By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Seleção (Brazil’s national team) thrashed South Africa 5-0 yesterday afternoon at Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg, in the squad’s final friendly before coach Luiz Felipe Scolari names his 23-man line-up for the FIFA World Cup. A hat-trick from Neymar, along with strikes from Oscar and Fernandinho, underlined Brazil’s dominance as they took their opponents apart.
The Brazilians started the game comfortably, passing at leisure under little pressure from their hosts. From the moment they took the lead, in the tenth minute, they looked in control and never had to get out of second gear.
Hulk played Oscar through, and his deft chip beat goalkeeper Williams. Right-back Rafinha also found plenty of space down the right flank and has made an excellent statement for a place in the World Cup squad.
Neymar, who put in a man-of-the-match performance, went close to adding a second on 21 minutes after meeting Marcelo’s cross but was thwarted by Williams. At the end, Seleção stopper Júlio césar was left with little to do as the defense was rarely troubled.
Brazil doubled their advantage five minutes before the interval. Neymar burst free of his markers and beat Williams with a powerful left-footed drive that seemed to go straight through the goalkeeper.
Fred almost added a third after excellent build-up work from Oscar and Marcelo but couldn’t get on the end of the cross. Brazil went in two goals to the good at the break but burst out of the blocks in the second half.
It took Neymar just 22 seconds of the restart to add Brazil’s third and kill the game. Fred’s lofted through ball was met by the Barcelona front man who calmly lifted the ball over a stranded Williams.
Willian, who had come on for the second half, almost added a fourth as Brazil began to play with their hosts. Daniel Alves came on for Marcelo on 57 minutes as a makeshift left-back but looked lost in his improvised position.
Jô then entered for Fred, with Dante replacing David Luiz in quick succession. Jô failed to connect with Neymar’s left wing cross with the goal at his mercy, a chance Fred must have rued did not come his way for the hour he was on the pitch.
Yet a fourth did arrive for the Brazilians on 78 minutes, Fernandinho hitting an excellent 25-yard drive that Williams could only watch hit the back of the net. Dani Alves tried his own luck from range but was just wide.
As the game wore down Neymar tried to take on the entire South African side alone, much to the chagrin of his teammates. But he got his hat-trick in stoppage time, converting Jô’s cushioned header.
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