Renan Lodi and Philippe Coutinho were the stars of the show as Brazil ended their five-match winless streak in emphatic style against South Korea.
Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium was, at times, treated to an exhibition of electric attacking play as the Selecao – in the continued absence of injured Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar – rebounded from last week’s 1-0 loss to Lionel Messi’s Argentina in Riyadh. Their chastened Asian opposition could only produce five pot shots from Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min in response as they fell victim to a 3-0 loss and a third-successive goalless match since last month’s 8-0 World Cup 2022 qualifying-annihilation of Sri Lanka.
A sweeping move down the left in the ninth minute witnessed Bayern Munich loanee Coutinho unleash impressive Atletico Madrid left-back Lodi, whose inch-perfect cross was nodded in by AC Milan’s Lucas Paqueta for a second goal in 11 caps. Coutinho then lashed in a divine free-kick from 25 yards less than 10 minutes before the break, breaking his 10-game international drought.
The best was to come upon the hour mark. Tite’s current generation channelled their World Cup 1970 heroes as Lodi pulled a cross back for on-rushing Manchester City defender Danilo to crash home, via Daegu FC goalkeeper Jo Jyeon-woo’s stung fingertips.
Here are the talking points:
WIDTH IS KING
Think of the Canarinho’s great sides and images of dashing full-backs come to mind.
Carlos Alberto and Everaldo helped light up Mexico almost 50 years ago, while Cafu and Roberto Carlos enshrined themselves in the annals of the game with victory in the 2002 edition (held partly in South Korea, of course).
Under Tite, however, defensive midfielders and conservative full-backs have steadily become en vogue. Brazil prided themselves on keeping six clean sheets out of seven matches, on home soil, this summer as they earned Copa America victory.
They’ve also since become bogged down in a bid to fit the likes of Roberto Firmino – who dropped out on Tuesday evening – and Coutinho into one XI.
This friendly in the UAE’s capital, then, felt like a joyous throwback.
Lodi and Danilo were heavily involved in an offensive fashion throughout. City’s Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho caused chaos out wide, feeding into Everton forward Richarlison.
The link-up play between Lodi and Coutinho, in particular, was worth the price of admission alone.
Sterner tests lie ahead. Korea have now only beaten Brazil once in six meetings, while 36 places separated the sides in the FIFA rankings.
But this was fun – and it was effective.
SON V BRAZIL
Attention naturally drifts towards Son whenever the Taegeuk Warriors are involved.
The 27-year-old warmed up for this international break with three goals in his last two club run-outs. Only retired Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung and 1980s Bundesliga icon Cha Bum-kun have made similarly outsized impacts in Europe among his countrymen.
This match, however, felt like an exaggerated version of the above statement.
I’ve also lost count of how many times Son lost the ball after forcing himself to take players on when there were passing options available for him. Korea’s passing and attacking phase in general actually looking much quicker and more fluid when they’re not going through him.— Steve Han • 한만성 (@realstevescores) November 19, 2019
The forward peppered efforts at Liverpool No1 Alisson whenever he got even the slightest glimmer of goal. Whether this aided, or hampered, Bordeaux striker Hwang Ui-jo and Red Bull Salzburg’s Hwang Hee-chan is one for head coach Paulo Bento to digest.
Son’s acceleration managed to get him into several tantalising counter-attacking positions, only for better-placed options to be, criminally, ignored.
Bento spoke pre-match about the step-up in class after his side has “controlled and dominated Asian opposition”.
This disparity was reflected in possession (57 per cent/43 per cent). But Son’s one-man mission made the attempts count far closer (16/13).
This wasn’t, necessarily, for the better.
RODRYGO’S TIME WILL COME
There was an air of anticipation pre-match that a piece of history would be made in Abu Dhabi.
A first senior international start for breakout Real Madrid teenager Rodrygo appeared possible, if not plausible. This, however, wasn’t to be.
The forward with five goals in six 2019/20 club outings was thrown on in the final throes, for a second cap.
Tite, naturally, will feel content about his team’s work versus Korea. But a welcome problem may soon be presented in integrating the ex-Santos starlet into his XI, moving on.
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