Brazil wins, but doesn't impress in World Cup opener

Graham Watson
MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 09: Marta #10 of Brazil celebrates a goal on a penalty kick with teammates in the second half during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Group E match against Korea Republic at Olympic Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 09: Marta #10 of Brazil celebrates a goal on a penalty kick with teammates in the second half during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Group E match against Korea Republic at Olympic Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Brazil had a chance to assert itself as the darkhorse team to watch Tuesday as the Women’s World Cup heads into its first rest day.

However, the Brazilians weren’t nearly as sharp as many expected and the whole final day of opening group games left soccer enthusiasts wondering whether a non-favorite could have a chance to hoist the cup this year.

Brazil won 2-0, but it wasn’t a convincing victory. South Korea had an odd gameplan of allowing Brazil to dictate the pace. It wasn’t until after Marta netted Brazil’s second goal on a penalty kick that South Korea started pushing forward and putting pressure on the Brazilians. While the South Koreans came away empty handed it wasn’t due to a lack of chances. They had several goal-scoring opportunities in the final 30 minutes, including a ball that went rolling across the face of the goal right before the final whistle blew.

If South Korea had played with that kind of energy throughout the game, the result likely would have been different, and all of the teams in Group E could have been even across the board. As it stands, South Korea now is in last place with the only loss of the group and will have its work cut out for it against an upstart Spain and a Costa Rican team with renewed confidence.

As for Brazil, many thought this might be the year it broke out of its World Cup slump. The Brazilians notched two World Cup records Tuesday – the oldest player to score when Formiga, 37, slotted home the first goal, and Marta’s World Cup-leading 15 goals. But those records mean nothing without a World Cup trophy to go with them. Brazil was the third-place finisher in 1999 and the runner-up in 2007. In 2011, the United States came from behind to force penalty kicks and ultimately won them 5-3. That was a Brazil team many believed to be the favorite. And here we are, four years later — four years older — and they don’t look a whole lot better.

The problem with Brazil, at least against South Korea, was a lack of selfishness. Yes, normally selfishness and Brazilian futbol go hand-in-hand, but on Tuesday there were too many passes, too many attempts to be pretty and not enough shots. Both of Brazil’s goals came because of South Korea mistakes. On the first goal, a South Korea defender didn’t put enough steam on a back pass and Formiga intercepted it for a breakaway. The second goal was the exact same mistake only the South Korean defender tripped the Brazilian player to set up the penalty kick.

Brazil didn’t do anything spectacular in the game, it just capitalized on a team that had never earned a World Cup point in its history.

And spectacular is really what’s going to take this tournament.

Germany was spectacular in its 10-0 thrashing of the Ivory Coast. Outside of that, it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite or darkhorse that has impressed. Honestly, outside of the Germans, Nigeria has looked like the best team in the tournament. Yes, all of this is a rush to judgment after one game, but it only takes seven to hoist the trophy.

Brazil is running on old, tired legs and if it doesn’t make a big move this year, it might be two World Cups before we see it in this position again.

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