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Brazil sleepwalks over South Africa in friendly

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The Brazilian national football team beat hosts South Africa at FNB Stadium in Soccer City, Johannesburg by a score of 5-0, without breaking a sweat.

Scoring goals with an ease no World Cup qualifier would allow them later this year, Brazil ran roughshod over their weak opponents with Oscar scoring at the 10th minute, Spanish Football's Neymar with a hat trick at the 41st, 46th, and 90+, and Fernandinho with a bullet at the 79th, rounded out the scoring (http://bit.ly/1mW3Bx7).

Much to Brazil's relief, Neymar seems not to be out of form after his injury absence but instead either distracted by the tax issues at Barcelona surrounding his transfer, or taking a page out of Lionel Messi's return-to-action playbook--taking his time and picking his spots to slowly return to full throttle.

This game and two others--June 3rd against Panama in Goiania and June 6th against Serbia in Sao Paulo--complete the sequence of preparatory games for the 2014 World Cup later this summer. Lacking a qualifying stretch of games to construct and test a steady line-up Brazil has instead used these friendlies to fit the jigsaw pieces together piecemeal.

Brazil coach, Felipe Scolari, is still trying out roster options, with the exception of some pretty settled slots. He started a line-up that did not include AC Milan's Robinho or his teammate, Kaka, who has been in spectacular form. The coach also did not feel Sao Paulo's Alexandre Pato, alternating form between decline and a return to European pitches, deserved a look-see. But just about everyone else one can imagine has been or is being given a chance.

Scolari's current thinking about a starting line-up seems begin with seven settled positions that replicate his 2013 Confederations Cup choices: Julio Cesar in goal, Thiago Silva (captain) and David Luis as central defenders, Oscar in the central midfield playmaker position, right-footed Neymar on the left wing, the inert Fred as center forward, and the lead-footed-lefty Hulk on the right wing. This leaves two midfielders and two defenders to be decided on the starting eleven.

He can go with a defensive minded group and place Rafinha and Dante in defense and Paulinho and Fernandinho at midfield for a solid six man defensive formation, plus Cesar and the settled offensive quartet. Alternately he can chose to add to that quartet Ramires (who came in as a substitute at the 46th minute) and recall Kaka, for an offensive midfield, and then add Marcelo and Dani Alves for more offensive wing power from those defensive positions.

Unfortunately unless he recalls at least one additional offensive playmaker besides Oscar and one true striker to replace either Fred or Hulk when their deficiencies become apparent at game time, it will be very difficult for Brazil to score if their lone option, Neymar, is double teamed. It will be interesting to see how the current 30 player roster will be whittled down to the final 23. For now, these matches against non-competitive teams serve little purpose other than to build chemistry among those who actually play consecutive games.

In other friendly news for World Cup bound teams, Russia beat Armenia 2-0, Japan beat New Zealand 4-2, Bosnia plays Egypt, Greece plays the Korea Republic, England plays Denmark, Costa Rica plays Paraguay, Australia was surprising Ecuador 2-0 as of this writing, Austria plays Uruguay, Croatia plays Switzerland, and in the more interesting matches of the month Germany plays Chile and Mexico plays Nigeria, Belgium plays Ivory Coast, Portugal plays Cameroon, Argentina plays Romania, France plays the Netherlands, Ukraine plays the USA, and Spain plays Italy.

Colombia 1, Tunisia 1

Sorely missing finishing touch if not offensive punch and showing substantial weaknesses in defense, Colombia were lucky to leave the Barcelona pitch with a tie against lowly Tunisia in a 2014 World Cup preparatory game for the South Americans. Radamel Falcao was the clear absentee today and if he does not recover in time we may well have seen the future that awaits of this once great team.

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