Brazil are celebrating as the first South American team to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar — with several matches in hand and more than a year before the tournament begins.
Neymar on Thursday set up Lucas Paqueta in the 72nd minute to give Brazil a 1-0 win against Colombia in Sao Paulo.
The victory was the Selecao’s 11th in 12 matches of qualifiers, putting them 18 points ahead of Chile and Colombia in fourth and fifth respectively with 16 points. They can add a maximum of 15 points each from their five remaining games.
The top four teams in South America earn direct entry to the World Cup.
Celebrations at the Neo Quimica Arena were discreet on the pitch after a hard-fought match with little inspiration from either side.
However, the party gained traction in the Brazil dressing room as players waved a Qatari flag and chanted, with FIFA and South American soccer body CONMEBOL joining to congratulate the first team from the region to secure a place in next year’s World Cup.
Hosts Qatar, Germany and Denmark had already done that.
“This is the result of great work we started way back,” Paqueta said after the match, which provided few opportunities.
“I cried of happiness [after scoring the goal] because of this moment I am living at the national team and at my club [Olympique Lyonnais]. This came from a lot of joy, joy for this work well done,” he said.
His goal came after Marquinhos found Neymar in the middle of the Colombia defense.
Neymar quickly passed to Paqueta, who beat goalkeeper David Ospina with a low, crossed shot that ended in the right corner of the Colombia goal.
Ospina’s touch was not enough to stop the ball from going in.
It was one of the few chances created by Brazil during the match.
Asked about the team’s future now that the spot in Qatar is sealed, Brazil coach Tite said he would seek “solidity, creativity, goals and victories” until the World Cup begins.
“That is excellency. That is what moves us. We need to get as close to that as we can,” Tite told a news conference. “We will celebrate a little tomorrow to mark this moment.”
Brazil sealed their qualification by giving Tite his 50th win along with 12 draws and five defeats.
In other games on Thursday, third-place Ecuador beat last-place Venezuela 1-0 with a goal by Piero Hincapie.
Chile had a key 1-0 victory against Paraguay thanks to an own-goal by Antony Silva after a corner.
Peru defeated Bolivia 3-0 with goals by Gianluca Lapadula, Christian Cueva and Sergio Pena.
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