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Neymar scores as Brazil marches on

By Agencies | China Daily | Updated: 2016-09-08 07:09

Five-time world champion wins second in a row

Brazil's march towards the 2018 World Cup gathered pace on Tuesday with a Neymar-inspired win over Colombia as Uruguay surged to the top of the South American qualification standings with a 4-0 rout of Paraguay.

Just four days after its first ever victory over Ecuador in Quito, Brazil dug deep to beat Colombia 2-1 in the Amazon jungle city of Manaus courtesy of Neymar's 74th-minute winner.


Neymar scores as Brazil marches on

Neymar (right) of Brazil fights for the ball with Jaison Murillo of Colombia in the World Cup South American zone qualifying match in Manaus, Brazil on Tuesday. Neymar scored the winning goal as Brazil won 2-1. Paulo Whitaker / Reuters

The result left Brazil - who had started the day outside the automatic qualifying places - in second place overall, just one point behind leader Uruguay.

Brazil's win over Colombia was the latest in a series of physical encounters between the two teams, who have skirmished regularly since the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals - a match that saw Neymar exit with a tournament-ending injury.

"We've been very consistent the last two games," said goalkeeper Allison. "We've become tougher and we deserve congratulations for taking the lead again after they pegged us back. We reacted well."

The result lifts Brazil to 15 points, ahead of Argentina, who came from behind to draw 2-2 against bottom-placed team Venezuela, on goal difference.

Neymar, who was sent off against Colombia in a bruising Copa America battle in 2015, exacted his revenge with a sweetly struck low shot to decide Tuesday's game.

It completed a memorable few weeks for the Barcelona superstar, who last month scored the winning penalty to give Brazil its first ever Olympic soccer gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Neymar's Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez meanwhile was in similarly sparkling form for Uruguay in its 4-0 thrashing of Paraguay.

Paraguay had entered the match in Montevideo optimistic of an upset following its win over Copa America champion Chile last week.

But a magnificent individual performance from Suarez - who laid on two goals for Edinson Cavani before scoring one himself from the penalty spot - left Paraguay reflecting on a humbling defeat. Cristian Rodriguez scored the other goal for the Uruguayans.

The victory - and the performance of Suarez and Cavani - prompted Uruguay's often stony-faced coach Oscar Tabarez to permit himself a smile.

"We have world class strikers," Tabarez said. "Sometimes they win by presence, not necessarily because they've played well. We are satisfied because the team played well."

Venezuela came within seven minutes of pulling off the upset of the day in its rain-lashed scrap with Argentina in Merida.

Nicolas Otamendi saved Argentina from a huge embarrassment in World Cup qualifying, scoring in the 83rd minute Tuesday to salvage a 2-2 draw against last-place Venezuela.

Venezuela almost snatched victory in the 89th minute when Mikel Villanueva hit the post to the right of Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Argentina played without Barcelona star Lionel Messi, who had a groin injury. Messi scored Argentina's only goal last week in the 1-0 win over Uruguay.

Argentina lost the World Cup final two years ago against Germany, and has been the losing finalist in the last two Copa America tournaments - the South American championship.

Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza praised his side's courage after fighting back from 2-0.

"We wanted to win but we found ourselves losing 2-0," Bauza said. "I take comfort from the way that the players responded when they conceded those two goals," he added.

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