Brazil looks like the favorite of the World Cup and the high performance of South Korea

This is what Brazilian football looks like at its best. A beautiful game – skill and wit, and the canaries in yellow Selecão, literally danced with joy, even manager Tite joined in.

It was a great game, or close enough, as Brazil cut through South Korea with crisp passing, brilliant dribbling and the kind of play that reminded us of what this team is capable of. It was a 4-1 Round of 16 victory for Brazil, who might be the favorites for this tournament right now, not just because of the lopsided score, but because of the way it happened.

A column headline on the website of Folha de São Paulo, one of the country’s leading newspapers, says it best: “Brasil não dava espectáculo de tão alto nível em Copas desde o penta.” Translated: “Not since Brazil put on such a high-class show at the World Cup for the fifth time,” as in their fifth title in 2002.

“We dream [sixth] “Obviously,” Neymar said in Portuguese, according to ESPN Brazil. “But we have to go step by step. Today is the fourth game, we have three games left.”

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Brazil’s Neymar celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal from the penalty spot against South Korea.
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Richarlison scored the goal of the tournament with a bicycle kick against Serbia, followed by Brazil’s third in the 29th minute. He broke free from the defender after passing the ball to Marquinhos. After a pass from Marquinhos to Thiago Silva and later to Richarlison, the Everton striker slotted the ball past Kim Seung-gyu – a superb goal to seal a stunning victory for the team.

These two sides were on a different level, and to say that is no disservice to South Korea, who have acquitted themselves well in the tournament. Brazil dominated the ball, suffocating South Korea in midfield, passing and scoring in a manner reminiscent of the Selecao of yore.

“Over time, we have grown in competition,” Vinicius Jr. told TV Globo in Portuguese. “Every game we are more confident and more in tune.”

Starting from the seventh minute of the game, Vinicius completed the pass of Rafinha and made the score 1:0, the match belonged to Brazil. Six minutes later, Neymar – back from an ankle injury – converted a penalty after Richarlison was fouled in the penalty area to equal Pele’s all-time goalscoring record in a Brazilian shirt.

Neymar said in Portuguese: “I spent the night crying a lot with an injury like the one I got, but everything is fine. It’s worth it, worth the effort. … I think it is fitting that we crown the beautiful things that happen in the end with all the suffering.

Brazil is now 27-1-4 in Neymar’s last 32 games in all competitions. You won’t begrudge them their quarter-final opponents, Croatia, who advanced on penalties after defeating Japan the day before. The last time these two nations met at the World Cup stage was in 2014, when hosts Brazil won 3-1 thanks to an own goal and Neymar scoring twice.

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Richarlison (l) and Vinicius Junior (r) celebrate after Brazil’s goal on Monday.
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That tournament ended with what the Brazilians call the Mineirazo – a 7-1 defeat to Germany at home in the Estadio do Mineirao in the semi-finals, which left a mark on the hearts of the football team. It could end with some healing in the form of a first World Cup win in 20 years.

If that happens, there are still three wins to go, and not all of them will be easy. Brazil will be strong favorites against Croatia, but the winner of Argentina and the Netherlands will advance to the semi-finals. The Netherlands beat Brazil in the quarter-finals in 2010 and beat them in the third-place match in 2014; Argentina defeated the Selecao at home in the 2021 Copa América final and Lionel Messi played his last shot at the Jules Rimet Cup.

And Monday afternoon was not the expected day. It was to play with endless joy.

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The game was a complete carnival until the break, when Brazil took a 4-0 lead in the 36th minute. That pass went from Richarlison to Vinicius to Lucas Paqueta.

Perfection has been made the norm. Music created sports.

“Okay, we’ll continue dancing,” said Vinicius, “until the finale.”

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