Brazil coach Tite didn’t produce the smoothest dance moves of the night, but the sight of the elderly statesman in a sober suit twirling with his players on the touchline epitomized that. football carnival.
Tite cut an incongruous figure among his players but he simply couldn’t resist joining a common samba as Brazil scored the biggest scorer of this World Cup with a dazzling win over hosts South Korea. a quarter-final with Croatia on Friday.
And what a moment inspired 61-year-old Tite to let it all hang out, as Brazil produced the tournament’s best football in a 4-1 win that marked their status as World Cup favourites.
Richarlison had just made his second entry into the Qatar goalscoring showreel, delivering Brazil’s third after just 29 minutes of a first half that will be remembered for a long time.
It was a pinpoint wonder passing around the edge of the area.
The Tottenham striker juggled the ball three times with his head and once with his foot, then sent it back to Marquinhos.
He delivered Thiago Silva and his first pass to the runaway Richarlison to give the move the finish it deserved past South Korean keeper Kim Seung-gyu.
If Richarlison’s freestyle bicycle kick against Serbia was magical, it may have topped it with a glorious blend of individual brilliance and fleeting perfection.
It was, like pretty much all of Brazilian football in the first half, poetry in motion. He said, “We’re here. Can you stop us?”
All that and the return of Neymar too.
Brazil couldn’t be in better shape for the last eight despite losing Gabriel Jesus and Alex Telles to injury.
Neymar was the headline as he made his comeback after an ankle problem but had to share the headliner here with fellow strikers Richarlison and Vinicius Junior.
Vinicius showed his class by giving Brazil the lead after just seven minutes and then Neymar came on from the spot, although his ‘Riverdance’ footwork from his stuttering approach unnecessarily embellished the penalty. That leaves him one behind Pelé’s all-time record of 77 goals for his country.
West Ham United’s Lucas Paqueta stole a sumptuous fourth from a Vinicius cross before half-time, now allowing Brazil to preserve energy for Croatia.
Brazil fought their way to this World Cup, even losing to Cameroon in the group stage, but the first 45 minutes were an outstanding team at full strength, sending a message to their rivals on what they should match – at least – to win the trophy.
It wasn’t just a performance – it was an outpouring of Brazilian joy. Football like this is their national emblem.
It even allowed Brazil to give outstanding keeper Alisson 10 minutes as Tite dispatched third-choice Weverton into the action. This meant that Brazil became the first team to use all 26 players from this World Cup.
And it even got dad dancing from their veteran coach, although the pre-rehearsed dance moves after goals went on for so long that many observers wondered if they amounted to disrespect for their opponents.
Conversely, Brazil played with such freedom of expression, in the finest traditions of their country, that their exaltation was purely natural.
Whether it was the corner flag or Tite, the Brazilian players were so locked in their own elation that they were happy to take anything as a dance partner.
Neymar’s presence galvanized their early work, with the teammates searching for the returning superstar. He spent 81 minutes in the tank before being replaced by Rodrygo.
By scoring from the spot, Neymar became the third Brazilian to score in at least three World Cups – 2014, 2018 and 2022.
Pelé scored in four, in 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970, and Ronaldo in three – 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Just to add to the impression that Brazil have the strongest versatile team in Qatar, Allison demonstrated why he is one of the elite goalkeepers in the world with a succession of fine saves as they calmed down in the second half.
It’s a daunting prospect for Croatia and anyone they might encounter here. Brazil have the attacking firepower to beat anyone and if you can get through to the other end, Liverpool’s exceptional keeper presents a formidable barrier.
Tite’s team is looking at the full package.
Brazil are in their eighth straight World Cup quarter-finals and dedicated that performance to Pelé, who is in the hospitalas they paraded a giant banner at the final whistle bearing the 82-year-old’s name.
Pele will have appreciated the gesture and he would no doubt have nodded in approval at Brazil’s performance, the biggest statement of any country so far at this World Cup.