Julio Cesar had a fairly quiet afternoon in goal for Brazil, but not a perfect one. Then again, it didn't have to be, as the World Cup favorites rediscovered their scoring stroke before heading on to the knockout stage.
The Toronto FC goalkeeper, rumored to be on his way back to Queens Park Rangers after the World Cup, conceded once in Monday's Group A finale against Cameroon. He didn't have to make a save otherwise, though, as Brazil cruised to a 4-1 victory that gave them first place in the group and a round-of-16 matchup with Chile on Saturday.
Still, the ease with which Joel Matip scored in the 26th minute for the Indomitable Lions – unmarked at the far post on Allan Nyom's second-chance cross, after Dani Alves blocked the first one – might give some pause for the Cup hosts and their veteran keeper going forward.
Or not, manager Luiz Felipe Scolari said in his postmatch news conference.
“I don't have a single drop of fear,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. “They are fantastic. They're wonderful. Naturally, in one or another move, they've been challenged like any defense player. I was a great defense player myself, and sometimes people managed to challenge me.”
Scolari, who managed Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title and last year's Confederations Cup championship, might be overstating his playing accomplishments a bit. He played professionally for nine years in Brazil, winning one Alagoano state championship with CSA, but was never capped for the national team.
Brazil might not have to depend on their backline, though, if Neymar keeps up his scoring form.
After being denied repeatedly by Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa when the two sides drew 0-0 in their second group match, Neymar struck twice in the first half against the Indomitable Lions and now has four goals through three matches.
Asked if his side was overly reliant on its No. 10, who was subbed out for Willian in the 71st minute after taking a hard foul, Scolari said Neymar could handle that burden.
“As Argentina depends on [Lionel] Messi, and other teams depend on one player or another, that's okay,” he said. “Players are different. They play differently. Very high-level players, star players, make a difference in any team, not only for Brazil.
“Neymar, in addition, he anticipates a lot,” Scolari added. “Now, he accepts not making a chance, to help the team as a whole.”