It was a quiet, sultry night time in Qatar’s capital: the grass a little bit greasy to the contact, the stadium bouncing and shaking, the soccer of a brighter, much less troubled world. And there have been occasions when, watching Brazil’s symphonic demolition of South Korea, it was briefly doable to go away earthly cares behind, partake in life’s easier pleasures, lose your self within the pure and tumultuous pleasure of soccer.

Brazil was actually so good. For the primary 40 minutes, as they waltzed and fought their method to a four-goal lead, they performed the form of soccer they hadn’t seen in a few years: particular results soccer, soccer on pc, soccer so soiled you wanted a cigarette and a bathe after watching it.

For 40 minutes, Neymar and Richarlison and Raphinha and Vinícius Júnior and Lucas Paquetá blazed little triangles, quadrilaterals, shapes that had no identify but, embroidered and golden shapes of imply strokes and delirious strides, topped choreographed dances that they ready months upfront.

The group was asking for extra, not as a result of they needed to see the Koreans humiliated, however as a result of how might anybody need one thing so humorous to finish? It was a reminder, maybe, that whereas soccer could have been invented on the general public faculty taking part in fields of England, it was perfected within the pampas and seashores from Brazil. And it was doable to think about, watching on a hospital tv someplace in Sao Paulo, an 82-year-old most cancers affected person providing a silent nod of approval to this hypnotic whirlwind of yellow shirts.

Then the Brazilian gamers gathered a banner with one phrase: “PELE! It was respectful and restrained, acceptable and shifting: every part, in different phrases, what their absurd tribute to Neymar eight years in the past was not. Maybe it is a Brazilian group that isn’t solely impressed by its historical past, but additionally realized from it.

And so, will it’s 2002 or 1982? There shall be no grace for Brazil to go away Qatar as losers. None of this implies something except they win. The clenched fist of Croatia, which awaits them within the quarter-finals, will supply an entire new taste of take a look at to the rider and exhausted from South Korea. There stays a qualm or two concerning the protection, with Paik Seung-ho claiming late comfort and Alisson anticipated to make at the very least two fantastic saves. However actually, now was not the time for chilly realities.

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Qatar: past soccer


It is a World Cup like no different. For the previous 12 years, the Guardian has reported on the problems surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the therapy of migrant employees and discriminatory legal guidelines. One of the best of our journalism is collected on our devoted Qatar: Past the Soccer homepage for individuals who need to dig deeper into the problems past the pitch.

The goalkeepers’ reporting goes far past what is occurring on the pitch. Help our investigative journalism at this time.

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That was clear from the second Vinícius Júnior opened the scoring with an unimaginable improvised late-game prank: a small, Ronaldinho-style kick to the cheek. It was Raphinha who created the possibility with sensible ability down the suitable. The clock confirmed seven minutes.

Virtually instantly, Richarlison was fouled and Neymar’s return scored the penalty, sending Kim Seung-gyu the improper means with a comical little reshuffle.

Brazilian Richarlison scores the third goal to complete a great team move
Brazilian Richarlison scores the third objective to finish a pleasant group transfer. {Photograph}: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

That is when South Korea could have suspected it was going to be an extended night time. Richarlison then scored the objective decide within the twenty eighth minute: dribbling the ball thrice over his head, releasing it, accumulating it and ending with affected composure. Even Coach Tite joined within the jig this time.

South Korea went there. What else might they do? Alisson made two good saves from Hwang Hee-chan, however every Korean assault made them much more weak on the pace of the break, and shortly earlier than half-time a type of counters led to a dinked cross from Vinícius Júnior , ended with a scathing finality. by Paquetá on the fly.

That was sufficient, actually. If they’d canceled the match after 45 minutes, everybody would have been joyful. And but, on account of competitors guidelines, Brazil have been nonetheless contractually sure to play the second half, a half that proceeded at about the identical tempo and with the identical depth as a pleasant match of pre-season in Charlotte. And in the end, the Koreans deserved one thing, even when it was simply the footballing equal of a celebration bag.

Paik’s objective from lengthy vary after a Casemiro free-kick was a heartening reminiscence for the Korean followers, who’ve been so memorable on this event.

And so the Asian World Cup misplaced its final Asian group. South Korea actually had their moments on this event, not least their dramatic win over Portugal, and particularly these minutes after the top when the entire group hunched round a small cellphone display screen to observe the climax of the sport towards Uruguay. The majority of their squad in all probability have yet one more World Cup – Son Heung-min shall be 33 in 2026 – and in striker Cho Gue-sung they’ve unearthed an actual expertise who might quickly signal for Celtic.

But it surely was Brazil’s night time, even when it wasn’t simply theirs. Standing within the empty stands, his bald options framing a skinny smile, the president of Fifa Gianni Infantino contemplated the spectacle he had created.

In a means, it was the form of unforgettable leisure content material he had at all times dreamed of: the second when all of the awkward ethical questions and aggravating Western provocateurs might merely soften away, buried below an avalanche of Brazilian spice. A wonderfully singing monster continues to be a monster. So sure, it was Brazil’s triumph. However in a darkish means, it was additionally Qatar’s.

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