The fatal flaws Brazil must address, despite Neymar’s brilliance

The Rio Report

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After an early scare against Croatia and a deeply unconvincing and perhaps worrying performance against Mexico, Brazil have avoided the unthinkable and qualified for the second round of their World Cup as group winners thanks to a 4-1 win over Cameroon.

Neymar produced a masterclass that belied the pressure the most high-profile Brazilian at a home World Cup must be under, sashaying around some admittedly static Cameroon defenders with an insouciance and freedom that very much fits with the general theme of this World Cup.


Indeed, an entire country will be praying that the injury the No.10 appeared to suffer in the second half, which saw him withdrawn before the end of the game, is not serious and his substitution was merely a note of caution from Luis Felipe Scolari.

One shudders to think where Brazil would be without Neymar. The Barcelona man has been largely disappointing for his club side since joining from Santos last summer, a transfer that as we know proved more costly than simply the transfer fee. However, under the pressure of essentially carrying the most storied international football team of all time on his back, Neymar is standing firm and stepping up in a massive way.

The problem is that, while Brazil aren't quite a one-man team at the moment, Neymar is their only attacker who looks close to belonging in a World Cup-winning team.


Fred has reached almost comical levels of ineptitude now. The man is clearly not a bad footballer, but one who is out of his depth at international level, never mind as the starting centre-forward for Brazil. Watching him trying to bundle the ball over the line in the first half was a little like watching someone caught in a duvet cover, scrabbling around in an increasingly desperate attempt to escape, only succeeding in making his plight even funnier for those watching.

The faith placed in him by Luis Felipe Scolari is admirable in many ways, but it is misplaced, and a goal that basically hit him and ricocheted into an empty net shouldn't alter the fact that Fred has no place in a team with aspirations to win the tournament.

The problem is that Scolari doesn't have any particularly appealing alternatives to the Fluminense man. The only other specialist centre-forward in his squad is Jo, who Manchester City fans will be chillingly familiar with and who 'boasts' a career scoring record of under one in three. The only other realistic options are moving Hulk, a man with his own form 'issues', into the centre, or a change in system to make Neymar a 'false nine', which isn't especially appealing given Brazil's golden boy is doing quite nicely in his current role.


There were more signs in Brazil's win over Cameroon that, despite their victories so far, they will come unstuck when they face a half-decent team, and that is exactly what they will do in the next round. Chile have been hugely impressive in the tournament so far, and despite losing to the Netherlands earlier on Monday, they have plenty of players who can hurt a fragile Brazilian backline.

Julio Cesar has hardly played in the last year or so, Dani Alves isn't the player he was, Marcelo has always been a little, shall we say, 'up and down', while David Luiz doesn't exactly inspire confidence and solidity either. At times it seems Thiago Silva is holding things together on his own, something that is a recipe for disaster with Alexis Sanchez in his current buzzing form.

The good news for Brazil is that at least Scolari seems to have seen sense over Paulinho. The Spurs midfielder's form for the national side has differed from that at White Hart Lane, but his anonymous showings in this World Cup so far surely mean he will be dropped for the next game.

Scolari introduced Fernandinho in the second half, and there was almost instantly a change in the Brazil midfield, with more energy from the Manchester City man, energy that manifested itself in a goal, scored via the sort of toe punt Romario would have been proud of.

Brazil are safely through to the second round, but unless their performances improve markedly, they may find themselves embarrassed and out of their own World Cup way ahead of schedule.

Nick Miller - @NickMiller79

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