Neymar looks as good as new and other Brazil talking points from win over Austria

Matt Jones - Editor 20:48 10/06/2018
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Brazil came through a testing fixture against a tenacious Austria with a 3-0 triumph on Sunday, some of the football played by Tite’s side a joy to behold.

Victory in Vienna was not a given as the hosts made their Russia-bound opponents work for their win.

Three sublime goals were scored, Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus curling them ahead in the first half.

Neymar added a second following the break, with Philippe Coutinho sealing victory soon after, as the Samba Boys danced to an eventually convincing victory.

Neymar as good as new

Neymar showed no ill effects of the injury that had sidelined him since February.

Neymar showed no ill effects of the injury that had sidelined him since February.

Having made his return from injury in last week’s 2-0 win over Croatia, Neymar started his first game in more than three months and looked like he’d never been away.

There was no sense of easing him in gently back into the fold to get him back up to full speed. He was sharp and lively from kick-off and even shrugged off a worrying early knock to run the show.

It’s clear that injury or no injury, he is going to remain Brazil’s focal point and coach Tite is not going to alter the strategy that ensures play goes through their talisman.

Brazil’s attack bristled throughout, but it was clear the Paris Saint-Germain star was the one orchestrating play.

He brought out all his tricks and flicks in an impressive performance, a fierce 18th-minute shot showing his injury has not taken away any of his power.

He grabbed a goal in the 63rd minute that killed the game and showed the 31 other teams in the World Cup that the injury to the Selecao star hasn’t seen him lose any of his killer instinct, as he sat down Aleksandar Dragovic before calmly rolling under Heinz Lindner. Dragovic was hauled off shortly after.

It was his 55th for his country, which moves him into third place all-time alongside Romario. And he’s only 26.

He linked effortlessly with team-mates – one sumptuous backheel for substitute Roberto Firmino deserved a finish, only overworked Austria stopper Lindner denying a fourth with a superb stop with his left boot.

A valuable experiment

Marko Arnautovic and Austria provided a stern test for Brazil.

Marko Arnautovic and Austria provided a stern test for Brazil.

Much has been made of the standard of opposition lined up by some of the elite nations heading into the World Cup.

While fellow South American giants Argentina have warmed up with a 4-0 thrashing of Haiti and two games, including against 132nd ranked Nicaragua, cancelled, Tite has severely challenged his players.

They began with that 2-0 win against fellow World Cup participants Croatia last week, while Austria provided robust opposition.

Franco Foda’s men are no slouches and are ranked 26th in the world. They possess plenty of experience and talent in versatile Bayern Munich man David Alaba, tenacious Bayern Leverkusen midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger and maverick West Ham attacker Marko Arnautovic.

And despite not having a World Cup to prepare for – they have not appeared now in 20 years – Foda’s side were not giving an inch, enjoying plenty of the ball and testing the Brazilian defence, especially in a highly competitive first half.

The season has long been over for their players, but they thundered into the challenge presented to them – with 14 fouls committed against Canarinho players.

They may not have appreciated it during the 90 minutes but this was a character building exercise for the men in yellow.

European feel to Brazil side

Philippe Coutinho is one of 19 European-based players in Brazil's 23-man squad.

Philippe Coutinho is one of 19 European-based players in Brazil’s 23-man squad.

If it seems there is a heavy European feel to this Brazil squad – it’s because there is. Nineteen of Tite’s 23 ply their trade in the world’s footballing heartlands. Only four of the squad are based outside – Corinthians duo Cassio and Fagner, Gremio’s Pedro Geromel and Renato Augusto who represents Beijing Sinobo Guoan in the Chinese Super League.

It is the second highest European contingent to make up a Brazil squad at a World Cup, with 20 European-based players selected by the Selecao in both 2006 and 2010.

What it leads to is harmony in the squad and an understanding that was obvious against Austria, even though they may be some way off reaching peak form for Russia.

Most of the squad are familiar with each other having come face to face with each other for their various club sides this season in the Champions League. Meanwhile, Casemiro and Marcelo, Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho, Neymar and Thiago Silva and Gabriel Jesus and Danilo are team-mates at Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City respectively, so are even more in tune with one another.

All in all it adds up to a squad in harmony with each other. In the second half this resembled a training session for Brazil and they look primed for a real push to land a record-extending sixth Jules Rimet trophy.

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