Opinion, by Robbie Blakeley
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Seleção Brasileira put four goals past Cameroon yesterday (Monday) as they topped Group A with seven points from three outings. They will now take on fellow South Americans Chile at the Mineirão this Saturday in what should be their toughest ask of the FIFA World Cup to date.
With Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas the Chileans possess two forwards capable of using pace as a potent weapon against any defense. The side’s pass and move philosophy was enough to eliminate reigning world champions Spain just two games into the tournament.
Whilst Neymar has risen to prominence with some awe-inspiring performances during the group stages, he cannot haul Brazil forward all on his own. Hulk’s form has been poor and Oscar, after a blistering showing against Croatia in the opener, has been quiet in the last two outings.
But with four goals in three games the Barcelona starlet has been Brazil’s stand-out performer in the competition. Yet a time comes when those around him, particularly in the attacking sector, cannot dump the responsibility of harboring the dreams of a nation on one youngster’s slim shoulders.
The poster-boy for this World Cup during the preparations, Neymar’s performances on the pitch have ensured he is now the beacon of hope for a Brazil side that is not without its problems. The hosts made a slow start against an already eliminated Cameroon side who were without their best player, Samuel Eto’o.
Right-back Daniel Alves, never the most reliable defender even in his pomp, has been ruthlessly exposed during this tournament. For Cameroon’s equalizer he was beaten far too easily down the left flank, allowing Allan Nyom too much space to cross for Joel Matip to touch home.
Central midfielder Paulinho, one of the stars of the country’s Confederations Cup success last June, seems to be going backwards at an alarming rate. After another appalling display in the first half in Brasília, he was replaced by Fernandinho, whose performance surely merits consideration for a starting berth this Saturday.
Fernandinho took less than five minutes to prove his worth to the side, doing everything the Paulinho of 2013 would have done. He put Hulk through on goal; he started in motion the move for Brazil’s third goal; and he put the result beyond doubt in the closing stages by netting the fourth with an ice-cool finish.
Neymar, though, is living up to a reputation carved out long ago in the youth academy of Santos. Given the limelight he has shone and is the principal reason Brazil finished top of their group. But football is a team effort. Left to run the show alone, the curtain will close on Neymar’s one-man act before time.