An attacking quartet of Neymar, Richarlison, Rafinha and Vinicius Jr. swept aside a tired South Korean side to win their round of 16 tie and fight their way to the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup.
The Brazilians came to party. Their fans – a canopy of canaries – sang and danced. Cameras panned to that quintessentially Brazilian image – a fan painted in yellow and blue holding up a World Cup trophy. The cool kids had come to Stadium 974 in Doha on Tuesday for Brazil’s Round of 16 game.
The Koreans for their part had become an already heavily loaded party in this game. Their coach had talked about how physically taxing the last win against Portugal was. He said 72 hours was much shorter than the time it took for his players to regain energy in their bodies. He talked about how Brazil are favorites and they should look at different strategies to stop them. He finally said that none of this meant that they would give up and that they would try their best.
Brazil on their way to the quarterfinals! 🇧🇷@adidasfootball | #FIFA world cup
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 5, 2022
The resistance lasted six minutes. And it couldn’t have fallen into a more joyful group. The energy difference from the first goal alone spoke volumes about where this match would go. Rafinha blasting forward and clearing his marker, then cutting the ball back into the goal followed by the ball being held by Vinicius Jr. should have elicited a calm response from South Korea. But instead there was a stampede of players, including their goalkeeper. Vinicius simply watched the approaching rush of players in all his silence, didn’t care an inch and put the ball in his far left corner. First goal out of the way, the Brazilian players rushed to the sidelines to dance.
Three minutes later they were awarded a penalty. It was the South Koreans’ nervous energy again, with their defender trying to clear the ball but catching Richarlison’s foot instead. Neymar moved to the spot and converted his penalty – despite Korean keeper Kim Seung-gyu staying to the right of his goal and only starting to move into the middle as Neymar’s run-up began. It was showmanship in the face of the kindest of doom. Neymar, for his part, saw the antics and scored anyway.
What a first half performance! 🇧🇷⚡️#FIFA world cup | #Qatar2022 pic.twitter.com/zVRiKvd3Hr
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 5, 2022
There are few bigger problems in football than being 2-0 down to Brazil in a World Cup knockout match. Do you lag behind and stop the stream of targets coming your way? Or do you try to back down, hope for a miracle and keep the game open. The Koreans went for door no. 2. The next few minutes would show how bad that option was.
The Koreans were tired but also paralyzed by their tactical choices. Their defensive line kept retreating to their own territory and was then quietly followed by the midfield. The result: an open field for Brazil to march in and then a group of disjointed players to dance around. Richarlison scored the Seleção’s third. The move started with a dribbling match which he won by bouncing the ball three times on his head before finally bringing it down and passing the ball to Marquinhos – who had felt it necessary at this point to play in an attacking midfielder and his assessment fulfilled. with a pass to Thiago Silva – who had also deemed it necessary to be up front with his defensive partner. Silva then slipped in a pass that cut through the Korean defense and landed plum at the feet of Richarlison, who had continued his run. The striker slammed his left foot into the goal and promptly ran to the touchline to dance with his teammates and later sat down on the bench for an impromptu performance with Brazilian boss Tite.
The fourth goal followed before the end of the first half and was another Korean midfield problem. It’s hard enough to defend against an oncoming Brazilian wave, but to put yourself in a four-on-four situation against Vinicius Jr, Richarlison, Rafinha and Neymar is asking for a goal and that’s exactly what happened.
Richarlison flew forward with the ball at his feet and passed to Neymar, who quickly deposited the ball to Vinicius Jr. Lucas Paqueta, who arrived late, reached the ball and scored. He too went to the sideline and danced away. The referee soon blew his whistle and the camera cut to the face of a Korean supporter, face painted red and blue, solemnly watching as a sea of yellow sang the praises of their team around him. It was indicative of how over their heads the Koreans were. Tired, lack of mentality for a stage like this and against a Brazilian team in the mood for a tear-up, the perennial Asian giants were outclassed and how.
In the second half there was one Korean goal, a lone bang from far away that brought some comfort to their night. But apart from that fleeting moment, the Koreans couldn’t muster much else and quietly exited the World Cup. Brazil has only cemented its reputation as one of the top teams in Qatar and Neymar’s return now sees Croatia face off. Add a victory and then a possible semi-final against Messi’s Argentina beckons.