Brazil cruise past South Korea to reach quarterfinals in Qatar
Neymar returned from injury for Brazil as the five-time champions cantered to a 4-1 win over South Korea in their World Cup last 16 meeting in Qatar.
The world's most expensive player was doubtful for the tie after picking up an ankle injury in his team's opening match against Serbia, but played a prominent role in an explosive start for the Selecao.
After Raphinha worked well on the right wing, the FC Barcelona star connected with Lucas Paqueta, who then gave it back to Raphinha to fire across the box.
Neymar and Richarlison both missed the pass, but Vinicius Jr coolly controlled and fired home to put Brazil up inside seven minutes.
Six minutes later, Player of the Match Neymar got on the scoresheet when converting a penalty after Richarlison had been fouled.
In doing so, he made history as just the third Brazilian to score in at least three editions of the World Cup after fellow greats Pele (1958, 1962, 1966, 1970) – who he is now just a goal behind on 76 in Brazil's all-time rankings – and Ronaldo (1998, 2002, 2006).
On 29 minutes, Spurs striker and Brazil number nine Richarlison wowed fans by balancing the ball in the air with his head three times before involving defenders Marquinhos and Thiago Silva in a slick team move he finished with his second goal of the tournament.
Leading 3-0 with less than half an hour down on the clock, this was the earliest that Brazil had gone such an amount of goals in front in a single World Cup match.
Richarlison appeared selfish on a couple of occasions when he could have easily squared to teammates such as Vinicius Jr and Neymar.
Brazil's fourth came when Vinicius Jr found his former Flamengo teammate Lucas Paqueta with a lovely floated cross that the West Ham midfielder volleyed home.
There had been a dance after every successful strike, with even the usually conservative head coach Tite joining in, and it was no different when funk fan Paqueta opened his Qatar 2022 account.
Even Brazil coach Tite got involved on the dancing 😂 pic.twitter.com/ZeRwKQLl2c— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 5, 2022
Fans and pundits widely felt that Brazil could have had seven or eight goals in the first half.
Scoring three goals from 51 shots in their first three games, they netted four from just seven chances in the opening 45 minutes.
In a less eventful second half, Paik Seung-ho pulled one back as Brazil made a string of substitutions to rest their starting players and give other squad members minutes.
Brazil have now used all 26 members of their squad at the competition including three goalkeepers, as third choice Weverton replaced Alisson with around 10 minutes to spare.
With this, they became the first side in World Cup history to use as many as 26 players at a single edition of the tournament.
At full time, Brazil's players stood arm-in-arm and held up a giant banner with Pele's name and picture on it in tribute to the three-time World Cup winner reportedly in ill health in the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo.
There is still some way to go before Tite's men etch their names into history alongside the legendary Santos forward, however.
On Friday, they face Russia 2018 finalists Croatia to set up a semifinal against the winners of the Argentina versus Netherlands clash.