Brazil is a country where the passion for the beautiful game runs very high. They are the hosts for the 2013 Confederations Cup which is a test for Brazil for the upcoming 2014 World Cup, which they are also hosting. The opening match of the 8 team (Brazil, Japan, Uruguay, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Tahiti, and Nigeria) tournament sees the hosts taking on the reigning Asian champions, Japan.
It might be hard to believe, but the Samba Kings (Brazil) have lost the confidence of their fans. They are ranked only 22nd overall by FIFA, which is not nearly high enough for the nation that is the only one to have won 5 World Cups. Trying to regain the trust of their ardent fans, Brazil is looking for their third consecutive Confederations Cup. No team has ever done that and that should bring the fans back into the fold.
Japan, dubbed the Samurai Blues, is in a tough group with Brazil and Mexico. Only 2 of the 4 teams will advance putting Japan in a tough place. They are a small, skilled and fast team, but not the most physical. Not a joke, Japan has improved greatly over the past decade as they have dedicated themselves single-mindedly to getting better. They are now ranked a respectable 32nd overall by FIFA and have qualified for the last 5 World Cups. The nation has dominated Asia and is the first country to have qualified for the 2014 World Cup.
In this game Japan would have to be able to withstand periods of intense pressure by Brazil. Coach Alberto Zaccheroni (of Italy) would have his hands full coming up with a defensive scheme to keep Brazil at bay. Japan has never beaten Brazil; they have only tied them twice in 9 games. The last time they met was October 2012 in Poland and Brazil beat Japan 4-0.
The opening game was played in the capital city of Brazilia in the Estadio Nationale. The Nationale was completely redone and was finished in 2012. Pedro Proenca of Portugal is the referee and his whistle signaled the opening of the 2013 Confederations Cup. Brazil was wearing their canary yellow and royal blue strips while Japan was in all white.
Brazil’s coach Luiz Felipe Scolari must have told his troops to get off to a quick start to get the crowd into it and unsettle the Japanese. But he could not have even dared to hope that his team would score the tournament’s first goal a mere 3 minutes into the 1st half. 21-years-old and already a star, Neymar Jr. showed his class notching the game’s first goal with a rocket of a shot. It all started via Brazil’s left fullback Marcelo. The Real Madrid player involved himself deep in the Japanese end and via a long cross found striker Fred. Fred chested the ball. Actually, he was lucky that the referee did not see that the ball hit his left arm. From Fred’s chest it fell to Neymar Jr’s feet. The young striker first timed a wonderful shot from 21 yards out that found nothing but net. It was a quality goal by a young man who hoped to show his class in this tournament.
Japan would have to compose itself if had any hopes of staying in this game after going down so early. Any hope they had of coming back in game would go through playmaking midfielder and Manchester United member, Shinji Kagawa and striker Keisuke Honda.
Brazil had the confidence and there was a party in the stands. Buoyed by the fast start, Brazil controlled the rest of the 1st half. There were no further goals, however.
Any hope that Japan had of coming back for the draw was erased 3 minutes into the 2nd half. 3 minutes into the 2nd half (exactly the same as in the 1st half) Paulinho made it 2-0 Brazil. The man named the best right back in the world, Dani Alves found an unmarked Paulinho in the 18 yard box. After controlling the ball, Paulinho drilled a shot low to keeper Kawashima’s right. The Japanese keeper made a boo boo and let that ball get under him. The pace of the shot probably had something to do with it, but it was a save the Japanese needed.
Japan’s best chance at a goal came right after Brazil had scored their 2nd. In the 49th minute Shinji Okazaki got behind the Brazil defence, but was off balance so his shot went wide.
It started raining late in the 2nd half, but that did not douse the party going on in the stands. In added on time, instead of the desperate Japan getting a goal, Brazil scored another. 3 minutes were added on and that was just enough for substitute Jo to score his first goal for his country. He was sent in alone by Oscar and he left footed it first time calmly past a helpless Kawashima. It was a brilliant run and finish by Jo.
The game showed that Brazil is coming together. Getting an early goal surely helped with their confidence. It also got the fans going early. Neymar demonstrated that he is the star that everyone has been describing him as. Despite some criticism (from even the likes of fellow Samba King Pele) that he goes to ground too easily, number 10 showed his skill. The one thing that Brazil might have to work on is from their keeper. Julio Cesar did not have a ball get beyond him, but he looked anything but a sure thing. He bobbled a couple of routine shots and let off a few rebounds he shouldn’t have. Against sides like Italy and Mexico he is going to have to be steadier.
For Japan, the furthest they have gone in this tournament is the quarter-finals. Success for them in this tournament will be getting out of their group. With the prospect of having to beat both Italy and Mexico to do so is a daunting task to say the least.
Brazil’s next game is on Wednesday against Mexico. It should be a stiffer test for the host nation.
-On-field Officials: Referee – Pedro Proenca (Portugal)
Linesmen: Bertino Miranda (Portugal)
Jose Trigo (Portugal)
-Goals: 1st Half:
3rd minute: Brazil – Neymar Jr.
48th minute: Brazil – Paulinho
90th +3 minute: Brazil – Jo
-Corners: Brazil – 4
Japan – 0
-Shots: Brazil – 9
Japan – 6
-Man of the Match: Neymar Jr. – Brazil
-Final Score: Brazil – 3
Japan – 0