then, with the home hopes of his nation, but transformed now into a mardy, perpetually wronged drama-magnet. Life moves pretty fast, Neymar old boy. If you don’t stop rolling around once in a while, you could miss it.

As the teams walked off for half‑time there were complaints from a delegation of Brazil players. Outside the dressing rooms Neymar approached the referee and prattled on some more about his treatment. This was not a dirty game, or anything close to the mugging Brazil’s captain seemed to imagine. Cost Rica were simply competitive. But Brazil looked a fragile, high‑maintenance team here.

And despite his princely status Neymar was overshadowed again here by Coutinho, who really should be taking free kicks, who should right now be the hub of this team, given as much leverage as he likes to take the ball and make the game up in front of him.

Tite took off Willian, who had been poor, at half time, and put on the more direct Douglas Costa. And suddenly Brazil were tearing into Costa Rica, Jesus heading powerfully on to the bar from a Douglas cross. The ball bounced out to Coutinho whose shot was deflected just wide by Cristian Gamboa.

And still most of the good things for Brazil came through Coutinho, the chugging, ferreting heart of an otherwise prosaic midfield.

Tite twisted again, bringing on Roberto Firmino for Paulinho. Neymar shot wide of the post on the run with space in front of him. Clearly he has rushed his way back to this tournament. But he doesn’t deal with rustiness well.

Moments late Neymar was finally booked, this time for a pathetic hissy fit, throwing the ball away after a tackle. Frankly, he should have been off at that stage, for the sake of a no-doubt exasperated audience and also for his own benefit. Something is awry here. This was not the behaviour or the demeanour of a happy young superstar athlete, or indeed anyone charged with providing entertainment for a dizzyingly high price. Two late goals will disguise a strange performance from a team with plenty of work still to do.

De Futebol Brasil stinks! A one all Draw with Switzerland

For the first time since 1978 Brasil has not won their opening match in the World Cup. The guys snatched a draw from the jaws of victory. Lazy horrible defense cost Brasil big time.

Phillipe Coutinho tickled the twines in the 20th minute. However, Switzerland came back to score in 50th minute. Steven Zuber parked in front net by his lonesome poked hone the rock to level this puppy at one all.

Brasileiros had their chances to get the match winner but they missed it by that much.

Serbia defeated Costa Rica 1-0.

Serbia is top dog with three points.

Brasil and Switzerland are second and third with one point apiece.

Costa Rica is in the whale dung position with zero points.

The upset of the day Mexico defeated Germany 1-0.

The Guardians David Hytner:” his was not how Brazil had scripted it. The five-times world champions were in control thanks to a trademark Philippe Coutinho screamer and the first step to avenge the trauma from the previous finals looked set to be sure-footed.

Yet one lapse was all it took for Switzerland to crash back into it – Steven Zuber heading the equaliser – and, with a priceless result within their grasp, they were in no mood to relinquish it.

Brazil complained bitterly that Zuber’s goal ought to have been disallowed for a push on Miranda but the referee, César Arturo Ramos, was correct to ignore them.

Switzerland, ranked sixth in the world, were on the back foot for almost all of the evening and they rode their luck during a frenetic finale when Brazil pushed hard for a winner. They had a flurry of chances but none would go in and, in the end, it turned out to be a valiant point for the Swiss.

Brazil have cast themselves as avenging angels, even if the agony of their home 2014 World Cup – when they were humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final – might never truly leave them and they have not run from their status of favourites. Far from it. Neymar had posted a message on the eve of this tie declaring himself unafraid of dreaming big. “Let’s go Brazil – for the sixth!” he wrote.

But it was not their night. Coutinho sliced when well placed on 69 minutes while Gabriel Jesus felt that he should have had a penalty when Manuel Akanji put his hands on him inside the area. In the closing minutes Neymar and the substitute Roberto Firmino headed too close to Yann Sommer, Miranda dragged wide when gloriously placed and another substitute, Renato Augusto, watched Fabian Schär clear a shot to safety. The ball simply would not go in.

Switzerland wanted to impose themselves and to play their front‑foot possession style but it would become a display of rearguard action. The occasion had felt different for Brazil when Coutinho put them in front and the goal was a peach.

Neymar, looking every inch the A‑lister with his meticulously coiffured blond crop, popped the ball off to Marcelo and his cross was headed out by Zuber but only as far as Coutinho. The midfielder took a touch before shaping a right-footed curler into the far corner. Sommer dived at full stretch but there was nothing he could do.

Tite had started Coutinho on the left of a midfield three, which had Paulinho on the right and Casemiro at the base, but the former Liverpool man had the scope to roam. So did Neymar. Actually, Neymar was allowed to do whatever he desired and that included a few bursts of trademark professional dramatics. Valon Behrami could be seen to laugh after one first-half Neymar tumble and there were other occasions when he went down with ease.

Neymar demands free-kicks from any contact; it is a perk of his status. But those in red played with fire whenever they challenged him. At times, his rapid movement was too much. Stephan Lichtsteiner, Schär and Behrami were each booked for fouls on him.

Brazil might have led sooner. Neymar combined with Coutinho to cross low and when Schär got himself into a tangle, Paulinho sniffed out a close-range shooting chance. He went for the far corner, scuffing it slightly, only for Sommer to make a finger-tip save. The goalkeeper did not get the credit at the time, with Ramos awarding a goal-kick rather than a corner.

Blerim Dzemaili had lifted an early half-chance high from Xherdan Shaqiri’s pass but Switzerland could do nothing further as an attacking force before the interval. They would also breathe a sigh of relief when Thiago Silva glanced over from Neymar’s corner at the end of the half. Moments earlier, Akanji had snuffed out Jesus in a last-man duel.

The game turned sharply at the beginning of the second half and it was a poor way for Brazil to surrender the initiative. From Shaqiri’s corner, Miranda felt Zuber deliver a little shove to his back but it was not enough to throw him off balance. He had merely lost his man, misreading the flight of the ball. Zuber leapt up to head past the exposed Alisson. Brazil pleaded in vain for a VAR review. Game on.

witzerland grew visibly and, all of a sudden, there were one or two jitters in Brazil’s ranks. Neymar, who has only just returned from a serious ankle and metatarsal injury, looked to be feeling the troublesome right foot. His fitness remains a concern, as does his tendency to freeze-frame in possession, as he looks to draw his marker into a rash move. Does his tendency unduly slow Brazil’s tempo?

Tite made midfield changes, swapping Casemiro, who had been booked, for Fernandinho and Paulinho for Renato Augusto. It did not alter Brazil’s shape or their approach.

They continued to probe, primarily through Neymar, but Switzerland, who were always likely to be obdurate, could feel the desperation and their resilience grew. Tite’s final substitution was also like-for-like. Jesus off; Firmino on.

Jesus had been central to the game’s greatest controversy. On 74 minutes Akanji put his arms around him as he ran onto a pass inside the area. Down he went but the appeals were waved away. The fall looked exaggerated but the contact was there. It was certainly risky from Akanji. He got away with it. Switzerland would do likewise with the point.

De Futebol 1986 World Cup

Let’s take another trip in the way back machine. This time the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City.

The Guardians Rob Smyth:” The right-back was unknown, uncapped and unemployed before scoring twIn the summer of 1964, England took part in the Little World Cup in Brazil. It was a simple four-team league involving Portugal, Argentina and the hosts. England finished joint-bottom with Portugal. In their first match they were plugged 5-1 by Brazil in Rio. They commiserated with a night on the town, and were staggering around Copacabana beach the following morning when they were challenged to a game by some local kids.

It was an embarrassing mismatch: the England team, two years away from winning the Big World Cup, got absolutely slaughtered for the third time in 18 hours. Admittedly it was 12 v seven, and the seven had quaffed a few performance-diminishing substances the night before. But the story, told in Jimmy Greaves’s Don’t Shoot the Manager, reflects an eternal truth about Brazilian football: that there are brilliant, natural talents on every beach corner.

The ultimate symbol of that is Josimar, the two-hit wonder of Mexico 86. No World Cup has ever produced a better collection of goals – if you do only one thing with your lunch break today – and Josimar scored two monsters against Northern Ireland and Poland. He might as well have come straight out of the thin Mexican air. Nobody outside Brazil had heard of him; he wasn’t even in the Panini album.

He wasn’t just unknown – he was also uncapped and unemployed when he was called up to the Brazil squad at the last minute after the first-choice right-back Leandro pulled out. Four players missed a curfew but only one, the playboy winger Renato Gaúcho, was thrown out of the squad by the manager Telê Santana. Leandro, whose head was a mess at the time, pulled out in a kind of guilty solidarity.

Josimar had not played a game since mid-March, when his Botafogo contract expired. He was cooking and looking after his pregnant wife when he received a call telling him he was going to Mexico. In the best traditions, he thought it was a joke, politely said thank you and got on with his day. An hour later he received another call telling him where and when to report.

Édson Boaro, the back-up for Leandro who was now first choice, got injured after 10 minutes of the second match against Algeria. Josimar was not on the bench but he did replace Edson in the starting line-up against Northern Ireland six days later. He was strikingly tall for a full-back and formidably built, with a sinewy frame and thighs made of oak.

Brazil were 1-0 up with four minutes to go to half-time, keeping the ball with some lazy passing in Northern Ireland’s half. “Josimar … Júnior … Elzo … Alemao,” said BBC commentator John Motson, capturing the rhythmic groove of Brazil’s possession as Alemão played the ball square to Josimar. “Well, Careca and Casagrande are waiting for a cross.”

They’re still waiting. Josimar pushed the ball in front of him, sprinted on the spot in excitement at what he was about to attempt, and put his whole being into a shot. It was a ridiculous distance from which to shoot – 30 yards out and a long way to the right of centre – but the ball swooshed wickedly and arrowed past Pat Jennings into the far top corner.

The celebration was almost as iconic as the goal. Josimar went off on a mini lap of honour, both arms raised in the air, his face a picture of giddy disbelief. Years later, Jennings was asked by a small boy at a Q&A what it was like to be chipped by Josimar from 35 yards. “Son,” he said. “Your idea of a chip and my idea of a chip are two different things!”

For a full-back, a goal like that is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. So Josimar did it again four days later, rampaging through the Poland defence to batter the ball home from an absurd angle. It was the second goal in a 4-0 win that took Brazil into the quarter-finals, where they lost to France on penalties after a classic 1-1 draw.

Even though he only played three games, Josimar was included in Fifa’s team of the tournament, the only Brazilian apart from the centre-back Júlio César to make the XI. Botafogo re-signed him, and the media adopted him. “UM HERÓI DESEMPREGADO” (THE UNEMPLOYED HERO) was the headline of a feature in Placar. He also won an informal award as the most beautiful player of the tournament. “I’m just like coffee,” he said. “The ‘blackie’ that satisfies everyone.”

The fairytale soon became a cautionary tale. Josimar, like so many Brazilian footballers from poor backgrounds, was allergic to overnight fame. His life was tipped downside up and he surrendered to a hat-trick of vices: booze (especially whisky), cocaine and womanising.

Soon after Mexico, he started to make different kinds of headlines. He ended up in prison after hitting a prostitute who racially abused him when he tried to negotiate a cheaper price for an orgy that had already happened. A few years later, he threw his wallet out of the window when being chased by police; it was later found with three grams of coke in it. His brother, a cocaine addict, was also shot dead in a favela.

Josimar was one of the first bad boys of Brazilian football, a status that rankled. “Maradona and Edmundo were given second chances,” he said in a 1995 interview. “Why not me? Nobody ever proved anything against me. I only liked a bit of whisky.”

Many sportsmen never recover from their lowest point; Josimar never really got over the high of Mexico and his career drifted to nothing. In 1988 he almost went to Dundee United (the mind boggles at the thought of the relationship between Josimar and Jim McLean) and he was offered to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United (the mind boggles, etc) before having a shambolic spell at Sevilla. He did play a significant part in Botafogo’s legendary Campeonato Carioca victory in 1989, and was a bit-part player in Brazil’s victorious Copa América squad a month later. He won the last of his 16 caps in November 1989. Those two goals in Mexico were the only ones he scored for Brazil.

Josimar eventually found his way back on the rails with the help of the great right-back Jorginho. He embraced Christianity and now lives in the north of Brazil. He is still bitter about all the racism, the fake friends and his treatment in the press. His recent interviews suggest the internal tug-of-war between denial and regret is unresolved.

He is more fondly remembered abroad than in Brazil, where he is a curiosity in the national team’s lavish history. The rest of the world only really saw Josimar at Mexico 86 and then in the greatest theatre of all, the imagination. We assumed he was roofing 30-yarders every week. If the World Cup is our dream holiday, once every four years, then Josimar was a helluva of a holiday romance.

Globalisation, the internet and Football Manager have long since stripped football of its mystery. Josimar is a joyful lament for the past. His name – and what a name, by the way – evokes the innocence of ignorance, before the internet bred know-it-alls in more ways than one.

There was a mythical quality to Josimar’s goals. You would see them once in a blue moon – on a grainy home-made VHS that you had lovingly labelled ‘DON’T TAPE OVER’, perhaps, or if Grandstand had a feature on great long-range goals. YouTube has changed our memories of our memories, and probably softened some of the Proustian magic of his goals. But his association is as powerful as ever.

Norway’s best football magazine is called Josimar; there’s even a Scottish graphic designer who named his business after his Brazilian muse. Along with Salvatore Schillaci at Italia 90, Josimar is surely football’s greatest one-tournament wonder.

He is also often included in the list of lost talents. If anything he was the opposite, a good but not great player whose brief career peak was perfectly in sync with the apex of football’s four-year cycle. Brazil has millions of talented unknowns, sure – but few left a mark on the football world like Josimar.

De Futebol World Cup Stunning Moments France beats Brasil !

Let’s take a little trip in the way back machine for some more stunning World Cup moments.

The Guardians Jacob Steinberg:” The French celebrated a historic home victory while the rest of the world wondered what had happened to the previously imperious Ronaldo as he sleepwalked through the final.

As the Brazilian national anthem floated around the Stade de France, the camera kept lingering on one man. His identity was not a surprise. Ronaldo, after all, was the greatest player in the world, O Fenomeno, the star of a Brazil team that was hoping to become the first to retain the World Cup on two separate occasions. Nothing unusual about that, you might think; television prefers to focus on the talent and in 1998, no one was as ferociously talented as Ronaldo, whose supernatural mixture of power, pace and skill had made him the player every child in the playground wanted to be; at the age of 21, the hopes and dreams of a nation rested on his shoulders.

The assumption was that they were broad enough to handle the pressure – but this was not a normal evening, even by the manic standards of a World Cup final. Sixteen years on, the events of that Paris evening remain shrouded in mystery and intrigue, the murky circumstances that led to Ronaldo first being omitted from the Brazil team sheet and then reinstated some of the most bizarre – and, some insist, scandalous – the sport has seen. It is a depressing but still fascinating story of claim and counter-claim, of conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, of rumours of self-interest and political manoeuvring, of angry denials and scattergun accusations and, above all, a story where pinning down the truth can feel like a troublingly elusive task.

To this day, only a select group of people know what happened in the hours and minutes leading up to the final, what compelled Brazil’s coach, Mário Zagallo, to backtrack and name Ronaldo in his starting lineup. Given that it later transpired Ronaldo had suffered a seizure in his hotel room in the afternoon, was saved by his team-mates and had to be taken to hospital, this was hardly a case of a manager making a decision on tactical grounds. That was too tall a story to sell; the widespread belief was something bigger was at play.

The buildup

What we know is that on 12 July 1998, Brazil were in the World Cup final against the hosts, France, and because they had Ronaldo they were the favourites. At 7.48pm local time, 72 minutes before kick-off, the first team sheet was printed and submitted to Fifa, whose delegate surely did a double take once he had scanned the piece of extremely important paper in his hands. “Yes, everything seems in order here. Taffarel; Cafu, Júnior Baiano, Aldair, Roberto Carlos, Leonardo, Dunga (captain), César Sampaio, Rivaldo, Bebeto, Edmundo. Edmundo? Edmundo?! Wait a minute, where’s Ronaldo? Mr Zagallo, are you sure there’s no mistake?”

There was no mistake. Zagallo was said to have made his decision at about 5pm, telling Edmundo that he was in the team and Ronaldo, Brazil’s top scorer with four goals, was on the bench. He subsequently informed the rest of the team and, in an attempt to motivate them and lift their spirits, he reminded them that he was part of the Brazil side that won the 1962 final without Pelé.

A good try on his part but some of those players had earlier seen one of their team-mates, their talisman and an apparently healthy young man, convulsing on his bed.

The list was the first one given to journalists, just after 8pm, and the unofficial reason given for Ronaldo’s absence was that he was suffering from an ankle injury he had picked up in the semi-final against Holland five days earlier. Cue bedlam. Cue chaos. Cue questions as journalists scrambled around the press box, tripping over each other as they tried to find out what was going on. On the BBC, John Motson was in a magnificent frenzy. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my career,” he whirred. “The scenes in the commentary box have been absolute mayhem and chaos.”

Ronaldo’s omission had come out of the blue. Even though there had been allegations that his weight was higher than usual and there was also a hint of the knee problems that would afflict him later in his career, pain and stiffness caused by tendinitis restricting him throughout the tournament and requiring the use of painkillers to get him through matches, he had still been Brazil’s best player and he was expected both to start and dominate the final, even against a French side that contained some of the most formidable defenders in the world.

It was impossible not to be overcome by a sense of disappointment – no Ronaldo, no party. “He didn’t come to France to compete with the players of his generation but to seek a place amongst the best of the two millennia – this one and the coming,” Jorge Valdano wrote the day before the match. “If Romário, his predecessor, was subtlety, Ronaldo is exuberance. If Romário’s habitat was the penalty area, Ronaldo’s home would need to measure half the size of the pitch. If Romário is the past, Ronaldo’s almost cybernetic play belongs to the future.” To put it into context, imagine the reaction if Argentina reach the final in Brazil this summer and Lionel Messi is not playing. Twitter would crash, Jim White’s head would explode and over on ITV, Roy Keane would be glaring at Adrian Chiles.

Confusion reigned, and Brazil did not emerge for their warm-up, but rumours then started to circulate that a modified team sheet was on the way and Ronaldo was going to start after all. Sure enough, when it arrived at 8.18pm, a furious Edmundo was on the bench and Ronaldo was in the team. He had made quite the recovery in such a short space of time. Eyebrows were raised.

The match

Ronaldo was the last Brazil player out of the tunnel. The camera focused on him and continued to do so during the anthem, its attention diverted away to something less important every so often but always returning to its primary target before long, training its glare on Ronaldo as if it was trying to bore a way into his soul, to reveal to the world what was going on behind that impressively impassive look on his face.

For his part, Ronaldo’s poker face was giving nothing away. Or maybe he was in a daze. There was a hint of a smile, nothing more than that, and Ronaldo stayed still when the anthem finished. “Ronaldo,” ITV’s commentator, Brian Moore, said, “Well he’s come through that dramatic injury crisis.”

With the viewing public and the media still in the dark about what had occurred behind the scenes, there was an assumption that Ronaldo’s presence would swing the final in Brazil’s favour. Yet they had been heavily criticised throughout the tournament, a consequence of Zagallo’s caution, their rickety offence and their reliance on Ronaldo, who was quiet during the group stage but explosive in the knockout rounds, scoring twice and hitting the woodwork twice in the 4-1 win over Chile in the second round, creating a goal for Rivaldo in the 3-2 win over Denmark in the quarter-final and scoring in the semi-final against Holland, who were defeated on penalties.

Pelé felt Brazil were a collection of great individuals rather than a great team, while Johan Cruyff went further. “I said at the start of the tournament that I did not like this Brazilian team and I still say that. It would be really bad for football if Brazil won with such poor play because this team is imitated throughout the world.”

Writing on the morning of the match, Ruud Gullit said he was disappointed with Brazil and felt Holland had been the strongest side in the tournament until their elimination on penalties. But Brazil were mentally stronger than the Dutch and Zagallo was unrepentant about a gameplan that veered towards bus parking. “We couldn’t risk leaving any open spaces,” he said. “Otherwise we would have lost – easily.”

But as stoutly as Brazil defended against Holland, the sorry facade came crumbling down against France. Inside a minute, a long ball from Lilian Thuram caught out Baiano and Stéphane Guivarc’h, he of apostrophe and Newcastle fame, ran through to hook a glorious chance over the bar. Minutes later, Zinedine Zidane nutmegged Aldair, releasing Guivarc’h, who fluffed his lines again. A Zidane free-kick from the left found Youri Djorkaeff unmarked and he headed high and wide. Brazil were all over the place and Zagallo was soon off his seat, arms outstretched, demanding more from his players. Yet they could not raise their tempo, the lack of a warm-up unsettling them, and the sloppiness of their passing was only matched by the paucity of their imagination and the sluggishness of their movement.

And then there was the sleepwalking figure of Ronaldo, who barely touched the ball in the first half, was tracked and hassled everywhere by the persistent Frank Leboeuf, playing instead of the suspended Laurent Blanc, even when he dropped deep. On the few occasions that Ronaldo saw the ball, he was on the halfway line, had his back to goal and was slow to react, constantly allowing Leboeuf to step in front of him to win back possession for France.

Barely 20 minutes had been played and it was already clear that all was not well for Ronaldo, although the ITV commentators were not yet aware of the full extent of the situation; like the rest of us, they did not know about the fit. “If it was anyone else, he wouldn’t play but he is so vital and inspiring,” Kevin Keegan observed. “At the moment, it’s a gamble that hasn’t quite come off. My feeling on ankles is they don’t get better, they get worse the more you play. Look, again, on his heels there.” Moore agreed with his co-commentator. “The one thing he has is electric pace and you need strong ankles for that,” he said. Ronaldo lost another battle with Leboeuf and Keegan said: “He doesn’t look in any way up for it.”

There were only fleeting glimpses of Ronaldo’s coruscating speed. Midway through the first half he burst past Thuram on the left and although he sliced his cross, France’s goalkeeper, Fabien Barthez, almost flapped it over the line. Then, shortly after Zidane had headed France into the lead from Emmanuel Petit’s 27th-minute corner, Dunga knocked a straight ball over the France defence for Ronaldo to chase but out came Barthez, taking out ball and striker in one go. Ronaldo lying prone on the ground was the last thing Brazil wanted to see but he got up after a while.

France, meanwhile, were enjoying themselves and after Petit, Djorkaeff and Guivarc’h wasted further opportunities, Zidane headed in his second just before half-time. Again Brazil had been found wanting at a corner, this time from Djorkaeff’s delivery. Zidane, who had been in disgrace after his foolish red card against Saudi Arabia in the group stage, had finally arrived on the big stage after disappointing in successive Champions League final defeats for Juventus against Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. “I’m not very good with my head,” he Trevor Brooking-ed.

That much was evident when he lost his cool against the Saudis and France laboured without him against Paraguay in the second round, but he returned against Italy in the quarter-finals and then played in the Thuram-inspired victory over Croatia in the semi-finals. “Zidane, Zidane, Zidane … France was in the grip of ‘zizoumania’,” Marcel Desailly wrote in his autobiography. “I never imagined it could grow to such proportions. Sometimes I asked myself if one human could withstand such passion. And did he, in any case, quite resist it? At the start of the tournament we found him a little febrile, more stretched, more demanding than usual, at least on the pitch. That febrility culminated in his expulsion against Saudi Arabia. And after a moment of depression, he reacted like a champion and started to prepare himself for the quarter-final.”

Desailly’s comments offer an insight into the suffocating pressure placed on the most gifted players during major tournaments and even after that torrid first half, Zagallo did not remove Ronaldo, whose one sight of goal resulted in him firing straight at Barthez after 55 minutes. Roberto Carlos, his closest friend in the squad, wondered whether it was too much for him and said that Ronaldo had been “in tears in the night and in the afternoon he went yellower than our shirts”.

Although Desailly was sent off for a second booking and, belatedly, Brazil stirred into life as the match wore on – with Ronaldo lasting the 90 minutes and Edmundo introduced with 15 minutes to go – they were caught on the break towards the end, Patrick Vieira setting up Petit for France’s third. Brazil had been comprehensively beaten. France were the world champions.

The fallout

While France celebrated their first World Cup, an inquest into Brazil’s non-performance was beginning to rumble. The spotlight was thrust upon Zagallo and he admitted the fears over Ronaldo affected his team psychologically. “For the whole of the first half I was wondering whether to take him off,” he said. But Zagallo became angry when probed further about Ronaldo’s condition and eventually stormed out of the room, shouting “I have my dignity.” All was not well.

So why didn’t Zagallo remove Ronaldo? First, he said, he did not fancy dealing with the outcry if he had substituted him. Yet conspiracy theories also abounded, the most prominent of which was that Nike had pressurised Brazil into playing Ronaldo. Two and two were added together and it was alleged that Nike used its £105m sponsorship deal with the CBF, the Brazilian football federation, to push for the inclusion of the most marketable player. “Here was a 21-year-old player, the best player in the world, surrounded by contracts and pressure,” Roberto Carlos said. “It was as if this was always going to happen to him. Something had to give. And when it did, it happened to be the day of the World Cup final.”

For many in Brazil, pointing the finger of blame at a major corporation made sense and gave a voice to fears that money was ruining the people’s game. As the protests in Brazil against Fifa and this year’s World Cup have demonstrated, that feeling has not gone away. However, Nike swiftly and strongly denied allegations that it had exerted any influence over Ronaldo and was never proven to have done anything untoward.

Slowly but surely, though, details began to seep out and it became clear that the supposed ankle injury was a cover story. “It was as if a malaise had come over him,” Roberto Carlos said. “Not even he knew what was going on.”

The team doctor, Lídio Toledo, spoke to the media and said: “He was not feeling well this afternoon and now he’s better. What happened to him? Quite simply, he felt faint and after that he went to rest. I stress that he is feeling better now.”

Perhaps he was but soon the Brazilian newspaper O Globo was reporting that the decision had been taken out of the hands of Zagallo and Toledo by Ricardo Teixeira, the head of the CBF and the son-in-law of João Havelange, the outgoing president of Fifa.

The paper claimed Teixeira was told that Ronaldo had to play and also that the player had said he was ready. The only statement Ronaldo made was to tell Globo television a few weeks later that he was not a coward. He has since maintained that he was fit. At a low-key reception to welcome home the squad, he recalled the moment his world fell apart. “I don’t remember properly but I went to sleep and then, like the doctor said, it seems I had a seizure for 30 or 40 seconds,” Ronaldo said. “I woke up and then my whole body was in pain. But with time the pain got less and I relaxed a bit.”

Brazilians were unsatisfied. Zagallo lost his job. Coaches followed him out the door, doctors too, and an inquest was launched in Brazil’s national congress. There it emerged that the squad had lunch before the final, before returning to their rooms at the Château de Grande Romaine hotel at about 2pm, whereupon Ronaldo, who was with Roberto Carlos, began to have a fit, his body convulsing and his mouth frothing. When Roberto Carlos began screaming for help, Edmundo, who was in the next room, came in to find the shocking scene.

“César Sampaio, the defender, was the first person to administer first aid,” Alex Bellos wrote in the Guardian in 2002. “He got to Ronaldo before the doctors did and, with Edmundo holding him down, put his hand in Ronaldo’s mouth to unravel his tongue and prevent him swallowing it.” Ronaldo then fell asleep. People looked in on him every minutes but he did not wake up until tea, when Leonardo insisted that he should be told about what happened.

Toledo and one of his colleagues, Dr Joaquim da Mata, examined Ronaldo and he was taken to the Lilas clinic in Paris at 5pm. One suggestion, made at a later date, was that Ronaldo had been given a valium to calm him down but the tests showed nothing and he was given the all-clear at 6.30pm, arriving at the stadium at 8.10pm and telling Zagallo that he wanted to play. So he played, apparently neither the manager nor the team doctors wishing to stand in his way. “Imagine if I stopped him playing and Brazil lost,” Toledo told the commission. “At that moment I’d have to go and live on the North Pole.”

Zagallo also angrily denied he had been ordered to pick Ronaldo. “If there had been interference, I would have resigned,” he said. “I have never accepted interference as coach of any club or national team.”

For all Zagallo’s protests, it was highly debatable whether Ronaldo was the best person to decide whether he was ready to play the biggest game of his life seven hours after having a convulsion. Professor Alex Caetano de Barros, employed by Internazionale, Ronaldo’s club, to examine the striker, said letting him play was “an absolute error, since the 24 hours after a convulsion are those when a recurrence is most likely”.

Could the painkillers Ronaldo was taking have been behind his collapse? A month after the final, Da Mata spoke out. “Never, in all these years, have I seen before a player with a convulsion,” he said. “I see young Ronaldo that day and I’m thinking tragedy.” He said that he had prescribed a common painkiller after Ronaldo aggravated a knee injury early in the tournament and said it was taken orally rather than being administered via an injection, which would have been too dangerous. “The medicine we use is not so strong, to cause convulsion,” Da Mata concluded.

Globo would also hear from an anonymous team official that Ronaldo was given an injection of a cortisone with anaesthetic on the morning of the final. It was later claimed in the Brazilian press that the drug had entered a vein accidentally.

Whatever the truth, and there are many shades of grey here, Jogo Bonito has rarely looked so ugly. But there was to be a happy ending when, after four years of being tormented by knee injuries, Ronaldo grabbed his chance of World Cup redemption by scoring the goals that helped Brazil beat Germany in the final in 2002. Older, wiser and a little larger, O Fenomeno was back.

De Futebol Brasil Blows out Austria 3-0

Brasil destroyed Austria 3-0 in the guy’s last match before the World Cup starts this Thursday in Russia.

The Daily Mail:” Brazil concluded their World Cup preparations in style with a convincing victory over Austria in Vienna on Sunday afternoon, with the man everybody is talking about, the returning Neymar, again getting back among the goals.

The world’s most expensive footballer is officially back with a bang, after missing the majority of the year so far through injury. His strike here in Vienna did not just confirm his return to the elite stage, but etched his name in Brazil’s record books.

Now on 55 strikes for his nation, Neymar drew level with Brazilian icon Romario. Only Ronaldo (62) and Pele (77) now have more that the 26-year-old pin-up boy

Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring for the Selecao after captialising on a rebound from a long-distance Marcelo shot.

The fleet-footed forward picked up the ball inside the area, flashing a quick check to ascertain being onside, before expertly opening up his body to curl the ball into the far corner of the goal past the helpless Austria ‘keeper Heinz Lindner.

The Selecao were left to rue further missed opportunities until the moment many inside the stadium had been expected happened, late in the second half.

A driving run from Willian put the Austrians on the back foot before the Chelsea man expertly picked out Neymar, lurking inside the area, with a chipped pass.

Making his first start since breaking a bone in his foot back in February Neymar twisted and turned, jinking around his marker before dropping a shoulder to set the goalkeeper off guard.

A clean sweep of the right foot and the ball was slotted home, with Brazil two goals to the good.

Moments later it was three, Philippe Coutinho getting in on the action after being played through on goal by his former Liverpool team-mate Roberto Firmino.

The playmaker enticed the goalkeeper off his line, before shaping up to dink the ball delicately into the exposed corner of the Austria net.

Firmino embraced his once Merseyside partner in crime as the duo sealed victory for Tite’s side, sending out a solid message to rivals ahead of the showpiece tournament in Russia.

Brazil will take to the competition among the favourites, though must overcome Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in order to progress from Group E into the latter stages of the tournament.

The Selecao haven’t lifted the famous trophy since their triumph in Japan and South Korea in 2002.

With Neymar back, and in such tantalising early form, the tides could be set to turn in favour of the South Americans once more.

De Futebol Brasil wins! A 2-0 win over Croatia!

Neymar is back. He scored to lead Brasil to a 2-0 win over Croatia in a World Cup tune up match.

The Daily Mail:” The routine was just as you will have remembered: head bowed, hands pointing to heaven before blessing himself then breaking into a sprint.

It had been 98 days since Neymar had last gone through that custom before a game but here he was on the side of the pitch, bedecked in that famous, shimmering No 10 shirt of Brazil, ready for action just in time for the World Cup.

Neymar has been prolific on Instagram since breaking his metatarsal on February 25 – there have been 60 posts to his 93million followers, along with a raft of short video stories – but was he physically ready to be prolific in Russia? It was the only question that needed answering at Anfield.

He had eased himself into this friendly with Croatia, with a couple of routine passes and one shot that was comfortably gathered by Danijel Subasic but then, in the 69th minute, the world’s most expensive footballer came to life in the most glorious fashion.

After receiving a pass from Philippe Coutinho, Neymar began to dance into the area. His touch was sure and hypnotic, his intent clear – two Croatia defenders were put on their backsides as he moved his hips, then the ball, one way then another. The finish that followed was just as emphatic.

From the corner of the six-yard box, he hoodwinked another red-and-white shirt before slamming a drive into the roof of the net in front of The Kop. How he enjoyed it, heading off at speed and jumping into the air before being engulfed by his team-mates.

This was a goal that epitomised all that is good about Brazil, the skill and the effortless samba style, in one devastating moment yet, ironically, it didn’t even illicit the biggest cheer of the day – that was reserved for local hero Roberto Firmino’s injury time strike to complete a 2-0 win.

But the significance of this goal – his 54th for Brazil – could not be lost. It was, of course, spectacular but also soothing, reassuring a nation that the man in whom so many dreams are entrusted will be close to peaking for the opening World Cup assignment against Switzerland in Rostov.

To describe Brazil as a one-man team would be nonsense but what the Paris Saint-Germain star does is elevate them to another level entirely.

Before he had been introduced, they had looked tentative and struggled to breakdown Croatia’s defence, but Neymar transformed everything.

The first half, in terms of action, had been instantly forgettable. Brazil – the admirable Willian apart – operated at a speed that was only just above training ground level and Croatia actually had the best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes, when Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren crashed a header wide.

Croatia, whose World Cup group consists of Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland, were disciplined and looked comfortable but the sight of Neymar changed their mind-set and introduced doubt; they barely got forward in the second period, anxious about leaving space for Neymar to exploit.

Staying back, though, did them no good.

The more they retreated, the more it became inevitable that Brazil would score and so it proved.

The gloss was applied to the final score in injury time when Firmino raced onto a ball from Manchester City’s Danilo and lobbed Subasic.