West Ham United
12:00 PM UTC
Game Details
 By Tim Vickery

Brazil bag biggest victory since 2014's World Cup disaster

In itself, that Brazil have preserved a 100 percent record since the World Cup does not tell us very much.

After all, their record going into the tournament could hardly have been much better -- nine straight wins, 30 goals scored, just two conceded -- but it did them little good when the real stuff started.

The seven consecutive victories under Dunga, then, need to be placed in context. The time for hard-and-fast judgments comes later.

But there is no doubt that Brazil can take great heart from this latest triumph, a 3-1 win over France in Paris, and for a number of reasons.

One, this was the first time since the World Cup they played away against a top opponent. They beat Argentina in China, Japan in Singapore, and Colombia and Ecuador in the United States. Turkey were thrashed on home soil, but they are going through a bad time, and the narrow win away to Austria the latest time out came against a team who have not been strong for decades.

This was different -- away to France, in a packed stadium. True, a friendly is not the same as a competitive match, but this was Brazil's most important scalp so far in the post-World Cup era.

Perhaps now Neymar & Co. can begin to put their 2014 World Cup performance behind them.

Even more significant is the French scored the opening goal. Brazil had to come from behind to win, a situation the Dunga side had not previously confronted. Going behind is the true psychological test of all teams. That is especially appropriate in the case of Brazil, for two reasons: First, the story of their disastrous World Cup is, in part, one of emotional frailty. Second, in recent times Brazil have been worryingly dependent on the counterattack.

An opponent that has taken the lead can get men behind the ball and invite Brazil forward, thereby denying them space to launch their favourite weapon. Although it's true that by the end of the match, the Brazilian counter was looking very dangerous, it was not a tool they could use to get themselves back on level terms.

Perhaps, from a Brazilian point of view, the most satisfying moment in the match was the equalising goal. France had their tails up and appeared to sense a second goal. Brazil's big star, Neymar, was understandably struggling to establish a relationship with new centre-forward Roberto Firmino and kept getting caught in possession. With no chance to launch the counter and Neymar making little impact, how could Brazil possibly stay in the game?

The answer came a few minutes before halftime in a swift exchange of passes between Oscar, cutting in from the left, and Firmino. There was very little space in which to work. Firmino just managed to poke his return ball, and Oscar, fighting to get there ahead of the defender, just managed to poke his finish between the legs of the French keeper. It might not have been the most elegant of goals. But for Brazil to conjure up something such as this, without the participation of Neymar, will do wonders for morale.

Indeed, morale was high after the break. Neymar, with a characteristically lethal finish, put Brazil ahead. Karim Benzema then missed an easier chance to make it 2-2 -- an example of the deficiencies of drawing too many conclusions from friendlies; had he scored, the game might well have taken a different turn.

Brazil, though, will trust that the 3-1 win -- sealed with a Luiz Gustavo header from a corner -- represents the moment when the 2014 World Cup recedes into the past and the build begins towards the Copa America and the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Vickery.


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