Brazil progress to Copa America quarter finals

Neymar scored two goals for Brazil against Ecuador (Mowa Press)

Brazil belatedly got their act together at the Copa America by beating Ecuador 4-2 thanks to an excellent second half performance. The result means Brazil finish top of Group B and will now face Paraguay in the quarter finals on Sunday.

Alexandre Pato and Neymar both scored two goals and went a long way to silencing some growing criticism back in Brazil. Maicon and Robinho started the game as Mano Menezes made two changes to the team that drew with Paraguay (Daniel Alvez and Jadson both dropped). It worked well and Maicon had an excellent match for Brazil at right-back/wing/playmaker/striker. He was never stopped running or asking for the ball and Ecuador just couldn’t deal with him. That is exactly the kind of attitude and quality that Brazil have been missing. He set up a chance for Robinho who hit the post, put the ball on a plate for Neymar to score his second goal and nearly scored a goal himself.

Despite nearly all of Brazil’s play coming down the right hand side, Brazil’s first goal came from the left when André Santos whipped in a beautiful cross for Alexandre Pato to head home. Other than that, I thought André Santos had another disappointing game. It’s a shame for Brazil because they have two of the world’s best right backs in Dani Alvez and Maicon but nowhere near the same kind of quality at left back. Marcelo of Real Madrid is the obvious choice for that position but for those who are wondering why he wasn’t called up, it’s because he accidentally sent an email to Mano Menezes celebrating the fact that he would not be reporting for international duty due to an injury. He thought he was sending the email to Real Madrid’s medical staff. Both email addresses begin with the letters ma and he sent it to the wrong one.

One man who went down in everybody’s opinion is goalkeeper Julio César who should have saved both of Ecuador’s goals. He has been making crucial mistakes for a long time now (2010/11 Champion’s League against Bayern Munich, World Cup 2010 quarter finals, amongst others) and I wonder whether he still really is Brazil’s best goalkeeper. I’ve raised that doubt here before.

Player ratings – comments welcome

Julio César (3) Conceded two VERY soft goals. He used to be so good. What’s happened?

André Santos (6) Didn’t get forward very often. Brilliant cross for Pato’s first goal though.

Thiago Silva (6) Not commanding and not very convincing today. Allowed too much space to Caicedo on more than one occasion.

Lúcio (6) Commanding but has had better games. Didn’t deal with a loose ball which lead to Ecuador’s first goal.

Maicon (10) This man is a machine and never stops running. The man to drive Brazil forward. A constant threat. Cool head. Quality. We probably won’t be seeing Daniel Alvez for a long time.

Lucas Leiva (6) Struggled in possession of the ball in the first half. Kept on going sideways and backwards instead of forwards.

Ramires (7) Ran around a lot, made tackles, got in the way, tried to run forward. Still not totally convincing and his passing is not great. But his attitude and energy helped Brazil today.

Ganso (6) Set up Neymar’s first goal with a killer pass but still seems a little off the pace. Made a lot of poor passes. At one point early in the second half he gave the ball straight to his opponent, shrugged his shoulders and walked on. Mano Menezes went berserk on the bench and screamed at him to go and get the ball back. He started running a lot more after that.

Robinho (8) Unlucky with a shot that hit the post, had a good goal disallowed in the second half and his general play was neat and clever. He did have one chance which he should have scored but he overran the ball. Not as sharp or quick as before but his experience was important. Linked up well with Maicon too.

Neymar (8) Started to show some glimpses of his Santos form. The two goals will have done him a lot of confidence.

Pato (8) Like Neymar, the two goals will do him a world of good. Very good finish for his first and good determination shown for the second. Was wayward in the first half when all of the Brazilian attack’s movement was poor. Touch and movement improved in the second half.

Mano Menezes (8) Squeaky bum test number one passed. Must have given a stern half time team talk. Was right to have a go at Ganso and was a lot more animated from the sidelines as usual. Made the right decision to play Maicon.

Pato celebrates one of his two goals against Ecuador (Mowa Press)

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