Liverpool, June 4 (IANS): Neymar on Sunday put a smile on the faces of Brazilian fans by leading the Selecao to a 2-0 friendly win over Croatia, in preparation for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Neymar made his first appearance after three months after recovering from a foot injury.
Neymar, who was inserted in the second half, proved to be decisive for the five-time world champions, as the team had not been able to fire even a single shot on target during the opening 45 minutes, Efe news reported.
The Paris Saint-German star, however, gave the Brazilian squad a big boost, not only by his own performance, but also because his presence on the pitch allowed Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho to move farther back and take control of the play-making.
With Coutinho in the midfield, Brazil gained both speed and creativity, both of which they had lacked in the first half.
The change paid off as Neymar dribbled around three Croatian defenders inside the area, off a Coutinho pass, before putting the ball home in the 69th minute.
The goal proved that the Coutinho-Neymar duo could be a key element in Brazil’s chances for a sixth World Cup title.
Liverpool’s Roberto Frimino, hoping to play a decisive role in Russia as well, doubled the score in injury time, making the most of a cross from Real Madrid’s Casemiro.
Meanwhile, Costa Rica’s national team bid farewell to their fans with a 3-0 win over Northern Ireland in a friendly match here at the National Stadium as 35,000 fans gave a standing ovation to goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Navas, currently a goalkeeper for Spanish Club Real Madrid, was replaced in the 34th minute, and received a resounding ovation during the Sunday match, Efe news reported.
Midfielder Johan Venegas, forward Joel Campbell and defender Francisco Calvo each scored a goal for their team in the 29th, 46th and 65th minute, respectively.
The Costa Rican team, headed by Oscar Ramirez, played the pre-World Cup friendly against Northern Ireland with speed and good ball control.
Before participating in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Costa Rican team will play two more friendly matches against England on June 7 in Leeds, and against Belgium on June 11 in Brussels.
Costa Rica plays in Group E along with Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland.