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Soccer World Cup

Neymar Hat Trick, Fernandinho Performance Boost Brazil Confidence

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

On the last international break before managers pick their final squad, Brazil had an expected impressive performance against former World Cup hosts South Africa in Johannesburg. A standout performance from their golden child Neymar producing a hat-trick that helped the Seleçao cruise to an easy victory.

The match began with a ceremony honoring the late Nelson Mandela and also saw the Brazil squad wear two of their new jerseys set to be worn during this year’s World Cup, a different one worn in each half. Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari chose not to take a full squad of 23 players as the date was caught in a midweek schedule interrupting the European players’ schedules. A trip to South Africa would only require the candidates who are going to play, hence the 19 man roster.

The starting lineup saw some expected changes in Rafinha at right back and Fernandinho as the defensive midfielder. Both played the duration of the game and had solid performances. The Manchester City midfielder impressed as he provided cover right in front of the back four while also distributing the ball well to the offense. He also capped it off with a howler from outside of the area that had Lucas Leiva of Liverpool and Fernando of Shakhtar Donetsk pulling their hair out at home as they saw their World Cup spot slip into Fernandinho’s favor.

The Bayern Munich right back also showed solidity in the right back position. He made his forward runs and occasionally acted as an extra midfielder (as most Brazilian fullbacks do). His performance is still up in the air as his direct competition for the spot is more experienced in Maicon of AS Roma.

Neymar’s three goals were all a result of impressive team play. Brazil has a very well known striker crisis on their the hands as the World Cup approaches, but if this game were to indicate anything, when the striker acts as a distraction or nuisance for the opposing defense then it allows for the Barcelona starlet to sneak in from the left wing, similar to the way Real Madrid deploys Cristiano Ronaldo.

Brazil’s 5-0 win does add confidence ahead of a controversial hosting of the summer tournament, and their performance will be highly scrutinized by their home nation of 200 million. Much pressure? Maybe.

Alejandro de Jesús is a contributing football writer for Rant Sports. You can follow Alejandro on Twitter: @geografoot