Brazil top group but not terrific
Save for Neymar's brilliance, Brazil's brittle defence is cause for concern for Scolari
(Joel Matip 26)
(Neymar 17, 34, Fred 49, Fernandinho 84)
The Round of 16 has served up Chile, but the reception could prove rather frosty.
Brazil continue to blow hot and cold.
Their historic journey to Rio continues, but the performances remain distinctly middle of the road.
Neymar's double allowed his countrymen to top Group A. His nascent star continues to rise. His cumbersome colleagues are struggling to keep up.
When he was on the pitch, the Brazilians dominated on the pitch and danced in the stands. His quality killed off Cameroon's stubborn resistance.
When he was substituted in the second half, his departure killed off both the atmosphere and the Selecao's appetite for the game.
If Brazil were to lose Neymar to injury or suspension, it would be like losing a limb. They are disabled without him; restricted in movement and limited in endeavour.
The final 4-1 scoreline flattered the hosts, but fooled no one in the dugout. Luiz Felipe Scolari needs more than Neymar to reach the quarter-finals
Cameroon have been the most inviting, obliging of opponents in Group A, but they offered a contest above their pay scale and current form.
With Brazilian jerseys naturally filling the Estadio Nacional in the nation's capital of Brasilia, the oval-shaped arena resembled a bowl of custard. The Cameroonians were expected to turn to jelly.
But their legs didn't buckle.
Scolari picked the same side that struggled against Croatia in the tournament's curtain-raiser and they were no more assured against the athletic Africans.
Hulk offers a physical presence, but not a particularly aesthetic one and Fred is considered Scolari's favoured Selecao son here with good reason.
He was in league of his own in Brasilia. Unfortunately, it's a couple of tiers below his teammates.
Neymar not only carries the hopes of 200 million fellow Brazilians, he also carries his ineffectual strike partner.
If you want to elicit a rueful shrug or a sarcastic chuckle from a local here, discuss the merits of Fred in a yellow jersey.
Alongside the great peroxide blonde hope, he's considered the great pretender.
His second-half headed goal earned him breathing space. He cannot expect such defensive generosity in the knockout stages (or from another referee, he was in an offside position).
But Brazil's frailties extend beyond Fred; indeed they permeate Scolari's squad.
He screamed and gesticulated wildly from the touchline throughout, instinctively aware of his side's shortcomings.
Cameroon slotted a third man into central midfield, leaving Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho isolated and often overrun.
Hulk's defensive duties were negligible. He shares the physique of his superhero namesake, but not his work ethic.
You can make him angry. Just don't make him track back.
But Paulinho was no less poor. He drifted towards the periphery of proceedings and laboured against the languid Cameroonians. His form was less samba and more Spurs. The hangover from a haphazard first season with Tottenham is proving stubbornly persistent.
Fernandinho's second-half introduction solidified central midfield. His late goal, Brazil's fourth, cemented their place at the top of Group A and surely his in the starting line-up.
When the time comes for Chile, Paulinho may be left out in the cold.
Hulk's lackadaisical approach and Brazil's uncertainty around the centre circle increased pressure on a defence that hardly needed the extra exertions.
Cameroon's Henri Bedimo foraged down the left, targeting Dani Alves who often turned slower than the security buses parked around the stadium's perimeter.
The African's goal came after fullback Allan Nyom switched sides, probed Brazil's soft underbelly and dumped Alves before picking out an unmarked Matip at the far post.
Nyom floated past the Brazilian full-back. David Luiz dropped Matip like a bad habit.
Rivelino claims Thiago Silva is the only current Brazil player worthy of a place in the former midfielder's 1970 side of superlative samba sons.
Some of Silva's colleagues are lucky to be in this line-up.
In some ways, Silva is a mirror image of Neymar. He overcompensates for lesser colleagues, equal parts ball winner and babysitter.
Their teething troubles must be addressed by Scolari if they are to grow through the knockout stages.
Great going forward, brittle at the back, they are as magical as they are mercurial.
Fireworks greeted each goal here. Neymar left the field to a standing ovation. But the final whistle was more subdued.
The Brazilians are still hosting the world's greatest party. But no one's popping champagne corks just yet.