Landover: Josue Majano has been an El Salvador fan for all of his young life. The Washington-Lee High School student estimated that Wednesday night’s friendly between the Salvadoran national team and Brazil at FedEx Field would be his 20th time seeing La Selecta in person.
But he wasn’t hoping for a victory on a cool, moist night in Landover. He was only hoping to see the show. He wanted to see Brazil do what Brazil does.
“I only see these players on TV. I want to see them score goals,” Majano said before the match. “Even if it’s against my team.”
Brazil did just that, winning, 5-0, with efficiency and style. The Selecao were pure entertainment from the opening whistle, scoring just three minutes into the game and not allowing a single shot on goal.
For Majano, and for the Brazil fans in attendance, there was plenty to enjoy.
“I came expecting and hoping to see what I’m seeing,” Brazil fan Jazmin Alvarez said as she waited in line for a beer at halftime, her team leading 3-0.
Alvarez drove to Landover from Philadelphia for the game and was joined by large clusters of yellow-clad fans. But it was El Salvador’s supporters who owned FedEx on Wednesday, their blue-and-white passion the soundtrack to a blowout.
“It’s all right. We have a lot to learn from them,” El Salvador fan Jose Escobar said. “[Brazil] is coming from the World Cup. That’s experience.”
One player who wasn’t on Brazil’s roster for this year’s World Cup in Russia — where the team lost in the quarter-finals — but is shaping up to be a big part of their future is Richarlison, a forward for Everton of the English Premier League. The 21-year-old scored two goals Wednesday in his first-ever start for his country.
He drew a foul in the box in the third minute, giving Neymar a chance to get the spotlight in front of the countless No. 10 jerseys in attendance. Brazil’s captain calmly slotted the penalty kick home, just like he did Friday in a 2-0 win over the United States in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
It was a good trip to the Washington area for Neymar, who was photographed exchanging jerseys with Redskins corner Josh Norman, a longtime football fan, before the game. He played the full game, while other stars such as Casemiro were subbed out by manager Tite at halftime.
Richarlison picked up his first goal in the 16th minute, finding the back of the net with his right foot. Midfielder Philippe Coutinho, two months after a strong World Cup, made it 3-0 in the 30th minute. Richarlison scored again right after halftime, cementing himself as the player of the match.
The disparity between the two teams was as apparent on the field as it is on paper. Brazil are third in the latest Fifa world rankings, and El Salvador are 72nd. On Wednesday, El Salvador looked outmatched and overpowered as Brazil held 63 per cent of possession and looked calm and confident on the ball throughout the match.
The District of Columbia area’s large Salvadoran population was well represented in the crowd, which mostly spanned the stadium’s lower bowl. The match had an announced attendance of 28,511, smaller than Brazil’s match against the United States on Friday, which drew 32,469.
The Salvadoran fans were vocal and hopeful, rising to their feet for anything that looked like a goalscoring opportunity. But they only had one moment of excitement, a harmless through ball down the right flank, to bring them to their feet before Neymar’s penalty made it 1-0 and the rout was on.
But that didn’t seem to matter much. The wave began in the crowd during the 12th minute, and the energy remained high as Brazil completed pass after pass.
When El Salvador’s defense saved a sure goal that would have made it 4-0 midway through the first half, the fans waved their flags and danced. When Neymar received a yellow card for diving in the box a few minutes later, they got even louder. It was a reminder that, despite all the admiration and entertainment, he was still an opponent and they were still football fans.