Brazil 4-0 Japan
14 October 2014
National Stadium, Singapore
Scorer: Neymar (4)
A brilliant four-goal performance from captain Neymar Jr helped Brazil move another step away from their World Cup embarrassment as they retained the UFWC title with a thoroughly impressive win over Japan. The best efforts of the challengers were simply no match for a fluid, fast-breaking Brazilian side. Dunga’s Seleção look a completely revived team following the disappointments of the summer, and can deservedly claim to be Unofficial Football World Champions.
The match was played at the brand new Singapore National Stadium, part of the recently-opened Sports Hub, in front of a capacity crowd of 55,000. 31,000 Japanese live in Singapore, and it seemed that many of them were in the stadium, although there were almost as many Brazil fans in yellow replica jerseys.
Brazil made one notable change to the team that beat Argentina on Saturday, with David Luiz missing after picking up a knock. It was no surprise to see Diego Tardelli retain his place up front after his two goals against Argentina, supporting his captain Neymar.
Japan lined up in Singapore without the injured Shinji Kagawa, who suffered concussion in Friday’s 1-0 win over Jamaica. Midfielder Keisuke Honda started on the bench. Now managed by Mexican Javier Aguirre, Japan’s attack was led by current Bundesliga top-scorer Shinji Okazaki.
The Blue Samurai started with purpose, attacking in numbers without managing to carve out a clear goalscoring opportunity. But it was Brazil who created the first moment of real excitement, when Neymar cleverly burst into the penalty area, only to be blocked off by Morishige. Neymar raised his hands to claim a penalty, but it wasn’t given. Replays suggested Japan might have enjoyed a lucky escape.
The effervescent Neymar was fouled again a few minutes later, this time outside the penalty area. His brilliant curling free-kick hit the corner of the crossbar and post, and bounced away with Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima beaten. But he wasn’t to be denied.
In the 18th minute, Oscar and Tardelli combined, with Tardelli’s excellent slide-rule pass playing in Neymar, who neatly dinked the ball past Kawashima to give his side the lead. It was Neymar’s 37th goal for Brazil.
Just two minutes later, Neymar’s brilliant footwork again saw him beat the Japan defence, but his shot went across the face of the goal.
Brazil were on top, but Japan weren’t lying down. A poor clearance fell to Yu Kobayashi but, on his full debut, the striker lashed his volley over the bar. Japan won a couple of free kicks, one of which produced a shot that appeared to be handled by Luis Gustavo inside the box. Again, no penalty was given.
It took 35 minutes for Okazaki to get his first goalscoring opportunity, but, after finding space in the box, he failed to get enough direction on his flicked header. And Japan had another good chance before half-time, when a corner ricocheted around the Brazil box without a Japanese player managing to get a decisive touch.
Two minutes into the second half, substitute Philippe Coutinho’s brilliant through ball allowed Neymar to once again race clear of the Japan defence. The Brazil captain coolly slid the ball past the keeper to make it 2-0.
Still, though, Japan did not give up, and Okazaki almost pulled them back into the game when his shot hit a post. Then Neymar threatened to kill off the game, turning brilliantly in the box, only to lash his shot into the side netting.
Neymar did get his hat-trick goal, assisted by substitute Kaka, who headed against the crossbar, and Coutinho, who lashed the rebound, which was parried by the keeper, and turned in by the Brazil captain.
And Neymar scored his fourth in the 80th minute. Kaka combined with fellow sub Robinho, and hung up a great cross at the back post, where the arriving Neymar buried a firm header. That’s 40 goals in 58 international games for Neymar, an incredible record by any comparison. And he is only 22 years of age.
This was Brazil’s 31st UFWC title match win. They remain in 6th place in the all-time UFWC rankings, ten wins behind 5th-placed Russia. Brazil’s next defence of the title comes on 12 November, with a friendly against Turkey in Istanbul. They go on to play Austria in Vienna six days later.
With Christmas on the horizon, why not treat someone you know – or yourself – to the official UFWC book, Unofficial Football World Champions, which contains a complete history of the unofficial competition from the first ever international match in 1872 right up to 2014. It’s available in paperback and as an eBook, and is out now.