Brazil superstar Neymar scored one goal and set up the other to give the hosts a 2-0 win over Mexico in their Group A game and assure them of a place in the semi-finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup in Fortaleza on Wednesday.
Brazil were assured of a place in the last four when Japan failed to beat Italy later on Wednesday, while Mexico also exited the competition.
The 21-year-old Neymar took his tally to 13 goals in his past 15 games for his country with a superb left-footed volley early in the first half and then produced a brilliant shimmy between two Mexico defenders in second-half stoppage-time to set up Jo for the second.
Neymar was unsurprisingly named man of the match, but he shrugged it off, saying the team’s overall performance was the crucial thing.
“We are progressing with each match, we get more and more engaged as each game goes on, and then we take the good things out of that performance to use the next time,” he said.
The former Santos star, who cost Barcelona 57 million euros (US$76 million), dismissed worries about his bandaged right thigh.
“It is nothing, I just took a small blow to it,” he said.
For Brazil, it was a much cheerier occasion than the last time they played in Fortaleza in 2002 when Mexico beat them 1-0.
Neymar confirmed Brazil’s early dominance with a stunning left-footed volley in the ninth minute after Mexico defender Francisco Rodriguez’s header fell to him.
Dani Alves, who had provided the cross that Rodriguez failed to clear properly, then went close with a shot toward the far-right corner, but Mexico goalkeeper Jose Corona did well to tip it over the bar.
The signs had been there right from the start that Brazil were intent on sealing their place in the semi-finals as Chelsea star Oscar scored after a flowing move, only for it to be ruled out for offside by English referee Howard Webb.
Neymar went close to doubling his tally in the 23rd minute when he chested the ball down outside the area and let fly, with his shot going just over the bar.
Brazil went slightly off the boil after that and were not helped when Oscar’s Chelsea colleague David Luiz had to go off for lengthy treatment after injuring his nose in a clash with one of his teammates.
However, not even with the hosts down to 10 men could Mexico press home their advantage.
Brazil had the ball in the net early in the second half when Thiago Silva headed home, but once again it was ruled out for offside.
Brazil had several chances after that as they looked to seal the win, but Hulk hit a shot into the side netting after being set up by Neymar, while the goalscorer also went close.
Luiz, fully rehabilitated after his nose bleed, produced probably a goal-saving clearance on the hour mark as he slid in to turn behind a dangerous ball played across goal with Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez lurking just behind him.
The pace of the game slowed dramatically in the second half as the high humidity had an inevitable effect on the players, but it did not stop Neymar from one last moment of brilliance when he set up Jo.
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