The header image on this site features what has been called the greatest team never to win the World Cup. Zico, Gerson, Falcao, Dirceu, Socrates, et al. They may not be the greatest, but they certainly are on a very short list. Brazilian teams always aspire to the Jogo Bonito style, to not only win but to do so in a beautiful, elegant, quintessential Brazilian manner. The 1982 team is definitely a standard bearer of the Samba style.
This year’s edition seems to want to take their place in that upper echelon of Brazilian teams. Vinicius, Marquinhos, Militao, Casemiro, Neymar et al. They simply thrashed S. Korea 4-1 in a game where they could have scored more had the S. Korean keeper not played so amazingly well. Allison, after not having faced a single shot in two games of the group stage (he didn’t play the third, a 1-0 loss to Cameroon), made a series of outstanding saves as well. But the Scratch D’Oro, as it is commonly known in South America, was never in serious trouble.
The first goal came courtesy of Vinicius Jr. Receiving a cross on the left-hand side, he quickly and calmly popped it up to himself, and then with 3 S. Korean defenders rushing at him (including the goalie who came out to cut down the angle), put it into the upper right hand corner. He hit it with just the right power: not too hard to sky it and not too soft so it would be blocked. It was simply a sublime setup and finish.
The third goal by Richarlison illustrates both the individual and team excellence of this team. Richarlison managed three touches on his head (as if he were playing around on the training ground) with a defender right on him, then used a little flick of his foot to finally get past him. Dribbling into the box, he then passed it to a teammate and continued his run and received the return wall pass before shooting it into the back of the net.
The Jogo Bonito, at its best, is both about the individual and the collective, a lethal combination of one on one brilliance mixed in with standard team play. Vinicius scored his goal after a nice team passing sequence that ended up with the ball at his feet with a chance to score. His clever pop and perfectly weighed shot was the individual part of the equation. On Richarlison’s goal, the individual trickery came at the beginning and it helped him free himself of his defender. The rest was simple one touch passing and a simple shot. They made it seem like training ground stuff.
Playing like this, I can’t see any team, other than France, who possess many of the same qualities, that can beat them.