Brazil came to life in the 2014 World Cup with a 4-1 win over Cameroon on Monday to secure the top spot in Group A.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men had been distinctly unimpressive in their opening two games, but they turned on the style in Brasilia.
Neymar helped himself to two more goals, while Fred broke his duck for the competition and Fernandinho added a late fourth to set up a second-round meeting with Chile.
It was not all plain sailing for Brazil, as Joel Matip briefly had Cameroon level at 1-1—with his goal highlighting defensive flaws that could prove to be the host nation’s undoing later in the tournament.
Brazil were lackluster in the 0-0 draw with Mexico, but the lightning start they made in Brasilia on Monday indicated there was never likely to be a repeat.
A blistering move in the third minute threw down the marker. Neymar fed Hulk who produced a clever pass for Fred, but the striker’s effort was charged down.
Hulk, who was a key absentee against Mexico, was in the thick of the action and he found Fred once more shortly afterward, but again the forward’s effort was saved.
Cameroon have been one of the biggest disappointments of the tournament, but they threatened to spring to life and spoil the Brazil party on 10 minutes. A drive from Vincent Aboubakar looked bound for the bottom corner, but it was hacked clear by the retreating Marcelo.
Brazil weathered a bit of a storm before striking in clinical style on 17 minutes.
Cameroon were caught in possession in their own half, and they were made to pay a heavy price as Luiz Gustavo delivered a low ball in and Neymar executed a glorious finish into the bottom corner.
Brazil threatened to run away with the game, as Charles Itandje showed strong hands to keep out a stinging volley from Neymar.
But the crowd in Brasilia were stunned into virtual silence on 26 minutes. A matter of seconds after Matip’s header had been deflected on to the bar and over, the same player drew Cameroon level.
Allan Nyom got the better of Dani Alves on the byline and fired in a low cross for Matip, who had stepped in between Marcelo and David Luiz, to slot home.
Cameroon are back in it!Brazils 2 full backs are up there with the best going forward,defending-a myth. Luiz didn't even know he was there🙈— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) June 23, 2014
The crowd were not silenced for long, and it was Neymar once again who brought them to their feet on 34 minutes.
There did not appear to be any obvious danger when Marcelo cushioned a pass into the path of Neymar. But the Barcelona man had his eyes fixed only on the target, as he drove forward before wrong-footing Itandje with a clever finish from the edge of the box.
A minute before the interval, Brazil went close to scoring arguably the goal of the tournament so far. Brilliant one-touch football at lightning pace resulted in the ball dropping to the feet of Hulk, but his shot was charged down.
Four minutes into the second half, Brazil made the game safe. Fred has been short of goals, and seemingly short on confidence. His frustration looked set to continue when Itandje produced a diving save to keep out his fizzing drive.
But from the resulting corner, Brazil recycled play and Fred was on hand to turn home David Luiz’s cross.
There did appear to be a suspicion of offside, but Fred charged away in celebration as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
Brazil's cavalier approach saw them seek out more goals to thrill the home fans, and a slick passing move on 84 minutes resulted in Fernandinho toe-poking home a fourth.
It wasn't really a test for Brazil from the moment Fred grabbed the third. It is sure to be a test when they take on Chile in the second round.
Chile were beaten by Brazil at the same stage four years ago, but Jorge Sampaoli's side are a far tougher prospect and will expose any flaws in the Brazilian defence.
|Cameroon Player Ratings|
|Player||1st-half rating||2nd-half rating|
|Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting||6.5||6|
|Brazil Player Ratings|
|Player||1st-half rating||2nd-half rating|
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (via BBC Sport):
I think Fernandinho coming in was critical and we created a number of good chances in attack. Nature doesn't make leaps, things evolve step by step and this is what we are doing."
If I could choose I would have picked someone else as Chile are a good South American team, they have quality, they are organised they have the will to succeed.
I will look at things when all the adrenaline has left our bodies, sometimes when we look at the match again in the cold light of day we see it in a different way.
Brazil forward Neymar (via BBC Sport):
There is no pressure. I've always said there is no pressure when you are making a dream come true and doing something you have sought after since you were a kid.
I'm now playing in matches that I always dreamed about. I just want to help my fellow players not only by scoring goals but doing whatever it takes on the pitch to help us win.
We are on the right track and the whole team is getting better and getting close to our target.
Cameroon coach Volker Finke was quoted by the BBC's John Bennett as saying:
Volker Finke: "It hurts but it's been an experience for the players. Now we have to concentrate on the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations." #CAM— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) June 23, 2014