DOHA, Qatar — Brazil looked every bit like the tournament favorite as they danced and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 4-1 win over South Korea at 974 Stadium, knocking the last team from Asia out of the World Cup.
If there were any thoughts that South Korea could hang with Brazil, those faded almost immediately. Vinicius Junior got Brazil on the scoreboard just seven minutes into the game.
1. Neymar and Danilo return to fuel Brazil
The shadow cast over Brazil by Neymar‘s ankle injury loomed large over the past week. To lose him and Danilo in the opening game didn’t necessarily figure to impact the team’s chances to advance early in the tournament, but it could have posed some longer-term problems for the knockout stage. When Neymar got the go-ahead Sunday, the conversation shifted to: “We’ll see how fit he looks.”
The verdict is in: He’s back. All the way back.
For 80 minutes, Neymar moved around the field without a sign of a player with an injury concern. And in the first half, before Brazil took its foot off the gas, Neymar’s presence commanded South Korea‘s attention more than anyone else.
The space Neymar created for the rest of Brazil’s embarrassment of attacking riches made for one of the most exciting attacking displays this World Cup has seen. That, combined with Danilo’s return, bodes well for Brazil, particularly after Danilo’s efforts contributed to unbalancing South Korea in the midfield, which made them so vulnerable repeatedly.
Brazil’s 4-0 halftime lead is tied for the second largest at the break ever in a World Cup (the only larger margin was Germany‘s 5-0 lead against Brazil in 2014).
2. More dancing than defending
Early during the tournament, Brazil forward Raphina let it slip that the Selecao had prepared 10 dances to celebrate goals with. Sure, maybe it was a little arrogant, but it illustrated the mindset of where this team was.
They came to score — a lot — and have fun doing it. But after a group stage that saw the Brazilians find the back of the net just three times, the need for additional choreography in Qatar didn’t seem likely.
Then came the onslaught. With every beautifully taken goal against South Korea, a new dance followed. Even Tite, the 61-year-old coach, got in on the action. With the outcome determined, the game turned into a celebration. A carnival in the desert, if you will.
Brazil didn’t just put on an absurd show of skill and technical ability, it reminded the world that they play a game. And even on sports’ biggest stage, games are meant to be fun.
3. Exit doesn’t diminish successful World Cup for South Korea
In a group with Portugal, Uruguay and Ghana, it was possible that South Korea could have played to their potential in Qatar and still not reached the knockout rounds. That they got out of the group, leaving Uruguay behind the in the process, guaranteed this to be remembered as a successful tournament.
Maybe after seeing some shocking upsets in the group stages, there was false hope that the same was possible against Brazil, but the gulf in talent was apparent just minutes into the game.
There isn’t a single player on the South Korean roster that would crack Brazil’s starting XI — yes, including Son Heung-min — and when that’s the case, there’s no need to be critical about such a lopsided defeat.
For Son, the World Cup could have gone better. He’s one of best attacking players in the world, so for him not to score in any of the team’s four games is disappointing. Still, this was only the third time South Korea reached this stage of the tournament and they have taken part in every World Cup since 1986.
Brazil: Alisson 7, Danilo 7, Thiago Silva 7, Marquinhos 7, Casemiro 7, Lucas Paqueta 8, Richarlison 8, Neymar 8, Raphinha 8, Eder Militao 7, Vinicius Junior 8
Subs: Bremer 6, Dani Alves 6, Rodrygo 6, Bariel Martinelli 6, Weverton n/a
South Korea: Kim Seunggyu 5, Kim Jinsu 5, Kim Minjae 5, Jung Wooyoung 5, Hwang Ibbeom 5, Son Heung-min 6, Cho Guesung 6, Lee Jaesung 5, Hwang Heechan 5, Kim Moonhwan 6, Kim Younggwon 6
Subs: Hong Chul 5, Paik Seung-Ho 5, Son Jun-Ho 5, Lee Kang-In 5, Hwang Ui-Jo 5
Best and worst performers
BEST: Richarlison, Brazil
There is an unwritten rule here that if a goal comes at the end of an intricate passing sequence initiated the three consecutive headed juggles by the goal scorer, that player gets recognized in this space. It was more than moment of magic from Richarlison, he was at the heart of Brazil at attack as it took control.
WORST: Kim Jin-Su, South Korea
Kim Jin-Su had a rough night at left back, which was going to be a tough assignment for someone used to defending in the K-League.
Highlights and notable moments
The highlights from this match are plentiful — as long as you are a Brazil fan.
It took only about six minutes for Brazil to start the party as South Korea’s defense was knocked off kilter. Vinicius Junior calmly picked out his spot and fired past goalkeeper Kim Seung-Gyu.
It took just 7 minutes for Brazil to take the lead ⚡️
Vinícius Júnior gives Brazil the lead 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/KPngbHAP5T
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 5, 2022
More goals followed, with Neymar scoring a penalty in the 13th minute and Richarlison in the 29th.
By that point, it became pretty clear that South Korea were not going to be able to stop this party and Brazil’s manager, Tite, even joined in on the dancing celebrations.
Tite joins in on the fun 😂🇧🇷🕺 pic.twitter.com/JXnAe8JHnG
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 5, 2022
After the match: What the players and managers said
Neymar on returning from injury: “I am very happy to be back in the field of play, happy to have played well and now being called the Man of the Match is difficult as everyone played very well. We are happy with our performance. We wanted to move to the next round, win and that’s what we got.”
Neymar on how he feels after his injury: “Pain? No, I did feel any pain on my ankle — I think my performance was good. I am very content with my performance. That said, I can always improve, I cannot be 100% satisfied with the performance today — we need to grow as our team and I think the prize is not for me, but for everyone. I am very happy with the performance of my teammates.”
Neymar on the support he’s received: “I only have words of thanks for all the love they sent my way. When I got injured I spent a difficult night, I was thinking of a million different things. I was afraid of not being able to play in the World Cup again. I have the support of my family, colleagues and I looked for strength where I could not find it. When I was reading the messages of encouragement, it was good for me. So thank you for those who sent me messages since the first minute I got injured.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
With his goal against South Korea, Neymar joins Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xherdan Shaqiri and Ivan Perisic as the only players to score in each of the last three FIFA World Cups.
Neymar’s last six national team goals have been penalties. Neymar has converted his last 13 penalty kicks for Brazil (shootouts not included).
Neymar has become the third Brazilian player to score in three different editions of the World Cup, alongside Ronaldo and Pelé.
Brazil: With their win, Brazil move onto the quarterfinals where they will face Croatia on Dec. 9.
South Korea: The South Koreans are out of the World Cup.