Brazil vs Russia: Neymar Shows As Much Spark As A Urine Drenched Firework

Toothless, lacking cohesion and failing to break down a resolute Russia defence until the last minute. With the World Cup edging closer, it's crucial that Scolari finds his best XI as soon as possible.
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Toothless, lacking cohesion and failing to break down a resolute Russia defence until the last minute. With the World Cup edging closer, it's crucial that Scolari finds his best XI as soon as possible.

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Any nation boasting the likes of Neymar, Oscar and Kaka would naturally thrive in the world of football. The trio, amongst others, are recognised as three of the games supreme attacking talents on the international stage, with Brazil national coach Luiz Felipe Scolari – or 'Big Phil' if time is of the essence – vaunting an abundance of options when pushing forward.

Even defensively, the former Chelsea manager can call upon David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Marcelo and Dani Alves to sit in front of number one goalkeeper Julio Cesar to strengthen a backline that, the latter aside, all ply their trade in a title challenging team in their respective leagues.

Yet, regardless of the options available to him, Brazil could only limp towards a 1-1 draw with Russia. The battle of the upcoming World Cup hosts showcased their capabilities at Stamford Bridge on Monday in a game that possessed as much creative spark as a urine drenched firework.

With the assortment of riches available to Scolari, one would've imagined a team of Brazil's stature would have overturned Russia with minimal ease, regardless of the defensive exploits of the eastern European national side, no matter a team as defensive minded as any under Fabio Capello, a facet of his game England fans can only testify to.

However, while there was little, if anything, at stake in west London, O Selecao struggled to break down their international counterparts. Brazil regularly looked to attempt to walk the ball into the back of the net, often opted to adopt the tika-taka – or “pita-pata” to the chaps behind my seated self – approach to the encounter.

Rather than look to test Russia goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov from distance, the opportunities throughout the duration of the 90 minutes were few and far between, an audacious 15 yard backheel from forgotten journeyman Fred the only attempt on target they mustered in the opening 45 minutes.

In the end, Brazil were lucky to have walked away from Stamford Bridge with a draw, Fred's last gasp tap-in saving them from an embarrassment in England's capital. Whether this was a result of Capello's gameplan to frustrate the opposition and hit the South American side on the counter remains to be seen, and credit where it's due if so, but it highlighted a considerable deficiency in the attacking impetus of Scolari's side.

Neymar was regularly stifled when pushing forward, such was the tactical organisation and discipline of Russia. This isn't a case of jumping on the back of the young Santos striker, dubbing him overrated and all the nonsensical garbage that he was labelled following England's 2-1 win over Brazil earlier this year; far from it in fact.

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But when a player of his capability can be silenced to such an extent that I even forgot he was on the pitch until midway through the second half speaks volumes. An ineffectual first half, bar one opportunity that he would've taken had it not been for a last ditch tackle, was the highlight of his encounter.

It's perhaps a worrying facet of their game that Scolari needs to iron out ahead of the World Cup next year. Hosting the Wrestlemania of world football next summer, unfortunately for them, means a distinct lack of competitive action between now and the first game of Brazil 2014, such is their automatic inclusion as hosts.

With nothing but international friendlies to play, throwing in a Confederations Cup for good measure, means Scolari won't be able to garner a complete idea of his preferred and most influential starting XI over the next 15 months.

Of course, the 64-year-old isn't at all to blame, having been in charge of the national for his second stint for a little over four months and seen his team play three times, Monday night included.

Granted, it's fair to say that a full strength first team wasn't available to Big Phil against Russia, with Leandro Damiao and Dede both unavailable, not to mention the distinct lack of match fitness of captain Thiago Silva.

Nevertheless, it makes for little excuse in an encounter of which Brazil should have won. The talent on offer to Scolari is enough to make any nation envious, Spain and perhaps Argentina attacking wise aside.

Yet, with the disorganisation and lack of attacking verve that was on offer at Stamford Bridge, it's worrying for the Canarinha. The reason Mano Menezes was sacked was due to a result of his inability to see the players form any form of cohesion pressing forward. The 1-1 draw with Russia suggested that little, if any, improvements had been made.

Sacking Menezes in the first place was bizarrely timed. Failure to secure gold at London 2012 was supposed to be the end of the 50-year-old's reign with Brazil, but instead the CBF waited for almost four months before handing him his P45.

Yet, with the World Cup edging closer with each passing day, the decision to relieve Menezes of his duties is looking increasingly like the wrong one, or at least wrongly timed. With no competitive fixtures until the Confederations Cup, it hands Scolari little worthy game time to work out his favoured personnel, guiding Brazil to World Cup glory for the first time since 2002 will be that bit harder than originally anticipated, especially if they continuously churn out toothless performances of that against Russia.