These were not the streets of Doha, but we had been miraculously transported into the bowels of trance-like Rio de Janeiro. Brazil, according to the veteran Thiago Silva, “played the best football I have seen Brazil play” and put this contest beyond Korea Republic’s reach in the first 45 minutes.
The fans of the Selecao already had an inkling of the feast and had come dressed in their best – the rainforest armadillo, men with colourful mane and women in colourful ensembles and even a yellow dinosaur from the Mesozoic Age. There were three stumbling merrymakers too, a sight not seen in Qatar before.
The goals were coming in a bounty, and nobody could have stopped this Brazilian bash. The unfortunate Koreans were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The first goal was Raphinha’s creation when he stripped the opposition of the ball near the right touchline and ignored a shove before centring it inside. A host of Brazilian bodies missed his delivery, but Vinicius Junior was there, relatively unmarked, and he cheekily lifted it over the goalkeeper, who rushed out in vain to distract the Real Madrid attacker.
And when Richarlison was hacked, Neymar jogged, stopped and hopped to roll in the next as Kim Seung-gyu dived the other way. The night for the Korea Republic was already looking long with the Brazilian attack created every geometrical angle you could ever think of.
And when the Koreans made a rare foray, as Hwang Hee-chan did in the 17th minute with a 30-yard curler, Alisson Becker was there, flying across to tip everything over. Brazil was now evoking the memories of Jogo bonito of the past and you could hear the nostalgic “oohhs” and “aahhs” of disbelief as the Koreans were taught about a game of feints, flicks and dribbles. This football cannot be schooled but comes with your genes that is only available to those from the land of the shape-shifting Amazon.
Brazil was playing on its own – the 11 on the other side were just mannequins to dodge past during the Christmas shopping rush – and Richarlison juggled the ball like in a game of head tennis and ambled into the six-yard box. He side-footed the third as Casemiro’s return evaded others to reach his inviting feet.
The Brazilians were dancing (even coach Tite), and this was not just the whirling of your hips, but a ballet where every sense jigged. A Lucas Paqueta volley from a Vinicius pass completed the first-half rout as the Korean pocket behind its goal tried hard to raise the falling spirits of its team.
But Son Heung-min was soon testing Alisson as Korea came back with a bit more purpose. And the debonair ‘keeper was again making a save from Hwang Hee-chan, who had aimed for the bottom left. The Korean band with their drums finally had something to play for as Paik Seung-ho rocketed his long-ranger past Alisson, who had been as brilliant as his outfield partners.
Korea in this different half had the chances to stretch this game but it lacked the ruthlessness of Brazil.
On this Monday, the Brazil team sent a message of love and support to the ailing King, Pele, and we’re not just referring to the banner that was unfurled in the end.