It was the celebrations that gave the game away.
Knock-out games are meant to be tense affairs. Even if you score early, it’s heads down, no complacency.
Not where Brazil are concerned. They turned this into party inside seven minutes. A party like 1982. Or 1986. Or, perhaps more auspiciously, a party like 1970.
The personification of that side, Pele, is in hospital gravely ill and they carried a banner with his name at the end. Last night at Stadium 974 they looked worthy heirs of his team.
Brazil outlined their status as tournament favourites with a thumping victory over South Korea
Neymar doubled Brazil’s tally after 13 minutes with a penalty after Richarlison had been fouled
Brazil celebrated each of their four goals with vintage dance routines in true Brazilian style
And they played and celebrated like they know it. Neymar was back – we had feared his ankle injury might keep him out of the rest of the World Cup – yet he wasn’t even the third-best attacking player for Brazil.
Yet he was still the centre of attention. So when Brazil opened the scoring, in the seventh minute, with Raphinha bursting down the left, all of Korea’s four defenders headed to mark him. Which left them a bit of problem when he let it run for Vinicius Junior. Naturally his team-mate scored. And the proceeded to team up Raphinha and Lucas Paqueta and of course Neymar to perform a samba dance routine. Let’s just say they already looked fairly relaxed about the remaining 83 minutes.
When Neymar scored the penalty they were awarded on 12 minutes there was more. A whole dance routine this time, with Neymar in the middle and the rest of the team forming a circle around him, a routine so elaborate it felt like it required a technical breakdown and mark from Craig Revel Horwood.
Pity South Korea. They had 78 minutes more of this and fair play for Wolves’ Hwang Heechan forcing Alison into a fine save shorty after.
The return of their talisman helped Brazil showcase the most impressive half of the World Cup
Vinicius Jr. had opened the scoring for the Selecao with a calm and composed finish
Richarlison also netted as Brazil put on a supreme showing of football during the first half
Lucas Paqueta added a fourth in the 36th minute as he finished off a slick team move
Even Brazil coach Tite got involved after their third goal as he joined in with the celebrations
Still, by the time Richarlison scored what surely will be the goal of the tournament on 29 minutes – having juggled the ball on his head, before taking it down, releasing and connecting with Thiago Silva’s pass to score – just the one dance wasn’t enough.
Having performed the routine once with the first team, he headed off to the bench and coach Tite and the dance commenced again. This what about the time Neymar nutmegged the referee and then beat two Korean players for good measure. We were in Harlem Globetrotters territory when Lucas Paqueta made it 4-0. It really was like watching one of those ‘Brazil’s Greatest Teams’ highlights reels on video tape.
It wasn’t that Brazil weren’t taking it seriously. They were just so much better than their opponents they were devoid of tension.
Neymar returned to the Brazil starting line-up just 11 days after hobbling off against Serbia
Brazil’s fans were jubilant after securing their passage in to the last eight of the World Cup
Neymar is second in Brazil’s all-time record goalscorers, only one behind the legendary Pele
As such, there is hope for the rest of the world. Not so much in Korea’s second half performance, which was enormously creditable, especially Paik Seungho’s excellent goal, given the first half evisceration. By then Brazil were managing minutes to the extent that they brought their third-choice keeper on.
Brazil look phenomenal. It’s just hard to judge. It wasn’t like this when they played Switzerland, a well organised, physical and talented European team.
The group stages made this World Cup seem like the global game was closing the game on the traditional powers. The last 16 had exploded that idea with Holland, France, England and now Brazil strolling through their games with Argentina pretty comfortable.
You might imagine Brazil will have too much for Croatia but how will they react when challenged in the seismic South American showdown with Argentina that looks like it might be the semi-final? Then, on the other side of the draw, unless Morocco can buck the trend, the best team from Europe awaits them in the final. Only then will know for sure. For now, they look every inch one of the great teams.
Brazil’s players brought a banner onto the pitch in support of Pele, who is ill in hospital