The Brazilian striker with a name reminiscent of 1960’s Britain finally got his World Cup campaign off and running last night when he netted his first goal of the tournament for the Selecao as the hosts defeated Cameroon 4-1 to top the group.
Whilst Neymar has been the poster boy for the tournament and lived up to the top billing in spectacular fashion, netting a further two goals last night, in contrast, Fred has cut a lonely figure as his form has spluttered along in the shadow of the young superstar.
Before kick-off yesterday, there were calls for Fred to be left out of the side. One pundit rounding on the striker was the BBC’s Alan Shearer. The former England front man said “I just don’t understand why Brazil are still picking him. He doesn’t move, he doesn’t shoot and he’s dragging the team down. I don’t know if Brazil should change the system or play Neymar as a false nine but the fact is that Fred is not the answer for what they are doing now.”
It was a criticism quickly rebuffed by the Brazilian team and Barcelona full back Dani Alves described the comments as “idiotic.” Shearer’s comments certainly didn’t sway the thinking of Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Brazilian manager continued to select Fred, rather than the alternative front man Jo, or indeed moving Neymar further forward as alluded to by Shearer.
Scolari’s loyalty was duly rewarded when Fred netted his opening goal of the tournament just after the break last night. It may just have been a watershed moment for the player, as there’s clear evidence that he has the ability to score at this level. His 36 caps for the country have brought 18 goals, and last year’s warm up tournament for the World Cup, saw him finish the Confederations Cup as winner of the Silver Shoe.
Brazil now move on to face Chile in the Round of Sixteen, and will be confident of overcoming their South American neighbours. The hosts have an excellent record against the Chileans, and despite the shining form of Alexis Sanchez offering a potent threat, should negotiate the tie fairly comfortably.
Doubtless, Big Phil will be hoping that now Fred has opened his account, he can cash in with a few more goals to ease Brazil’s passage and lift a little weight from Neymar’s young shoulders. If he can get his front man firing again, it could just be the impetus to drive the hosts all the way to World Cup triumph.
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