End of year friendlies and World Cup playoffs in Europe may have been uninspiring and tense affairs this week, so the Latin American footballing world has really put them to shame.
When it came to the latest leg of Brazil’s world tour against Honduras in Miami, Florida it was a case of anything Mexico and Uruguay can do they could do better. Phil Scolari is reaping the rewards of Samba Boys soccer firmly in the groove.
Central American opposition Honduras secured a third successive World Cup qualification ahead of Mexico from the CONCACAF section. The likes of Wilson Palacios and Maynor Figueroa, who have become so familiar to Premier League audiences, were mercilessly put to the sword by Brazil, however.
Against a squad with strength in depth in every area – and only the main striking berth left up for grabs – Honduras were swept aside by two breathtaking second half goals. They went into the break narrowly behind as Tottenham Hotspur’s Paulinho popped up wide right to make a first senior international goal for former Arsenal target Bernard.
Bayern Munich defender Dante then saw his set piece header take a double deflection to make it 2-0 early in the second half. Wingback Maicon later tapped in when Paulinho’s close range effort was kept out as the returning Robinho teed him up.
This comfortable lead established, Big Phil’s Brazil turned on the Samba style. Chelsea summer capture Willian broke his international duck by completing a sumptuous 45-touch move that saw Brazil retain possession beautifully. Building from the back before passing out from there, this attack went through midfield with play switched superbly.
It was a goal crafted by one and two-touch football that Spain would be envious of. Hulk – much maligned back home – goes down in the stats as the assistant for Willian’s goal. He added to this supporting role off the bench by scoring another himself of real quality.
Back-heels from fellow subs Ramires and Robinho set up the Zenit St Petersburg forward to turn into space in a tight area. Hulk then almost nonchalantly passed into the net to cap a five-star Samba Boys showing.
Cynics and detractors will tell us not to salivate too much over this result. After all, Honduras were ranked more than 20 places below Brazil by FIFA. On the other hand Scolari has only suffered two defeats – both by the odd goal – since starting his second spell in charge.
There’s little left for Big Phil to do really. He has eight defenders who all ply their trade at top European clubs and chose to give PSG teenager Marquinhos his international debut for the last 15-20 minutes against Honduras.
Midfield and wide options are also plentiful. It’s just the spearhead of attack that needs some tweaking. Robinho played in false number nine role after Jo put in an anonymous showing in the first half.
Fluminense centre forward Fred is expected to return in the New Year once he has recovered from a hamstring problem after scoring nine times under Scolari. Brazil tackle Chile next having scored 18 goals since winning the Confederations Cup. All the signs suggest they remain worthy of the World Cup favourites tag.