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Neymar led Brazil to qualification for the World Cup in Russia next year with an excellent performance in the 3-0 for la canarinha over Paraguay at the Arena Corinthians in São Paulo. The Barça striker captained the team for the first time since March of last year and scored Brazil's second goal in what was their first win over Los Guaraníes in almost eight years.
Francisco Arce’s Paraguay side clearly targeted Neymar in the early stages of the game as Brazil’s danger man. Nevertheless, the blaugrana number 11 did not allow himself to be affected and his pass almost created an opening goal for Paulinho early on in the encounter .
The visitors’ resistance was finally broken in the 35th minute when Liverpool man Coutinho curled in a typical effort into the top corner.
Early in the second half, Neymar had two great chances to add his name to the scoresheet. The first saw the Barça striker just fail to convert Coutinho’s cross and the second came when he failed to convert a penalty, with Paraguay keeper Antony Silva making the save.
Neymar, however, was not to be denied, and his deflected shot after the hour mark made it 2-0 to the home side. The Brazilian has now scored 52 goals in just 77 games for his national side.
Marcelo’s well-taken goal four minutes from time rounded off the victory for Tite’s team to extend their lead to nine points at the top of the South American qualifying group. Brazil are now certain to finish amongst the top four and thus earn automatic qualification for next summer’s World Cup.
Disappointment for Suárez
Elsewhere in CONMEBOL qualifiers, Uruguay suffered a setback as they lost to Peru, 2-1, in Lima. Barça striker Luis Suárez played all 90 minutes on his return to the side after suspension had ruled him out of la celeste’s 4-1 home defeat against Brazil.
Uruguay began well as they searched for a fifth successive win againstLos Incas, with Carlos Sánchez giving them the lead on the half hour mark. Nevertheless, goals either side of half-time from Paolo Guerrero and Edison Flores inflicted defeat on Óscar Tabárez’s team and rekindled Peru’s hopes of World Cup qualification.
Despite two successive losses, Uruguay remain in third place in the table on 23 points, a point behind second-placed Colombia and level with a Chile side who occupy the final automatic qualification place following their 3-1 win over Venezuela. The fifth-placed side must enter into a play-off with a team from the Oceania Zone for a place in Russia, and that position is currently occupied by Argentina, who went down to a 2-0 defeat in Bolivia without the suspended Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano.
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