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HindustanTimes Sat,12 Jul 2014

Football

'Inspired' Neymar stars for Brazil
AP
Fortaleza, June 21, 2013
First Published: 01:08 IST(21/6/2013)
Last Updated: 01:11 IST(21/6/2013)

Neymar made the difference for Brazil again on Wednesday, scoring in the ninth minute and setting up Jo's injury-time goal to give the hosts a 2-0 win over Mexico and a spot in the semifinals of Confederations Cup.

The Brazilian striker scored his second goal of the tournament with a left-footed volley from just inside the penalty box after Mexican defenders failed to clear a cross, then slipped past two defenders at once to set up Jo for an easy goal in the final move of the game.

"I'm happy to have played well again," Neymar said. "But what was more important was that the team had a good performance. We are improving game after game and we are getting better. This gives us more confidence for the next matches."

Mexico, who had won two of their last three matches against Brazil, fought strongly but had little finishing power up front. They were eliminated from the World Cup warm-up competition with the loss, the team's second-consecutive. They had fallen 2-1 to Italy in the opener.

Brazil, who opened with a 3-0 win over Japan, will play Italy on Saturday to see which team will finish first in Group A.

One of Brazil's recent losses to Mexico was in the Olympic final last year, when the team led by Neymar and Oscar was considered favorites to win Brazil's first gold medal in football but failed to come out victorious.

"We had been having problems with Mexico recently and that Olympic final was still in the mind of some of our players who were there," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "It was important to get this victory against them."

Home support
Backed by loud home fans packing the Arena Castelao in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, Brazil came out attacking from the beginning and it took a while before Mexico could get into the game.

Mexico had few chances but came close to scoring an equalizer late in the second half. The best chance was a shot by Andres Guardado that was deflected by a defender in front of goal.

Brazil opened the scoring after a run by Barcelona right back Daniel Alves down the right side. His cross to striker Fred inside the area was partially cleared by Mexico captain Francisco Rodriguez and the ball went toward Neymar, who struck a difficult shot on the volley.

With the clock running down and Mexico pressing desperately for an equaliser, Neymar wriggled through two defenders near the touchline and crossed for Jo to score from five yards. Neymar was named man of the match for the second time in a row.

It was Brazil's first match since the players publicly expressed their support to a historic wave of protests that has swept across the South American nation in recent days to demand for better public services to the population.


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