KALLANG, Singapore -- Brazil came away with a 4-0 victory over Japan, though both sets of players put on a strong audition for their new coaches -- Dunga and Javier Aguirre -- at the Sports Hub in Singapore.
Here are three quick thoughts.
1. He came, he saw, he conquered
In the 88th minute of their World Cup quarterfinal match against Colombia on July 4, 202 million Brazilians held their breath as Neymar collapsed following a challenge from Juan Camilo Zuniga. Three months later, the golden boy of Brazilian football has returned with that same nonchalant swagger and is firmly Dunga's main man moving forward as the 1994 World Cup captain plots the Selecao's blueprint for the next decade.
Once the national anthems and pre-match formalities were completed, it was onto the main event: the Neymar master class. The 22-year-old Barcelona forward took just 15 minutes to dazzle the crowd with a free kick that came back off the bar. Diego Tardelli then put him through with a delightful pass and the golden boy duly obliged the crowd by rounding keeper Eiji Kawashima for his first goal.
Three minutes into the second half, substitute Philippe Coutinho supplied the through ball for Neymar to score his 38th goal on his 58th appearance in the legendary yellow jersey. It didn't stop there; the goal-scoring machine was unstoppable and got his hat trick in the 77th minute when he tucked away a rebound off a Kawashima save.
As the crowd roared in approval, Neymar added a fourth, a precise chip from former AC Milan playmaker Kaka giving him the chance to cap a magical performance. A dazzling night that ended with him reaching 40 goals for his country and taking sole possession of fifth place in the Selecao's all-time scoring charts.
Four wins out of four since their World Cup debacle, and the Neymar show was complete. Another night, another stadium and the same fabled storyline for the man who is tasked with bringing the South American giants back to the top of the heap.
2. Move over, Shinji Kagawa; Gaku is in town
When the announcement was made over the weekend that Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa was out of the match against Brazil due to a concussion, fans and media alike sighed in unison as the focus immediately shifted to AC Milan playmaker Keisuke Honda to carry the load in the Lion City.
Little did we know that a certain Kashima Antlers midfielder, Gaku Shibasaki, would use this match to show that he is the next big talent coming off the Japanese football conveyor belt.
Just 22 years of age, Gaku was mobbed by the Japanese media, who touted him as the next player destined for a move to Europe, and he duly obliged with a classy performance in the middle of the park, matching the likes of Oscar and Willian, while making Luis Gustavo's heart skip a beat on several occasions.
The 2012 J-League rookie of the year was robust against the tough-tackling defensive midfielder, and his coming of age took place in the 34th minute when he dummied and turned Gustavo inside out before attempting to pull off the "roulette" move that was made famous by French legend Zinedine Zidane.
Short of international experience -- Tuesday's game was only his third cap for Japan -- Shibasak 's decision-making is still a work in progress, but he showed a lot of promise, dictating his team's tempo with the help of another rising talent, Ryota Morioka from J-League side Vissel Kobe.
Shibasaki's versatility will be crucial for new coach Aguirre moving forward; the youngster assumed the defensive midfield role in the second half with the introduction of star man Honda, who played just behind target man Shinji Okazaki.
His audition lasted all of 83 minutes, but with a couple more games of this magnitude, the Japanese No. 7 shirt proudly worn by legends such as Yasuhito Endo and Hidetoshi Nakata will surely be his to keep.
3. The sun, the sand, but not the beast
It was meant to be the beast of the east. The showpiece megastructure that will be the crown jewel of Singapore's major sporting events. But alas, when the doors opened in June 2014, four years after the first brick was laid in place of the former Kallang National Stadium, there has only been one talking point: the multipurpose turf that is made up of hybrid grass, similar to that of Liverpool's Anfield stadium, Arsenal's Emirates stadium and even England's 90,000-seater Wembley Stadium. Blending two types of grass seeds, injected with artificial fibres that anchor its roots into the soil, is supposed to make the playing surface steadfast with a good grip.
It's a great innovation but when you try to host multiple events over a short time, this leaves the pitch no time to grow out its roots and shape itself into the amazing lawn it was meant to be.
When Massimiliano Allegri took his Juventus team to play against a Singapore select XI at the Sports Hub in August, star player Carlos Tevez was left out of the game to prevent any possible injuries to the Argentine hit man, while the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon had to tread carefully as they attempted to showcase the Bianconeri's attacking style of football.
Fast forward to Tuesday and the same thing happened as Dunga's Brazil took on Japan on the same turf, with both sides lashing out about the conditions of the pitch. Dunga fussed over possible injuries; Aguirre was more diplomatic in his comments. Japan goalkeeper Kawashima said the teams "will not be able to play beautiful football."
No doubt the pitch is not in pristine condition, but given enough time, this majestic hub will nurture a pitch that is of world-class standards. Then we can sit back and admire the beautiful game here. Let the authorities continue working out the bits and bobs so Singaporeans can have a stadium they are proud of. In the meantime, let's just say it was a relief that Neymar, Honda and their teammates put on a great show without any injuries.