Neymar showed why he is the most coveted player outside Europe as he lit up the Club World Cup with a sumptuous strike yesterday to send Santos on their way to a likely final against Barcelona.
All the talk before the semi-final clash against the host side Kashiwa Reysol had been about the 19-year-old forward and he did not disappoint, scoring a sensational first goal as the Brazilians ran out 3-1 winners.
He will probably meet Barcelona and Lionel Messi in Sunday’s final, though the European champions first need to dispose of Qatar’s al-Sadd in the other semi-final today.
Neymar, the young Brazilian international who has been linked with almost every top club in Europe, was almost on the scoresheet after only five minutes, but his low shot bounced off a post.
On 19 minutes he did score, and it was some strike.
He picked the ball up with his back to goal, dummied inside and from outside the box unleashed an unstoppable left-footed curling shot that nestled in the top corner of the net.
Five minutes later, the South American champions went two goals ahead when striker Borges got away from his marker and crashed the ball into the other corner of Sugeno’s goal.
Japanese champions Kashiwa were stunned.
Santos might have taken a 3-0 lead minutes after the restart, but Sugeno saved with his legs from Danilo.
On 54 minutes, Kashiwa hit back, as Jorge Wagner, the other Brazilian in the Japan side’s ranks, lofted over a corner for defender Hiroki Sakai — who has been linked with a move to Santos — to climb highest and nod in.
However, Kashiwa’s hopes of a comeback lasted all of nine minutes, when Danilo curled a direct free-kick round the wall and the ball dropped in the corner of Sugeno’s net, leaving him stranded.
Yet the Japanese league champions would not lie down. Masakatsu Sawa hit a post, while Santos substitute Ibson rattled Kashiwa’s bar.
MONTERREY 3, ESPERANCE 3
AFP, TOYOTA, JAPAN
Mexico’s Monterrey sealed fifth place at the Club World Cup yesterday after narrowly defeating the African champions Esperance of Tunisia.
The CONCACAF winners fell behind in an open and entertaining fixture in the Japanese city of Toyota, but struck back with three goals in a nine-minute spell.
Monterrey coach Victor Vucetich had suggested after his side lost their opener on penalties that this was a game his men could have done without.
However, he was more upbeat after this narrow win, saying the experience had been a “fruitful” one.
“It was a good experience for all of us,” said Vucetich, refusing to be drawn on the merits of having to play a game to decide who finished fifth and sixth at the intercontinental championship.
“That’s the structure,” he said. “If more teams can participate that would be very good, but of course that’s for FIFA and not me to comment on.”
Esperance, whose small but vocal contingent of fans was surrounded by police after trouble marred their defeat to al-Sadd, took the lead in the 31st minute through their Cameroon forward Yannick Ndjeng.
However, the advantage lasted just eight minutes, the Mexicans drawing level through Hiram Mier, before Aldo De Nigris put them ahead a minute before halftime.
Monterrey, who were not at full strength, went 3-1 up on 47 minutes with a Jesus Zavala strike, before Khaled Mouelhi pulled a goal back 14 minutes from the end from the spot for the Tunisians, who finish the tournament sixth.