Everyone likes to see attractive football at the World Cup and nobody does it better than Brazil. The name ?Brazil? is often used as a by-word for skilful football but they have been hit by criticism after their opening two games. After going a goal behind to an own-goal from Marcelo early on against Croatia, it was a good performance to come back and win 3-1.
Neymar and Oscar played superbly and were rightly singled out for praise but the press wanted more against Mexico. Instead, they witnessed a 0-0 draw and have been highly critical of Phil Scolari?s team. It certainly was not a vintage performance from Brazil against Mexico but they may have emerged as winners but for some fine goalkeeping from Francisco Ochoa.
Fred and Hulk have been particularly disappointing so far but Scolari will not be panicking just yet. Bernard and Jo picked up useful playing time and a draw was sufficient to put them on the brink of qualification. Only the already-eliminated Cameroon stand in their path.
While the press are happy to heap praise on the likes of the Netherlands and France for their attacking play and goal scoring, Brazil have remained firm favourites with the bookmakers to lift the trophy again this year. It may be worth recalling 2002 and a slow start for Brazil under Scolari when they edged past Turkey 2-1 in their opening group game.
They warmed to their task with comfortable victories over China and Costa Rica. In the knockout stages they beat Belgium 2-0 and England 2-1 before again defeating Turkey by a single goal to reach the final. A 2-0 win over Germany secured the World Cup but they could hardly have been called brilliant winners. Scolari was unable to settle at Chelsea on his short-lived stay in the English Premier League, possibly due to expectations being too high from the outset.
Scolari does not set out to entertain, he sets out to win. If Brazil qualify for the knockout stages, Scolari will see that as the first stage successfully completed. He knows that a team can score 15 goals in the group stages but that does not necessarily mean they will beat a team that has scored only three in the next round. His winning mentality and Brazil?s ability to play badly and still win could well prove decisive in this tournament.