Neymar scored a brilliant goal on his return from injury as Brazil began their World Cup preparations with a 2-0 win over Croatia at Anfield.
By SportBrief Reporter
The Paris St-Germain star, 26, smashed a shot in off the bar after a slick move involving Chelsea’s Willian and Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho.
Croatia’s high tempo created first-half chances for Dejan Lovren and Andrej Kramaric. But Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino scored in added time to seal the victory.
Brazil, who became the first team to qualify for the World Cup in March, face Austria next Sunday before starting their Group E campaign against Switzerland on 17 June.
The return of their talisman Neymar, who joined PSG from Barcelona for £200m last August, is well-timed after he missed more than thee months since injuring his ankle in February.
He also missed the end of Brazil’s last World Cup campaign in 2014 after breaking a bone in his back during the 2-1 quarter-final win over Colombia. Without him Brazil were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final.
It was a satisfactory end on Merseyside for Firmino too – the 26-year-old has now scored 15 goals at Anfield for club and country since the start of the 2017/18 season.
Croatia can take solace from having the best of a combative first half that earned them bookings for Kramaric, shown yellow for a knee-high studs-up foul on Thiago Silva, and Ivan Perisic for hauling down Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus.
Both managers made several late substitutions that slowed the game down and Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia found chances harder to come by after Neymar’s introduction at half-time.
Afterwards Brazil’s coach Tite admitted that Neymar’s performance surprised him after his extended spell out following surgery in March.
“For the first match back I actually expected less from him. I would have been happy with a quieter performance,” he said.
“What he did was really extraordinary. Neymar is an extraordinary individual talent but the goal he scored came from a move, a build-up, involving the whole team.
“He’s aware of what they bring to him.”