JOHANNESBURG - Like a glistening bright-yellow sports car with a misfiring engine, the five-time World Champions did not seem to be running on all cylinders through the first three games of South Africa 2010.
Sure, they disposed of North Korea 2-1 in their opener. But that was a far cry from the touchdown and extra point Portugal dumped on that same North Korean team in Cape Town in a 7-0 trouncing.
Sure, they started to show some of their familiar flair in a 3-1 victory over Ivory Coast. At the same time, there were moments when they coughed and sputtered in unnatural fashion, especially at the leaky back end.
Sure, Portugal was a tough opponent in their final group match, but the 0-0 draw was a real snoozefest, the type of dreary performance not normally associated with such a world power.
What in the name of Pele was wrong with Brazil?
Nothing, it seems.
Nothing that some good old home cooking against a familiar South American foe wouldn't cure.
Going up against a Chilean side they had beaten twice in their World Cup qualifying group, Brazil finally turned on the jets Monday at Ellis Park Stadium, posting an impressive 3-0 triumph on a frigid Johannesburg night.
In the process, the Brazilians sent a strong message that they indeed are worthy of their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites to win it all here in South Africa.
"We have already said we are trying to play the open football which everyone wants to see," said Dunga, the Brazilian manager.
"We know there is always this expectation that Brazil will be the winners but being the favourite does not allow you to win the World Cup.
"Some people doubted that we would perform but as we go along that confidence is growing and growing and we hope to make it to the final."
The victory allowed the Brazilians to advance to the quarterfinals and a date Friday in Port Elizabeth with the Netherlands, which defeated Slovakia 2-1 earlier in the day in Durban.
It is the second quarterfinal matchup that will feature two teams ranked in the Top 10 in FIFA rankings. The other pits Germany against Diego Maradona's Argentina side Saturday in Cape Town.
It was Maradona who took a verbal swipe at Brazil during the opening round, suggesting manager Dunga's team was not playing well but could still win "with the use of their arms."
Maradona was referring, of course, to a goal scored by Luis Fabiano against Ivory Coast in which the ball made contact with Fabiano's arm twice before the Brazilian striker put it into the net.
Fabiano would not need his arms to score on this night. Only his feet.
After a nifty Juan header in the 35th minute opened the scoring, Fabiano upped the lead to 2-0 just three minutes later on a brilliant three-way passing play that could only be described as vintage Brazil.
Robinho was the architect, blazing down the left flank before spotting Kaka in the middle. Kaka's feed was perfect to a streaking Fabiano, who deked out Chilean goalie Claudio Bravo before dumping the ball into the empty net.
The Brazilians went for the throat in the second half and were rewarded about 10 minutes after the break. This time it was Robinho delivering the highlight-reel strike, a blast that rocketed past Bravo into the top corner, upping the advantage to 3-0.
Chile have always been the whipping boys of Brazil, having won just seven times in 66 all-time matches against their South American cousins. The Netherlands, on the other hand, will be a much more difficult foe to overcome.
At the same time, the finely-tuned machine that is Brazil is starting to purr in the manner that we're all accustomed to.
And that could be bad news for the rest of the final eight.