SALVADOR: What’s in one letter? The original icon of Brazilian football was Artur Friedenreich, known popularly as Fried. In his footsteps, a century later and alongside Neymar, Brazil is learning to appreciate Fred writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The 29-year-old from Fluminense struck twice in the closing stages of a pacy Group A Confederations Cup tie in Salvador to lift the hosts to a 4-2 win over Italy. This was the first TIME the Azzurri had conceded four goals since their thrashing by Spain in the Euro 2012 Final.
Fred’s two goals were the 12th and 13th of his on-off international career and the first time he had scored twice in one game in the eight years since his senior debut.
Both former World Cup-winners had already qualified for next week’s semi-finals but were spurred on by the need to finish atop the group and thus avoid Spainwho will almost certainly win Group B.
The world and European champions should confirm their primacy by defeating Nigeria on their own imminent and concluding matchday. This would assist Uruguay, sure to beat Tahiti, into the last four as runners-up and due then to face Brazil.
Mexico winning farewell
Mexico bade farewell to the Confed Cup with a 2-1 win over Japan in Belo Horizonte. Chicharito Hernandez scored twice but missed a last-minute penalty and hat-trick chance. Shinji Okazaki struck late for Japan whose consolation is the certainty of returning next year as already-qualified World Cup finalists.
Brazil sneaked ahead against Italy with a stoppage time goal at the end of the first half from Bayern Munich central defender Dante. Emanuele Giaccherini levelled six minutes after the restart but a deflected free kick from Neymar, his third goal in three games, restored Brazil’s advantage in the 55th.
Fred followed up with first goal and Giorgio Chiellini pulled one back. However Brazil’s energetic pressing secured possession deep in Italian territory, Gigi Buffon could only parry Marcelo’s side-footed shot and Fred pounced again.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was pleased with the commitment of his team though he may regret that they did not create more opportunities from their own play-building in the second half.
Three victories out of three with nine goals scored have vindicated his decision to drop Ronaldinho after offering his 2002 World Cup-winner the start-of-the-year reprieve which much of the domestic media had demanded.
One wicked theory posits that Scolari recalled Ronaldinho because he knew the Atletico Mineiro veteran was not up to the challenge but needed it proved to the nation out on the pitch
Right now, with Brazil having raised their game to reach the Confed semi-finals with a 100pc record, Ronaldinho is history. This weekend it is all about Fred.