If Thursday’s opening night time of South America’s World Cup qualifiers posed the query of how lengthy Argentina can rely on Lionel Messi, the spherical got here to a conclusion on Friday with Neymar making a agency declaration that he stays an elite participant entitled to dream of a closing sprint for glory in 2026.
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Neymar had an early penalty saved, and picked up a yellow card, however was on the coronary heart of virtually all the pieces that Brazil produced in a sexy 5-1 win at house to Bolívia. He was each bow and arrow, making the play from his place behind the entrance three, and posing a menace to the objective. Twice he swept house balls performed in from the suitable, and his two objectives take him above Pelé as Brazil’s all-time high scorer — which is able to look like sacrilege to some, however absolutely underlines the purpose that he is a exceptional expertise.
Some might need seen this because the time that the group’s assault would now not be constructed round Neymar, who has moved to the Saudi Pro League to play for Al Hilal. The rise of Vinícius Júnior had appeared to verify such a view. But with the Real Madrid star absent although harm, Neymar used the event to emphasize that rumours of his demise had been vastly exaggerated.
True, there are stiffer challenges than Bolivia at house — on paper the best of all of the 18 rounds on this qualification marketing campaign. Bolivia had been the primary group to beat Brazil in World Cup qualification, and have crushed them extra occasions than another opponent. But all the time at house, on the excessive altitude of La Paz. Away, particularly within the tropical warmth of Belem — the place it was so scorching that drinks breaks had been wanted in each halves — they by no means had an opportunity.
Under coach Gustavo Costas, Bolivia had put collectively some encouraging leads to warmup friendlies. But the coach complained about his facet’s issues in retaining the ball, with the consequence that they had been by no means capable of relaxation. This was to show a deadly flaw in opposition to a hungry Brazil facet enjoying their first match beneath new coach Fernando Diniz.
Supposedly holding the seat heat till Carlo Ancelotti turns up in the course of subsequent yr, Diniz might take pleasure in himself in opposition to Bolivia with higher sources at his disposal than he has ever had in his teaching profession. He persistently appears to create overloads, bringing a lot of the group over to 1 half of the sector, after which switching play to the opposite flank. And with Neymar to do the switching, and gamers of the calibre of Rodrygo and Raphinha, Bolivia had been torn aside time and time once more.
The wingers scored the primary three, Raphinha taking pictures house both facet of a Rodrygo double. And then, to his nice pleasure, Neymar added the final two. The solely adverse mark for the Brazil assault went to centre ahead Richarlison, who appears wanting type, confidence and luck. Goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra produced a nice save to dam considered one of his headers, and thereafter his makes an attempt to get on the scoresheet had been more and more determined. The Tottenham man minimize a tragic determine on the bench after he was withdrawn.
And there’s some trigger for concern about the way in which that Brazil reacted to an attacking change by Bolivia. For a lot of the sport the one fear for keeper Éderson had been an overhit Marquinhos backpass that he miscontrolled for a nook. But for the final 20 minutes Bolivia withdrew goal man centre ahead Marcelo Moreno and threw on the extra cell Victor Abrego. and the tempo of the newcomer induced issues. Abrego was capable of get into house behind Arsenal defender Gabriel, making his Brazil debut, and scored with a splendidly struck shot excessive on the close to put up. The groups of Diniz are generally accused of leaving themselves defensively open, and it can be attention-grabbing to see whether or not stronger opponents can take benefit.
On objective distinction, then, Brazil high the desk on the finish of the primary spherical, and in second place are Uruguay, who beat Chile 3-1 in Montevideo.
This was a gathering of latest Uruguay coach Marcelo Bielsa along with his one time pater and assistant, Eduardo Berizzo. In an try to stop Uruguay from constructing momentum by their attacking full backs, Berizzo performed his strikers vast. But as soon as Manuel Ugarte gained the midfield for the Uruguayans, they had been capable of play their approach by efficiently. Darwin Núñez led the attacking line nicely, both bursting past the final defender or utilizing his again to objective abilities to convey others into the sport, and Uruguay’s attacking midfielders ran riot. Nico de La Cruz scored twice and Federico Valverde as soon as as they constructed up a three-goal lead, with Arturo Vidal giving Chile some comfort.
There is little time for excesses of pleasure or despair now that spherical one has been accomplished — spherical two is developing on Tuesday.