Brazil 3 Japan 0
Man of the match: Oscar
BRASILIA, Brazil // Plagued by pressure, Brazil got their Confederations Cup defence off to the perfect start on home soil as they defeated Japan 3-0 in the Brazilian capital on Saturday. Yet pre-match clashes between police and protestors threatened to overshadow the match before a ball had even been kicked.
A glorious volley from Neymar after only three minutes eased the anxiety among the expectant 67,423 spectators who filled the Estadio Nacional. Paulinho doubled Brazil's lead three minutes into the second half, before substitute Jo added a flourish to the scoreline, finishing off a neat move deep into added time.
Reuters reported that outside the ground before kick-off, police fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets at demonstrators protesting against the escalating use of public money to prepare for next summer's Fifa World Cup. The Estadio Nacional cost R$1.2 billion (Dh2.05bn) and is the most expensive of Brazil's 12 arenas.
A pair of students on their way to the protest told The National they were tired of paying for poor service such as beat-up buses and wanted to "make it clear we are not happy with the way things are". They insisted things would remain peaceful and planned to watch the game on TV afterwards.
Fortunately the jeers never arrived for the Brazil team, who were aware that a slow start to their campaign this month might turn home advantage into a negative. The stands, quiet for much of the first three minutes, exploded in passionate joy as Neymar, the country's posterboy, connected perfectly with an intelligent Fred knock-down to place a volley into the top corner.
Relieved, Luiz Felipe Scolari's side proceeded to probe with Hulk and Dani Alves seeing plenty of the ball on the right side and Neymar dropping deep on the left. Japan were proving compliant tourists and were slow out for the second half, allowing Paulinho to snatch Brazil's second in the 48th minute. The Corinthians midfielder took a fine first touch from Alves's cross, turned and drove a low strike under goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, who should have done better.
Japan visibly tired as the game developed and the scoreline appeared to unchain Neymar, who roused the crowd with a series of step-overs and shimmies before being replaced by Lucas Moura as Scolari looked to close the game out.
Moura's introduction saw Oscar move out to the left wing and when the Chelsea midfielder collected the ball in space in the dying seconds, he ran at the Japanese defence before playing a brilliant through ball that Jo was able to slip past Kawashima to send the stands into raptures.
The pressure will remain, but the belief, like the discontent on the streets, is quietly building.
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