No Brazilian samba without Neymar
Neymar-less Brazil are a pale shadow of their glorious past
(Eduardo Vargas 72, Alexis Sanchez 88)
They wanted to wow, but delivered a whimper.
The world was expecting a thrilling contest when Chile hosted Brazil at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago yesterday morning (Singapore time).
But there was only one team who supplied all the thrills. And, if there were stars on show, they belonged to Chile.
The Selecao were outclassed 2-0 in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifying match, in a manner that is becoming a familiar sight.
No imagination, no drive, and no punch.
Worryingly, where have all the stars gone?
Chile had Arturo Vidal, Bayern Munich's combative midfielder with a taste for blood and beauty.
They had Alexis Sanchez, the energetic Arsenal forward who makes goal-scoring an art form.
Last but not least, there was Eduardo Vargas, perhaps a lesser name in club football but always a colossal figure for his country.
Brazil have just one ace up their sleeves. But with Neymar suspended, the Selecao floundered on enemy territory.
Coach Dunga did everything he could to dispel the notion that they are a one-man team ever since he took over the reins following last year's World Cup debacle.
But, try as he might, they increasingly look like one.
This is a fourth key loss without Neymar in the side in recent times.
Before this, there were the 7-1 rout by Germany in the World Cup semi-finals on home soil, a 3-0 loss to Holland in the third-place play-off, and the defeat on penalties by Paraguay, after a 1-1 draw, in the Copa America in June.
Brazil's over-reliance on one man is a sad reflection of the current state of affairs in football's traditionally most fertile ground.
When Dunga himself lifted the World Cup in 1994, he was one of several big names in a team comprising Aldair, Romario and Bebeto.
When the Brazil repeated their triumph eight years later, the triumvirate of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho won universal admiration.
Not too long ago, Brazil were sending chills down the opponents' spine with an offensive unit made up of Adriano, Ronaldo, Robinho and Ronaldinho.
The team once suffering from an embarrassment of riches are now reeling from a dearth of talent.
Brazil were scraping the bottom of the barrel against Chile.
Up front was Hulk, an unreliable striker for his country, as they found out at the World Cup they hosted last year.
Supporting him were Willian and Oscar, both of whom aren't having the best of seasons at struggling Premiership champions Chelsea.
The other, Douglas Costa, is a raw gem who is playing his first season with Bayern Munich.
The central midfield partnership of Luiz Gustavo and Elias hardly sets the pulse racing.
The desperation could be felt when Philippe Coutinho pulled out of the squad due to injury.
Veteran Kaka, 33, a player who is into the last lap of his career, was Dunga's choice of replacement.
Chile ruthlessly displayed the cutting edge that was the hallmark of past Brazilian sides.
Statistics don't always paint the full story but here it reflected exactly how the proceedings went.
Jorge Sampaoli's men had 13 goal attempts - as many as Brazil - but had six on target as compared with the visitors' one.
Not only did they score two goals through Sanchez and Vargas, they also twice rattled the woodwork.
The Samba Boys were not that far away from another humiliation.
Ironically, Sampaoli had warned his team of an arduous task against the five-time world champions.
He said before the game: "Brazil are still the greatest power in the world, despite all the criticism, and they have elite players."
Perhaps he is as guilty as the Brazilians - of living in the past.
"I’m very happy because I have never beaten Brazil, and to beat a team that have caused us so many problems in the past means a lot."
— Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli
- Bolivia 0 Uruguay 2
- Colombia 2 Peru 0
- Venezuela 0 Paraguay 1
- Argentina 0 Ecuador 2
Dunga: Neymar's Absence Not A Factor
Brazil boss Dunga felt Neymar's absence due to suspension was not a factor in his side's 2-0 loss to Chile in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifier yesterday morning (Singapore time).
"Even without him, we made a close game of it, we had our opportunities," he said.
"In the first half, we controlled the game well but, in the second time, they scored the goals and that changed everything. But it was all very balanced."
Dunga insists he was pleased with his side's showing.
"It is very difficult for a coach to come here to talk about change," he said. "Not always when you lose do things go wrong. If you look at the first half, was equal footing.
"In the second half until the goal, we created five good chances to score."
Eduardo Vargas, one of the heroes of Chile's victorious Copa America campaign, picked up where he left off in that tournament with a wonderful volleyed finish on 72 minutes to fire the hosts into the lead at Santiago's Estadio Nacional.
Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez then applied the coup de grace in the 88th minute, jabbing home from close range after a wonderful flowing move which ripped Brazil's defence apart to seal their first win over Brazil in the South American World Cup qualifiers since 2000.
Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli wants the win to provide the platform for qualification to the 2018 World Cup.
He said: "The match was extremely tight. The opponents had no chance of scoring. And we're talking about Brazil.
"This gives us encouragement to continue fighting for qualification.
"We beat an opponent who is accustomed to beating Chile.
"I had never beaten Brazil. For me and for Chile, this is very important. I am proud of the group that represents me."
Brazil, without Neymar and Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho, were not overrun, however, with Hulk having their best moment, firing just wide in the first half while Ricardo Oliviera spurned a good chance to equalise late on before Sanchez's goal.
"We did what we had to do," Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo said.
"We knew that Brazil are a good team and can hit on the counter-attack, and we knew how we had to play. We got three points and that's fantastic."
Brazil will aim to get back on the winning track at home to Venezuela on Wednesday morning, while Chile will travel to Lima to face Peru. - Wire Services.