Fred Rescues Brazilians from Friendly Russian Upset
Back in the days of Péle, Socrates, and Julio Caesar, the magicians that were the Brazilian national team would score at will against plodding tactics like those deployed by Russia on Mon 25 Mar at Chelsea's home ground. The neutral-site friendly flashed little flair, in fact, and only Fred -- yes, Fred -- saved the Seleçãos from defeat by touching home an 89th minute cross to secure a 1-1 draw.
It was a bittersweet return to what was once Brazilian manager Luiz Félipe Scolari's home turf. He was hoping to show with one of the world's most gifted sides what his style of play could produce when the players bought in to his methods. On the night, Chelsea fans in the crowd remained unconvinced. Meanwhile, former England manager Fabio Capello refused to comment on the Three Lions' improved form since his departure, seemingly more intent on continuing his new side's run of only one loss in its last 24 matches.
With both teams secure with their positions in the next World Cup -- Brazil as host and Russia poised to pull away from its pursuers in Europe Qualifying Group F -- this match had more the appearance of a training camp run-out than a shot across either bow as to what lies ahead in 2014.
After an uninspiring first half, Russia finally struck in the 73rd minute through Victor Fayzulin’s highly effective attack. The goal was almost enough to hand the Fabio Capello side a result before Fred's late-game heroics.
For the fourth consecutive match, Fred netted for Brazil by completing a flowing move instigated by substitute Hulk. He tapped Marcelo’s cross into the net at a close range earning his team a draw at Stamford Bridge.
Brazil should have gone a goal up in the 28th minute through Neymar, who was handed a beautiful pass by Marcello, but he struck a curling shot that sailed over the crossbar.
Later, Fayzulin had a chance to finish a well-crafted Russian build-up but could only find the side of the net.
In the 70th minute, Russian goalkeeper Gabulov held a curled shot from Neymar, denying him yet another opportunity and thus maintained the score-line at 0-0. This set the stage for the series that resulted in Fayzulin’s marker. Roman Shirokov took the initial shot on goal, and Fayzulin was at the right place at the perfect time to put the Russians a goal up.
However, the spoils were to be shared with Fred’s late equalizer for Brazil.
As things now stand, the draw leaves the rehired Brazilian manager Scolari winless three months into his tenure as coach of the 2014 World Cup hosts. As for Russia, Capello is gradually applying his stamp on the attack, but the side's inclination to pack and react is so ingrained into its DNA that the crafty Italian has his work cut out for him.