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Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
# like watching brazil
Brazil send out World Cup statement with stunning dismantling of South Korea
Brazil scored a collection of stunning goals in a 4-1 win.

Brazil 4

South Korea 1

WITH THIS ITS final game, Stadium 974 will now be disassembled and erected elsewhere, its next destination rumoured to be Uruguay. 

In truth it should be rebuilt in a museum to commemorate Brazil’s valedictory, first-half  performance. Clear out the Temple of Dendur at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art: anyone who saw Brazil’s third goal will agree that it’s had its day.

This was an absolute Nike Ad of a performance from Brazil, scything through sorry South Korea with the kind of football they used to play in airports. Rarely have we seen such a concerted mastery of time itself: the opening two goals owed to Vinicius and Neymar’s exquisite calmness, while the heady, bewildering third was a devastatingly quick swish of a switchblade. Brazil led 4-0 at half-time and declared at that, South Korea’s goal a meagre consolation during an endgame in which Tite betrayed his priorities by giving some gametime to his third-choice goalkeeper. 

South Korea were admittedly patrons to Brazil’s art, defending with all the conviction of an Irish person caught skipping a queue. Oh yeah, sorry, you’re supposed to be there? Sorry yeah, of course, go ahead.

But this was didactic art from Brazil: it made a statement. The Samba music that greeted each goal over the PA system resembled a drumbeat ominous to anyone else who has pretensions of winning this World Cup.

Brazil returned to full strength after rotating against Cameroon, with Neymar fit to return to a very attacking line-up. Casemiro was picked to hold fort behind him along with Vinicius, Lucas Paqueta, Raphinha and Richarlison and if you had reason to wonder if Tite got the balance right, you only had the right to wonder for seven minutes.

Raphinha skipped brilliantly by his marker on the right wing and though his pull-back missed Neymar, it rolled right through to Vinicius, who set his watch differently to everyone else in the box. As defenders rushed to close him down, Vinicius instead took a touch, paused for longer than many mere mortal would have, and then picked his spot high, in the roof of the net.

Only the great players find time in the penalty area and, sadly, Wooyoung Jung is not one of those. Minutes later the Korean midfielder took too long to clear the ball and thus had it pinched by Richarlison, whom he was adjudged to have fouled. Raphinha briefly shaped to take the penalty before Neymar took the ball from him, shimmying forever around the ball, forcing goalkeeper Seunggyu Kim to squat and then fall over before Neymar rolled it impishly to his left. Neymar promised he would dedicate his first goal to recently-deposed strongman Jair Bolsonaro, though there was no obvious sign he did as Brazil’s 10 outfield players all celebrated together in a huddle before a quartet broke off for their own celebratory dance. 

brazil-v-south-korea-fifa-world-cup-2022-round-of-16-stadium-974 PA Brazil players celebrate together. PA

Neymar was spotted selfishly leaning to the right wing shortly after, dribbling off down a blind alley on a counter-attack rather than slip the ball through the unmarked Vinicius to his left.

Prior to that, another small collector’s item as Alisson Becker was actually forced to make a save. It’s a measure of the steel underlying Brazil’s flair that their brilliant goalkeeper didn’t face a shot on target until the 16th minute of his third game at this tournament, though it was almost his measure when it did finally arrive: Heechan Hwang’s ferocious shot from distance forcing him across his goal to claw the ball over the crossbar.

If Brazil’s first two goals owed to stillness, the third owed to speed. Richarlison nodded the ball in the air thrice to control it and then took a touch to pluck it away from the defender. What followed was a devastating change of pace: Richarlison to Paqueta to Thiago Silva to Richarlison to goal to gleeful celebration to South Korea finally realising what had just happened. It was probably the best goal the tournament has seen since Richarlison’s previous goal.

It was four before half-time, as Brazil showed they could even find art in West Ham, Paqueta arriving right on time to volley Vinicius’ outrageous cross into the far corner. For all the gorgeous gratuity of some of their football, Brazil were cruelly efficient: they scored with their first four shots on target. Seunggyu Kim finally started making some saves after that, first from Richarlison and then twice in the second half from Raphinha, one of those shots coming at the end of a move that began with Thiago Silva’s back heel pass from just outside his own box. It was that kind of night.

Some of Brazil’s finishing did come down to their own nonchalance after half-time, and Tite didn’t exactly scream urgency when he sent on the 39-year-old Dani Alves for the last half-hour. South Korea really should have scored before they did – Alisson saved one-on-one with Son at the start of the second half – while they later had a goalbound shot blocked on its way in by their own striker, Guesung Cho.

The goal, when it came, was spectacular: Seungho Paik firing a long-range volley beyond Alisson. Tite decided squad harmony was the better prize in the closing minutes, taking Alisson off to give a few minutes to third-choice Weverton, to that point the only Brazilian player not to have played at the tournament yet.

The game almost had a fitting crown when Dani Alves took to the sky for an acrobatic finish to a cross, but his shot was blocked away in front of the line. 

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brazil-v-south-korea-fifa-world-cup-2022-round-of-16-stadium-974 PA Brazil fans send a message of support to Pele. PA

The Brazil fans unfurled a banner wishing Pele well during the second half, while the Brazil players posed with their own banner in support after full-time.  The great man was watching on on from his hospital bed, presumably nodding in warm recognition. 

Yes, this is just like watching Brazil. My Brazil. 

Brazil: Alisson (Weverton 81′), ; Eder Militao (Dani Alves, 63′), Thiago Silva (captain), Marquinhos, Danilo (Bremer,72′); Casemiro, Lucas Paqueta; Raphinha, Neymar (Rodrygo, 81′), Vinicius Junior (Gabriel Martinelli, 72′); Richarlison 

South Korea: Seunggyu Kim; Moonhwan Kim, Minjae Kim, Younggwon Kim, Jinsu Kim (Chul Hong, HT); Inbeom Hwang (Seungho Paik 65′), Wooyoung Jung (Son Junho, HT); Heungmin Son, Jaesung Lee (Kangin Lee, 74′), Heechan Hwang; Guesung Cho 

Referee: Clement Turpin (France) 

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