Brazil delivered an ominous message to their World Cup rivals with a dazzling display of attacking brilliance to dismantle South Korea 4-1 and set up a quarter-final against Croatia.
Neymar made a goalscoring return to action after injury at Stadium 974, but Brazil’s superstar was only one element of a devastating performance that ripped South Korea to shreds and settled this last-16 game well before half-time.
Vinicius Junior set the tone with a composed penalty-area finish from Raphinha’s cross after seven minutes, and Neymar doubled Brazil’s advantage from the spot six minutes later for a foul on Richarlison.
It was Neymar’s 76th goal for Brazil, leaving him just one behind the legendary Pele’s all-time record.
Richarlison then added to his personal showreel of great goals at this World Cup when he followed his spectacular volley against Serbia with a real work of art, controlling the ball three times with his head and foot before moving into position take Thiago Silva’s pass in his stride and score.
Brazil went four up with another gem after 36 minutes, Vinicius picking out Lucas Paqueta for West Ham’s expensive acquisition to score with a well-placed volley.
South Korea, to their great credit, continued to compete and forced several fine saves from Brazil keeper Alisson, before substitute Paik Seung-ho pulled one back with a glorious 30-yard strike to add to the night’s collection of special goals.
Croatia outlast Japan
Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was the hero, saving three penalties in the shootout, as Croatia edged past Japan with a 3-1 victory to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.
After a 1-1 draw at extra time, Livakovic kept out the first two efforts before stopping Maya Yoshida’s kick, then Mario Pasalic tucked his penalty into the corner to take his side through.
Zlatko Dalic’s side, beaten in the final by France four years ago, will face tournament favourites Brazil in the next round on Friday.
Japan were the livelier side and took a deserved lead two minutes before half-time when Celtic forward Daizen Maeda converted from Yoshida’s knock down.
Croatia levelled in the second half courtesy of Ivan Perisic’s brilliant bullet header from Dejan Lovren’s cross, becoming his country’s all-time leading scorer at major tournaments with 10 goals.
Neither side could find a breakthrough and the game ticked into the additional 30 minutes, with Brighton midfielder Kaoru Mitoma’s spectacular strike pushed over by Livakovic.
At the other end, Marko Livaja’s flicked header looked to be looping in, but Shuichi Gonda managed to gather and Lovro Majer dragged a shot in the 120th minute.
The contest went to nerve-shredding penalties, where Livakovic emerged as the man to lead Croatia’s celebrations. (BBC)