Nick Westby: Boys from Brazil are not cutting the mustard

Brazil's Neymar.
Brazil's Neymar.
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With a resounding 4-1 victory over a limited Cameroon on Monday night, Brazil swept into the second round of their own World Cup, the famous yellow shirts delighting the nation from the Maracana to Manaus.

The hosts are the special guests at their own party, but at this World Cup of fearless underdogs and attacking ingenuity, they are far from the leading lights.

Only Neymar looks truly world class, and at least their poster boy is living up to his billing. But no-one else in yellow quite cuts the mustard. They may have negotiated the group stage but this is no vintage Brazil.

There is no Zico or Socrates creating magic from midfield, no Jairzinho or Garrincha frightening full-backs on the wing, no Ronaldo or Pele up front, no Roberto Carlos or Cafu raiding from deep.

There is not even a Felix the Cat in goal – this Brazil relying on Julio Cesar, loaned by relegated QPR last season to Toronto FC.

Neymar aside, and possibly Oscar, Brazil look ordinary. Defensively, they are shaky. In midfield, they are more defensive grunt than attacking flair, while striker Fred has been an average centre-forward in Europe for years. That they have to call on Jo, discarded long ago by Manchester City, from the bench, says everything.

The nations they have played have paid them too much respect – Brazil will always be a name that strikes fear into opposition players.

Mexico began in awe of the hosts before realising they were paying heed to history and not the present.

In Chile, Brazil will face their toughest opponent yet on Saturday, because they have shown already that reputations count for nothing in the way they swarmed all over and outplayed world champions Spain. Another fearless display by Chile in Belo Horizonte would silence a nation.

Brazil may still win this World Cup. In Neymar and the wave of public euphoria, they possess a deadly enough one-two punch.

But nothing they have shown so far suggests they will.