Five things we learnt from Japan 0-4 Brazil: Problems linger for either side
1) Brazil too reliant on Neymar
It was what the fans had hoped to see. Four goals from Neymar certainly showcased just how good the Brazil captain is right now, and there is no doubt that he will one day win the World Player of the Year, given Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both approaching their 30s.
However, it was appalling how much the Selecao had to rely on him over the course of the first half to get themselves going. Though Diego Tardelli linked up well with Neymar for the opener, most of the Brazil midfielders, especially Oscar, were not doing enough to carve open the Japan defence.
That left Neymar with no other option but to try and single-handedly force openings for himself – which he ultimately managed with aplomb.
2) Then Coutinho came along
The introduction of Philippe Coutinho changed the whole dynamic of the game, however. Far more incisive with his passing than either of Oscar and Willian, the Liverpool attacker’s sense of daring led to him racking up two assists in just 45 minutes of action.
His movement from midfield regularly threw Japan off balance as well, allowing his countrymen to take the game by the scruff of the neck. From that point, Brazil never looked like they would relinquish control.
3) Japan remain very much a work in progress
Much of the pre-game comments from Javier Aguirre centered on blooding Japan’s fringe players for the Asian Cup next January.
But, if anything, the performance of his samurai against Brazil left plenty to be desired, and even more for Aguirre to ponder.
Granted, Japan were not expected to beat the former World Cup winners. Yet their soulless second half collapse – when they let in three goals – already makes defending the Asian Cup seem a tremendous task.
Nevertheless, Aguirre may still be able to draw some measure of hope from his men’s first half display. Japan troubled their more glamorous opponents in attack, and only went one down due to a special Neymar goal.
4) Wanted: A prolific Japanese striker
By now, it should be clear that Shinji Okazaki is not the striker to take Japan to the next level on the international stage.
The 28-year-old Mainz striker may have scored 39 goals for the Samurai Blue so far, but once again, lacked the necessary presence to trouble a top-class team.
Standing just 1.74 metres tall, Okazaki struggled to hold up the ball against the imposing Brazil centre-back pairing of Gil and Miranda. And with Javier Aguirre appearing unimpressed by the hulking Mike Havenaar who played no part on Tuesday as a result, the search is definitely still on for that forward who can change a game.
5) A packed national stadium is deafening indeed
Japan versus Brazil was the first time that the newly-rebuilt National Stadium sold out, and the resulting noise packed an aura that raised goosebumps.
At times, the domed roof looked like it was about to be blown off, so strained was it trying to contain the cheering of the fans. Once Neymar bagged his four goals, chants of his name that filled the air were truly deafening.
The spectacle was unique and unlike anything seen in Singapore before, leaving Brazil’s left-back Filipe Luis to commend the fans for pushing on his team during the game.
Now the onus is on the Singapore support to replicate such a performance in this majestic structure this coming December, when the Lions face historical rival Malaysia as well as Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup.