Neymar ends drought as Brazil beats Japan

Brasilia, June 16 (IANS) Neymar ended a nine-game goalless run with a stunning first-half strike as Brazil defeated Japan 3-0 in the first match of the FIFA Confederations Cup here.

The newly signed Barcelona striker opened the scoring at Mane Garrincha Stadium Saturday by thumping a swerving first-time shot from outside the area into the top corner after Fred chested down a long Marcelo pass, reports Xinhua.

Tottenham Hotspur and Roma target Paulinho doubled the lead just after halftime when he deftly trapped a Daniel Alves cross before swivelling and firing into the bottom corner.

Former Manchester City striker Jo made it 3-0 in the final minute of the match, running onto Oscar’s perfectly weighted pass and then slotting a left-footed shot between the legs of goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.

“We are getting better with every match and will make the adjustments. We need to improve even more,” a delighted Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said.

Neymar had gone 845 minutes without scoring for club or country, the second longest goal drought of his career. Scolari said he had never lost faith in the 21-year-old’s ability to find the net.

“Neymar is a great player. He might not be at his best every game but we knew that sooner or later he would find his form. You can’t ever write Neymar off. His importance to us is unquestionable and he is the sort of player who makes a difference.”

Brazil dominated possession throughout the match as Japan looked content to sit back and surprise the hosts on the counter-attack. But Alberto Zaccheroni’s team barely bothered Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

CSKA Moscow striker Keisuke Honda wasted Japan’s best move of the first half by blasting his left-footed shot over the crossbar after Shinji Kagawa’s clever cross.

Striker Shinji Okazaki nearly silenced the home fans just after the interval but was also off target after a Hiroshi Kiyotake counter-attack.

Brazil’s next match is against Mexico at Fortaleza’s Castelao Stadium Wednesday while Japan will face Italy the same day at Recife’s Arena Pernambuco.

The top two teams from Group A and B will play off for a place in the final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium June 30.

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