LONDON -- Three thoughts on Brazil's 1-0 friendly win vs. Chile.
1. Firmino wins it for Brazil
Brazil's victory -- their eighth in a row since the World Cup -- was sealed by substitute Roberto Firmino, who collected a 73rd-minute through ball from right-back Danilo, before rounding Claudio Bravo and finishing coolly, to earn Dunga's side their eighth victory in eight games since their World Cup nightmare ended.
Firmino is a recent addition to the Brazil squad, one of the players ushering in a new era, and he was one of the standout performers in the midweek 3-1 victory against France in Paris.
It was a disappointment to see him omitted from the starting lineup here, although he made an instant impact after his introduction, both with his goal and his ability to control the ball quickly and turn toward goal.
This was only his fourth cap -- and second goal -- but the Hoffenheim star symbolises the difference between the Brazil of last summer and now.
At the World Cup, Brazil's attack was spearheaded by Fred, a slow and immobile old-school centre-forward who held up the ball, and did little more.
Starved of top-class centre-forwards -- Luiz Adriano contributed little from the start on Sunday -- Dunga's default approach for this year's Copa America will probably involve playing without a striker, instead fielding Neymar and Firmino, who both drop into deep positions almost like a double false nine.
It leaves the opposition centre-backs without anyone to mark and overloads the centre of the pitch, while Firmino offers the long-range shooting threat Brazil haven't boasted for years.
He's a completely different type of player to Fred and, with 30 club goals since the start of last season, might be more prolific too. He provides excitement, too; while the likes of Oscar and Willian are very efficient midfielders, they rarely offer such an attacking spark.
In the end, Firmino might benefit from being only a substitute at the Emirates. This was a terribly gloomy contest until his introduction and Dunga might feel he can't afford to leave him on the bench again.
2. Neymar vs. Sanchez
The game had essentially been marketed as a showdown between former Barcelona teammates Neymar and Alexis Sanchez and, while neither produced their finest form, it was obvious both players remain pivotal for their respective countries.
When not squabbling with the opposition, Neymar was keen to please the passionate Brazilian supporters in the stands, who roared whenever he received possession, anticipating a mazy dribble or a long-range shot. At one point, he attempted an audacious Zinedine Zidane-esque double dragback in the corner, which Mauricio Isla anticipated and stopped.
Neymar started centrally in the No. 10 position which matches his shirt number, but was given freedom to drift towards wider zones. He was the first player to force a save, when his inswinging free-kick from the left missed every outfielder and forced his Barcelona teammate Bravo to turn the ball around the far post, although it might have been heading wide anyway.
Neymar was also involved in the first half's best move, producing a clever scoop to escape the attentions of Arturo Vidal on the right touchline, before the attack crossed the pitch twice and Marcelo crossed for Douglas Costa to chest the ball down and volley over from a tight angle.
Sanchez, meanwhile, was also given freedom to roam -- perhaps both star men realised the centre was simply too congested -- drifting to the left flank and nipping in ahead of Thiago Silva after 18 minutes, racing towards goal before being dispossessed by Miranda.
With his centre-forward partner Pablo Hernandez less involved, Sanchez was something of a one-man attack, dropping deep to create, then running in behind Brazil's defence toward goal. One moment of beauty, where he controlled a forward pass, knocked the ball over Miranda's head and then released Isla down the right, was the first half's best moment.
In truth, Sanchez hasn't been close to his best recently, having suffered from a mid-season dip in form at Arsenal, but he never stopped running on his home ground. He repeatedly produced clever moments to evade defenders, but was repeatedly fouled when in promising positions.
Most obviously, midway through the second half he shrugged off Miranda and raced towards goal, but was hauled down by the Atletico Madrid defender before he could shoot. He sent another free-kick over the bar and another, after he was tripped by Willian, went low into Jefferson's arms.
The endeavour was there, but not quite the quality. Sanchez has generally been electric for Chile at major tournaments, and Jorge Sampaoli will need his main man back at full sharpness to triumph on home soil this summer.
3. A physical game between old rivals
On a horribly wet and windy Sunday afternoon at the Emirates, this wasn't a particularly enthralling match although, in fairness, while many international friendlies are dull because neither set of players are motivated, this was scrappy because these South American rivals took it surprisingly seriously, and the defining feature of the game was its sheer physicality.
There was malice in the tackles from the outset, as nations who most recently met in the 2014 World Cup Round of 16 renewed their rivalry. Brazilian midfielder Souza quickly put in a crunching challenge on Sanchez, while Chile's right-sided defender Miiko Albornoz was booked inside 15 minutes for a cynical lunge on Neymar. Rodrigo Millar aimed a kick at Neymar's Achilles a few moments later.
There was, if not a deliberate tactic from Chile, certainly a collective, instinctive acknowledgement that physically unsettling Brazil's "only superstar" (in Dunga's words) was the right approach.
As so often with Chile, their heavy pressing causes indiscipline, although that doesn't explain why Gary Medel felt the need to stamp on Neymar following a hard tackle on the left touchline. The Inter defender firmly planted his foot, then put his entire body weight into the leg of his opponent.
Neymar became frustrated with the physical attention, and the final action of the first half saw Brazil's captain go into the book for a foul on Gonzalo Jara.
Referee Martin Atkinson gestured to four spots on the Emirates pitch, suggesting the censure was for an accumulation of fouls. This is nothing new, and Neymar is capable of dishing it out. Indeed, at the Confederations Cup two years ago, he committed the most fouls and suffered the most fouls in the tournament.
Carrying an injury and on a booking, it wouldn't have been a surprise to see Neymar withdrawn at the break, but he returned for the second half and within three minutes was sent sprawling yet again by a hopelessly clumsy Isla tackle. It wasn't exactly the moments of genius the organisers had planned.