Neymar brilliance enough for Brazil
Published 19/06/2013 | 22:21
Neymar all but fired Brazil to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup as they saw off the challenge of Mexico in the Group A clash at Estadio Castelao.
Brazil won their opening match against Japan and the three points from tonight means they are in pole position to progress to the next stage, while in contrast, Mexico's cup ambitions look to be over after they also lost their opening game to Italy.
It was not a classic performance from Brazil by any means, but the flashes of brilliance remained, and it was two pieces of fantastic skill by Neymar at the start and the end of the game which proved to be the ultimate difference.
The 21-year-old fired Brazil into the lead within nine minutes when he picked up the ball in the edge of the box and volleyed home a stunning strike before his jinking run up the left and deft footwork set-up Jo in stoppage time for the second.
Much of the fault for the opening goal lay with Mexico defender Hiram Mier, whose failed clearance fell at the feet of the waiting forward, who showed why Barcelona had paid almost £50million to secure his services from next season with a rocket from his left foot..
Brazil almost doubled their lead five minutes later when Dani Alves saw his 20-yard lobbed shot tipped over the bar by Mexico keeper Jose de Jesus Corona.
Mexico had their first real chance of the game in the 16th minute when Mier almost capitalised on some scrappy Brazilian defending.
The Monterrey defender shot wide of Julio Cesar's right post when Brazil failed to close down an attack, with Mier doing well to stay on his feet and get a shot away from the right of the area.
Neymar then went close again after he took the ball on his chest in midfield and beat two defenders, but he got too much power on the ball which flew just over the bar.
Brazil were threatening on the counter-attack at every opportunity but they could only take a narrow 1-0 lead into half-time.
It looked as if Luiz Felipe Scolari's side had extended their lead almost immediately after the break from when Thiago Silva put the ball into the back of the net from a Neymar free-kick, but the defender was correctly flagged for offside and the goal chalked off.
Hulk then wasted a golden opportunity to bury Mexico when he shot just wide after some slick build-up play before Neymar again fired a fizzing shot across the face of goal, giving El Tricolor yet another let-off.
The tricky forward forced another save from the Mexico keeper after yet another slick counter-attacking move, with the ball eventually blocked at the near post.
Paulinho lifted a chance over the bar from a whipped-in Neymar cross and it looked like there would be no more goals in the match until the Barcelona man produced a final piece of magic to cut inside and lay the ball off to substitute Jo, who slotted the ball home as Brazil took maximum points.