Whatever financial investment Barcelona has made in Neymar - he's probably worth every penny. In his nation's capital a young man, with the world at his feet, had the self-confidence to allow his natural talent to shine through.
Whatever financial investment Barcelona has made in Neymar - he's probably worth every penny. In his nation's capital a young man, with the world at his feet, had the self-confidence to allow his natural talent to shine through. The pressure of expectation from an entire country disappeared in an instant.
Clearly he is that good. Neymar, who has been a star in his homeland since his teenage years, took a mere three minutes to announce himself to the world. The opening goal of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup will live long in the memory.
Brazil needs to look good at this dress rehearsal for next year's World Cup. FIFA's so-called festival of champions is arguably more important for Brazil than for any other competitor. Since a quarter-final exit at the 2010 World Cup the Brazilians have been treading water. With no need to qualify for 2014, they have occupied most of their time with a seemingly endless series of friendlies.
Competition is what Brazil desperately needs. The Confederations Cup will provide that - if only for a couple of weeks, a year before the main event. It is imperative the new generation gets as much meaningful soccer as it can, so anything less than an appearance in the final will be viewed as a failure by players and fans alike.
Who needs Kaka and Ronaldinho when you've got Oscar and Neymar? Allowing two 21-year-olds to drive the bus is a risky business but, as the old saying goes, if they are good enough - they are old enough. On the evidence of the tournament opener against Japan, both have full and clean licences.
Japan never had a prayer
Neymar was not employed as an out and out striker by veteran coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. He began, and soon prospered, on the left hand side of a front three, alongside Fred and Hulk. The combination was effective from the outset with Fred teeing up Neymar for a sumptuous half volley. Japan's goalkeeper saw it coming but never had a prayer of keeping it out of the top corner.
It was exactly what the game, and more importantly, the tournament needed. An explosive lift off to grab global attention and convince the sceptics the Confederations Cup is a lot more than just a friendly kick about to make sure the stadium and surrounding infrastructure is up and running.
Oscar is also growing up fast. The baby-faced attacking midfielder, who was the star of the Under-20 World Cup less than two years ago, is making a seamless transition to the senior ranks. His combination play with Neymar was a joy to watch as the hard working Japanese found themselves chasing shadows on one too many occasions.
At the other end, the jury is still out. The central defensive combination of David Luiz and Thiago Silva contributed to the clean sheet, but Japan created its fair share of chances. With more clinical finishing the final 3-0 score might well have been a lot less comfortable for the hosts despite their territorial domination.
Tougher opponents lie in wait for the Brazilians but, for the time being, they have lived up to expectation and left their fans, literally, singing in the rain.
European class should come to the fore on Day 2 of the Confederations Cup. World champion Spain is the star attraction, kicking off its campaign with a Group B clash against Uruguay Sunday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 5:45 p.m. ET). We all know what to expect from the Spaniards - their patient, accurate pass-and-move game plan has made them the world's top team for the last five years.
You would think, by now, someone would have figured out how to counter the threat but the stats don't lie. The only silverware missing from the Spanish trophy cabinet is the Confederations Cup - some of us are still scratching our heads, wondering how they lost to the Americans in the semifinals four years ago.
Italy will also make its Brazilian bow. The European runner-up, only invited because Spain is both World and European champion, will tackle Mexico at the iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio Sunday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2:45 p.m. ET). As ever the question must be asked - will the Azzurri turn up for what many view as a "test" event? If the answer is positive, we may see the best of the gifted but volatile Mario Balotelli.