Man of the moment Neymar shot the seleção to a comfortable 2-0 win over Scotland yesterday, with SKP in attendance at the Emirates stadium. With the match gaining substantial press coverage in the UK, allow me to refrain from providing a regular match report. Instead, I shall review Brazil's performance with player ratings, in partial homage to one of my post-game pub-goers (of which more later). I might rate some other things too...
Júlio César - 7/10
A watching brief for the Internazionale man.
Daniel Alves - 8/10
Outstanding energy. Always an outlet on the right side.
Lúcio - 7/10
A reassuring presence in defence, and burst forward to good effect a couple of times.
Thiago Silva - 7/10
Looked more composed alongside Lúcio than he has with David Luiz. Dealt well with the hard-running Kenny Miller.
André Santos - 8/10
Continues to impress; linked up well with Neymar, powered down the flank, and set up the opening goal. Marcelo might have to wait a while longer to earn a start.
Lucas Leiva - 6/10
Marshalled the defence reasonably well, but passing was fairly wayward.
Ramires - 6/10
Strong in the tackle and full of running, yet a lack of end-product. A case in point; his glorious surging run in the second half, which culminated in a terrible attempted pass to Neymar.
Elano - 7/10
Neat in possession, but not much creativity. Good dead-ball delivery.
Jádson - 4/10
A poor display from the Shakhtar Donetsk man; struggled to make any headway from starting spot on the right, and fared little better in the centre.
Leandro Damião - 7/10
A decent début from the youngster, who led the line with some aplomb. Hit the bar with a towering header, but should have done better with two second-half chances.
Neymar - 9/10
Brazil's standout performer; his tricks and pace provided a constant threat on the left of attack. Scored both goals, but should also be saluted for his contibution to the seleção's pressing game, particularly in the first half.
Substitutes - 6/10
A mixed bag. Young São Paulo flyer Lucas went on a couple of mesmerising runs, and would have picked up an assist if it wasn't for Jonas' lack of composure in the dying minutes. Elias and Renato Augusto didn't do much.
Mano Menezes - 7/10
The Brazil boss implemented a slight formation change in midfield; rather than having a two-player platform in front of the defence and one player in front (e.g. against the USA, Ganso played ahead of Lucas and Ramires), Menezes played two players - Elano and Ramires - in advance of Lucas. This, for the most part, helped Brazil commit numbers to the attack; Ramires was able to contribute down the left, with Elano doing a similar job on the right. The lack of a creative passer, however, remains a problem, and it seems doubtful whether the flipping of the midfield triangle will suit Paulo Henrique Ganso when he returns to the side.
In terms of personnel, there were positives and negatives. Leandro Damião proved an effective fixed point in attack, holding his position to create space for midfield runners and for Neymar. Alexandre Pato, although a more gifted player, cannot really be employed to that end. Lúcio and Elano enjoyed solid games on their return to the side, providing further evidence that Mano's reconciliation of old and new is bearing fruit. The selection of Jádson on the right, however, was problematic. A playmaker by trade, the 27-year-old offered little penetration, often simply passing back down the line to the more dynamic Daniel Alves. A temporary switch of positions with Elano merely replicated the problem. Menezes must wish to avoid the use of two out-and-out attackers on the flanks; otherwise, the selection of Porto winger Hulk on the right would be a no-brainer.
Pre-match entertainment - 9/10
Samba band thumping away on the concourse? Check. Video of all Ronaldo's World Cup goals? Check. Ronaldo actually coming onto the pitch to salute the crowd?! CHECK! The roar that greeted O Fenômeno was one of the best moments of the afternoon, and surely brought a lump to the throat of even the most hardened sceptics.
Stadium music selection - 3/10
The stadium PA blasted out a selection of music to inspire the Scotland fans; "We'll Be Coming Down the Road" and the Proclaimers' "500 miles" were greeted warmly by those from North of the border. Attempts to get the Brazil fans geared up were decidely less succesful. Note to staff at the Emirates; Ricky Martin is not, I repeat IS NOT, Brazilian.
Scotland fans - 8/10
Loud, proud, and be-kilted, the (supposed) away fans created a great atmosphere in the Emirates. When a small pocket of Brazil fans piped up with a chorus of "Eu sou Brasileiro..." where SKP was seated, the Scotland fans respectfully clapped along, before launching into a rousing (but utterly bemusing) rendition of "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music. Weird and wonderful.
The idiot who threw a banana at Neymar - 0/10
Post-match amusement - 10/10
After the game I enjoyed a few drinks with blogging royalty; Michael Cox (of Zonal Marking fame), Rupert Fryer (South American Football don), and Scott Johnston (who runs TheFootyBlog.net). Lovely guys one and all.
(Photo credits; (1) & (3) Writer's own, (2) Tom Jenkins.)