Brazil striker Fred got his first goal just in the whisker of time at the World Cup, scoring as the group stage was coming to an end.
He’s attributing the change in fortunes to his new moustache.
The much-criticised forward scored Brazil’s third goal in a 4-1 win over Cameroon on Monday, helping his team reach the second round.
Fred found the net with a 49th-minute header after a left-flank cross by defender David Luiz. But the striker said there was more to it.
“As incredible as it seems, the ball came in hard and it ended up hitting my moustache,” Fred said. “It was a moustache goal.”
Teammate Neymar said he was the one who told Fred not to shave his upper lip, predicting it might turn things in his favour.
“I said, ‘Come on, Fred, if you leave the moustache you are going to score, the moustache never fails,’” Neymar later explained. “After he scored I went to him and I said, ‘See, I told you that it never fails.’”
Fans and local media had been loudly criticising the Fluminense striker because of his poor performances at the World Cup.
“Thank God that ball went in,” Fred said. “The critics were piling a heavy load on me. I just tried to stay calm. The squad was great with me, I need to thank everyone.”
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said the goal will help Fred play better the rest of the tournament.
“We knew that Fred was anxious because he hadn’t scored yet,” he said.
It wasn’t the first World Cup goal for the 30-year-old Fred, who had scored when he was in the squad in the 2006 tournament in Germany.
It was his first goal since a warm-up match against Serbia just before the tournament, and his 18th in 37 matches for Brazil. Neymar is the leading scorer in the squad with 35 goals in 52 matches.
WATCH: Neymar scores the first for Brazil
Fred had been going through a similar slump during last year’s Confederations Cup, when he also was scoreless in the first two matches. But he ended the tournament with five goals, including two in the 3-0 win over Spain in the final at the Maracana.
“I started like this in the Confederations Cup and I knew that I could have some trouble again,” Fred said. “But I was calmer now, I was more prepared mentally. It wasn’t bothering me that I wasn’t scoring, but that the team wasn’t playing so well as it did today. The entire team improved.”
Scolari will be more reassured by the free flowing display by a team who appeared uncertain in beating Croatia 3-1 and fragile in their goalless draw with Mexico.
Neymar’s first goal in the 17th minute was the 100th goal of the high-scoring tournament in Brazil’s 100th match in World Cup finals. Luiz Gustavo crossed from the left and Neymar sidefooted it into the net.
Moments later, Neymar cannoned a shot that Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje could barely parry away.
Cameroon then pulled level through Joel Matip, who briefly exposed Brazil’s defensive frailty.
WATCH: Neymar scores his second to make it 2-1
WATCH: Fred finally gets off the mark
But Brazil’s number 10 scored a second before half time, picking up the ball on edge of the penalty area and shooting through the legs of defender Nicolas Nkoulou.
His fourth goal of the tournament put him atop the scorers’ rankings with four goals.
Fred knocked in the third goal in the 49th minute from a David Luiz cross and Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho strolled through the Cameroon defence in the 84th minute to shoot the killer goal.
Two-goal hero Neymar said Brazil gave their best performance of the tournament so far, after the hosts appeared uncertain in beating Croatia 3-1 and fragile in their goalless draw with Mexico.
“If I’m not mistaken this is our best game yet,” the Barcelona forward said. “Everyone deserves congratulations for their efforts until the end.”
Scolari said Brazil must improve for Saturday’s game against Chile.
“We are progressing on an everday basis,” insisted Scolari. “We scored four goals, and could have had seven or eight, but for the next match against a great Chile team I think we still need to get better.”
Cameroon finished in bottom place in Group A with three straight defeats.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse