Doha (Qatar), December 6: Five-time champions Brazil showcased a performance worthy of their favourites tag to storm into the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar on Tuesday. Brazil outclassed South Korea 4-1 in their Round of 16 encounter at the Stadium 974 to set up a mouth-watering clash with the 2018 runners-up Croatia, who beat Japan 3-1 on penalties on Monday.
The contest was all but over in the first half itself, when Brazil schooled Korea with an attacking masterclass to take a 4-0 lead at the break.
Vinicius Jr opened the scoring for Brazil early in the seventh minute, before Neymar scored his 76th international goal, one behind their all-time record of 77 goals by Pele, by converting a penalty in the 13th minute. Richarlison made it 3-0 with a superb team goal in the 29th minute, before Lucas Paqueta sealed it for them with a cool finish in the 36th minute.
Korea came out with a much better strategy in the second half and kept Brazil strikers at bay, partially helped by settling down of tempo by the South American side too. The Asian side’s persistent effort in the second half gave them a consolation goal in the 76th minute, when Paik Seung-ho scored a stunning goal from distance. But it was too little too late for them as their campaign came to an end.
The world’s most expensive player, Neymar, had sat out his team’s last two matches with a sprained ankle suffered in their first game in Qatar, a 2-0 win over Serbia.
But he came back for this last-16 tie as Tite’s team clicked into gear and delivered an ominous message to their rivals, at least before easing off in the second half.
The five-time World Cup winners had not scored four goals in a knockout game at the tournament since 1998.
Here they played at times with the joy associated with the Brazilian national team, the players coming together to celebrate each goal by showing off their dance moves and their coach even joining in.
If they finished playing within themselves, their first-half display was superb and a fitting tribute to the great Pele.
The Brazilian legend had said he would watch the game from the Sao Paulo hospital to where he was admitted last week amid ongoing treatment for colon cancer, and supporters in Doha’s Stadium 974 unfurled a banner with a get well soon message to him.
All of it was a chastening experience for Son Heung-min and South Korea, who have still never won a World Cup knockout match outside their own country.
Tite made 10 changes to the Brazil team after rotating his squad for the 1-0 loss to Cameroon which came after qualification for the last 16 had been secured.
Danilo also returned from injury at left-back, while Eder Militao was the only player to keep his place and shifted across to right-back.
With Alisson Becker back in goal and Thiago Silva and Marquinhos playing too, this was Brazil’s first-choice defence but their forwards quickly put the tie to bed.
The opener came from their first shot on target in the seventh minute as Raphinha burst away from Kim Jin-su on the right and his ball across goal came to the feet of Vinicius who coolly picked his spot.
They then won a penalty as Richarlison was caught by Jung Woo-young and Neymar duly beat Kim Seung-gyu — his last six goals for Brazil have now all come from the spot.
Alisson was then called into action to tip over a vicious long-range effort from Hwang Hee-chan, but Brazil then scored their third in style just before the half-hour mark.
Richarlison juggled the ball on his head three times just outside the area before laying it off to Marquinhos and then continuing into the box to get on the end of Silva’s pass which he slotted home for his third goal at this World Cup.
Paqueta then got their fourth nine minutes before the break with a first-time finish as he connected with a Vinicius ball held up from the byline.
They could have added more in the second half had they not taken their foot off the pedal, although Raphinha was denied on more than one occasion by the goalkeeper.
Korea though deserved credit for keeping going and they were rewarded inside the final quarter-hour as substitute Paik brought down a headed clearance and sent in a ferocious shot from 25 metres that brushed off Silva to beat Alisson.
The Brazil goalkeeper was then taken off for the final 10 minutes to be replaced by Weverton, while Neymar was also withdrawn with Tite’s mind on Croatia.
Croatia beat Japan 3-1 on penalties to reach quarter-finals
Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic saved three penalties in the shoot-out to help Croatia reach the quater-finals of the FIFA World Cup 2022 on Monday. The 2018 runners-up Croatia beat Japan 3-1 on penalties in their Round of 16 encounter at Al Janoub stadium. The match went to the penalties after it ended levelled at 1-1.
Livakovic saved penalties from Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida before Mario Pasalic, who came as the fourth penalty taker for Croatia, netted the winning spot-kick. Only Takuma Asano scored for Japan in the shoot-out, while Marko Livaja missed for the winners. Nikola Vlasic and Marcelo Brozovic were the other penalty scorers for Croatia.
Japan took a 1-0 lead at the halftime break with a goal from Daizen Maeda in the 43rd minute. Croatia levelled the scoreline 10 minutes into the second half when Ivan Perisic scored the equaliser with a stunning header. After that, the two teams failed to break the deadlock even after using 30 minutes of extra time.
Croatia now face either Brazil or South Korea in the last eight and continued midfield icon Luka Modric’s stay at his fourth and likely final World Cup.
Japan’s bid to reach the last eight for the first time in their history came to a crushing end after another display of the sort which saw off Spain and Germany on their way to topping Group E.
However they could not claim one more big European scalp in the shape of the 2018 finalists and go home in the second round, as they did four years ago, after having three of their penalties saved.
Japan could easily have been ahead within three minutes when Shogo Taniguchi glanced a header wide from point-blank range, and 10 minutes later Daizen Maeda came close to turning in Junya Ito’s brilliantly placed low ball from the right flank.
In the meantime Perisic had let off a shot from a tight angle which led to a goalmouth scramble, but had Croatia scored they risked the goal being ruled out for what looked like a clear push on Takehiro Tomiyasu.
Bruno Petkovic then wasted a great opportunity in the 25th minute, strolling through almost unopposed onto a long through ball only to dawdle and fail to get a pass off to Andrej Kramaric who was charging into the box.
Kramaric was then too slow to latch onto Perisic’s dangerous flick-on and from there Japan took control, and the lead.
Daichi Kamada had already blasted over after a superb passing move when in the 43rd minute Maeda fired in the opener after Ritsu Doan’s cross was knocked down by Maya Yoshida.
Japan looked the better team and ready to inflict more damage but out of the blue Croatia’s most dangerous player Perisic levelled the scores with a bullet header from Dejan Lovren’s deep cross.
Almost immediately afterwards Wataru Endo responded by having a good strike tipped over the bar by Dominik Livakovic, before Shuichi Gonda pulled off the save of the match to keep out Modric’s beautifully-struck, dripping shot.
Modric was replaced nine minutes into the first half of extra-time in which Japan had the best chance, Kaoru Mitoma’s effort well tipped away by Livakovic.
With penalties drawing close, one final chance fell to Modric’s replacement Lovro Majer, who dragged his shot wide, but his team prevailed in the shoot-out to end the Blue Samurai’s entertaining adventure.
(ToI With inputs from agencies)