Brazil celebrated its national Independence Day in style on Friday, thumping Australia 6-0 in a friendly encounter at Brasilia’s Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha.
It was nothing short of an imperious display from the hosts, who just last month had followed up their Confederations Cup victory with a 1-0 defeat away to Switzerland.
Coming into the match, head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari may have already had an idea of who was to feature in the 2014 World Cup. However, given the impressive performances from many of his fringe players, the 64-year-old will no doubt have some decisions to make between now and upcoming matches against Portugal and South Korea.
Injuries to Dani Alves, Oscar and Fred had opened starting berths for each of Maicon, Ramires and Jo ahead of Australia’s visit, and all three did nothing to discourage their manager’s faith in them.
Jo, the former Manchester City striker who now represents Atletico Mineiro, scored twice in the first half, and Ramires both assisted Neymar’s 36th-minute goal and got his name on the scoresheet midway through the second half with a commanding header at the far post.
Operating alongside Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo as part of a midfield trio in Scolari’s 4-3-2-1 formation, Ramires was the most impressive of the players recalled to the squad, although Alexandre Pato, the in-form Corinthians striker, also rewarded his manager’s faith with a 73rd-minute strike that completed a lovely bit of interplay involving most of Brazil’s attacking players.
Luiz Gustavo, who joined Wolfsburg from Bayern Munich during the summer, rounded out the scoring with seven minutes remaining after beating Mark Schwarzer with a thunderous, left-footed drive from distance.
Schwarzer, the Chelsea backup, was helpless on each of the Brazil goals and could have done more with considerably better defending from Lucas Neill, Ryan McGowan, Sasa Ognenovski and Matt McKay.
Neill, in particular, was in over his head on this afternoon in having to track the shifty Neymar, who once again put in a stellar showing for the Selecao.
The Socceroos, who had less than one-third of possession in the Brazilian capital, failed to place a single shot on target and only tested Julio Cesar on one occasion midway through the first half when the goalkeeper was compelled to punch away a corner kick.
Key Player Grades
His cross to Bernard after just eight minutes allowed Jo to open the scoring, and he also had a hand in Pato’s goal with 17 minutes left on the clock. But while he scored again for his country, he might have used his teammates a bit more. He often exhibited excellent close control in tight spaces, but he might have done his side a better service on those occasions by laying off the ball to a teammate.
Hulk had a decent enough Confederations Cup, but you still get the feeling this is a position very much up for grabs in the run-up to the World Cup finals. To that end, Bernard, who was deputizing for the injured Zenit St. Petersburg attacker, made the most of his opportunity on Friday, creating numerous opportunities and mixing well with both Maicon and Ramires. All of a sudden the Shakhtar Donetsk playmaker could have a starting spot nailed down in this team.
Lucas Neill: F
You almost have to pity the 35-year-old. Playing in his less-preferred position of right-back, he was hung out to dry against Neymar, who had the running of the former Blackburn and West Ham defender much of the afternoon. He simply couldn’t get a foot-hold in the match. In the aftermath of the loss, Australia manager Holger Osieck will surely come in for some criticism regarding his selections.
Brazil will face Portugal in a friendly encounter in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Tuesday, and on September 18 will contest a home-based international against Argentina in Rio de Janeiro. On October 12, their full squad will be in Seoul to face South Korea. Australia have already qualified for the World Cup and will go up against France on October 12, and Canada on the 16th.
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