Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho will not return to fitness before the November international break, according to the Brazil national team.

Coutinho suffered a hamstring injury in Saturday's defeat to Real Madrid despite completing the full game at Camp Nou.

Barca said a timescale for the former Liverpool man's return "depends on how the injury evolves", but Brazil's doctors have also now assessed the player.

Doctor Rodrigo Lasmar believes "there is not enough time for the recovery of the player for his participation in the next two rounds of [2022 World Cup] qualifiers", a statement read.

Brazil have therefore called up Lyon's Lucas Paqueta in his place for the fixtures against Venezuela and Uruguay on November 13 and 17.

Should Coutinho be available for Barca again following the break, he would make his return against Atletico Madrid almost a month on from the initial issue.

Coutinho is set to be joined in missing Brazil's qualifiers by Liverpool's Fabinho.

The midfielder, who has been playing in defence for the Reds since Virgil van Dijk's injury, sustained a hamstring problem in Tuesday's Champions League win over Midtjylland.

Liverpool were waiting for a scan on the injury on Wednesday, but Jurgen Klopp suggested Fabinho's absence would not represent a major blow for Brazil, as he has earned just 12 caps for his country and started on five occasions.

"I'm not sure if Tite's too worried because he plays him never, so he will probably now not sit on the bench for the next [two] international games," Klopp said.

Brazil and Barcelona legend Ronaldinho has confirmed he has tested positive for COVID-19. 

Ronaldinho, who won 97 caps for Brazil between 1999 and 2013, posted a video to his Instagram story revealing his diagnosis. 

The 40-year-old said he is asymptomatic and is self-isolating in Belo Horizonte, having arrived in the city on Saturday. 

"I've been here in BH since yesterday, I came to participate in an event," Ronaldinho said on Sunday. 

"I took the test and tested positive for COVID. I'm fine, asymptomatic, but we'll have to leave the event for later. Soon we will be there together. Big hug!" 

It has been a turbulent year for Ronaldinho who, along with his brother Roberto Assis, was jailed in Paraguay in March after entering the country with fake passports. 

The pair were moved to house arrest in a Paraguayan hotel in April after serving 32 days in prison, with their sentences ending in August. 

Vinicius Junior earned a recall to the Brazil squad on Friday as head coach Tite explained his intention to rotate his less experienced players. 

After being left out of the team for the opening games of Brazil's 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign in October, Vinicius returned at the expense of Real Madrid team-mate Rodrygo. 

Bruno Guimaraes made way for Arthur, while Rodrigo Caio held onto his spot in the group and Felipe was dropped for Eder Militao, who only made his first appearance of the season for Madrid last weekend. 

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus were included as expected after missing last month's matches through injury, with Santos and Matheus Cunha consequently left out. 

"For the young players it's a matter of process, of maturity in their clubs. [Their selection depends on] the best moment, the degree of confidence they have," said Tite. 

"For this reason, I'll sometimes use Vinicius, Rodrygo, Bruno Guimaraes... 

"[Vinicius] is a player that offers width, goes one on one, has extraordinary physical attributes. Say a normal car has five gears – he has six or seven." 

Brazil sit top of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying section after wins over Bolivia and Peru in their opening fixtures.

The Selecao are scheduled to entertain Venezuela and travel to Uruguay during the next international break in November.
 

Brazil squad: 

Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras); Alex Telles (Manchester United), Danilo (Juventus), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Gabriel Menino (Palmeiras), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid), Rodrigo Caio (Flamengo), Thiago Silva (Chelsea); Arthur (Juventus), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Fabinho (Liverpool), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona); Everton (Benfica), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Richarlison (Everton), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid). 

Pele's career goals tally may be open to debate but there is no questioning his greatness. 

The Brazilian legend starred for Santos and changed the game during his spell with the New York Cosmos. However, he is perhaps best remembered for his achievements in international football, helping the Selecao win the World Cup on three occasions. 

The first – in 1958 – saw Pele score twice in the final when aged 17 years and 249 days. Four years later, injury curtailed his involvement, but Brazil still retained the Jules Rimet Trophy. 

In 1970, the national hero helped leave an indelible mark on the history of the sport. Pele, having said he would not play another World Cup after 1966, was awarded the Golden Ball, given to the best player at the tournament. 

His legacy as one of the best players to ever grace a pitch still remains strong as he celebrates turning 80 on Friday.

To mark the Pele's personal milestone, Rob Bateman recalls the 1970 tournament and a team that lives long in the memory...

 

Growing up in England with football in the 1960s and 1970s was very different from today.

The foreign superstars playing in English football were from the rest of Great Britain and Ireland, not from mainland Europe or South America.

The best teams and players in the world were not on TV every week. There was no live football on television apart from the FA Cup final, the Home Internationals and World Cups.

Great Britain was an island, both geographically and in terms of football.

It was not too different across Europe. Live games were not regularly shown, in domestic or UEFA competitions.

As a result, there was no homogenised football where teams played roughly the same style. There was no internet, no YouTube, no sports channels to catch glimpses of football outside your own country. When a World Cup came around you saw players you had only read about in books or newspapers.  

You saw genuinely new things that delighted, enthralled and shocked the viewing audience, such as the famous Cruyff turn, the ticker tape at Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires and fouls in the opposition half by a "rush goalie" like Ramon Quiroga of Peru.

But nothing stands out in that era as much as the Brazil side of 1970. Still vaunted as the best team ever in some quarters, it is hard to argue against the fact that they, and their talisman Pele, had the greatest impact on world football.

From the iconic yellow shirts, blue shorts and white stockings in the first competition to be broadcast live in colour, to their beautiful and effective style of play. Kenneth Wolstenholme's famous description of their "sheer, delightful football" summed up how Brazil in 1970 captured the hearts of all fans and encapsulated everything great about the world's favourite sport.

Mario Zagallo became the first man to win the trophy as a player and then a coach. His team was the first since the 1930s to win all their World Cup matches en route to the trophy.

Six games, six wins in qualifying. Then six games and six wins at the finals, scoring at a rate of 3.2 goals per game in Mexico. Only one team has averaged more goals per game since 1958 than this brilliant Brazil side and that was Hungary in 1982 whose average was boosted by a freak 10-1 win over El Salvador.

This 1970 Brazil squad scored three or more goals in five of their six matches; a feat only matched in World Cup history by the West German side of 1954.

Jairzinho scored in all six matches, becoming the only player to net in every single round at the World Cup finals, although they needed to be prolific as they only kept one clean sheet in the six matches they played.

Of course, Brazil are famed for their long-range shooting. Stats Perform have analysed all the World Cup finals matches back to and including 1966. During that time, the Selecao have scored 37 times from outside the box – 11 more than closest rivals Germany and over double any other side.

It's not just quantity though, it is about the quality of a shot – only South Korea (6 per cent) have scored with a higher percentage of their long-distance attempts than Brazil, who have netted one in every 23 attempts (4.4 per cent).

Team

Goals (outside box)

Brazil

37

Germany

26

Netherlands

16

Korea Republic

14

Argentina

13

And they have netted 13 from direct free-kicks, more than double any other team at the World Cup in that same period.

Team

Direct Free Kick Goals

Brazil

13

Germany

6

Korea Republic

5

Argentina

5

Between 1966 and 2018, only nine teams have scored two direct free-kicks at a World Cup finals. Four of those teams were Brazilian squads including the 1970 vintage.

There are so many iconic moments that the 1970 tournament lingers stronger in the memory than any other. And Brazil and Pele were at the heart of most of those.

Bobby Moore's tackle on Jairzinho, Pele leaping to power home a header for Brazil's 100th goal at the World Cup finals and another header by the world's greatest footballer to force arguably the best save of all time by Gordon Banks.

There was Pele's audacious shot from his own half (59 yards) against Czechoslovakia which narrowly missed. That was not even his longest attempt either, as he failed with a shot from 75 yards against Uruguay!

The Uruguayans were also on the end of one of the most outrageous dummies ever seen as Pele ran toward a pass with the goalkeeper advancing and then let the ball run between them, confounding the goalkeeper by running straight past, retrieving the ball, only to screw his shot wide and deny us one of the most outrageous goals of all time.

And, of course, one of the most iconic goals in football history was scored when Brazil netted their fourth in the final against Italy, courtesy of Carlos Alberto. That goal was the epitome of the style that team oozed. A patient build-up, then devastating speed and clinical efficiency in front of goal.

That goal saw nine passes, but was typical of Brazil's measured build-up. They averaged far more moves of 10 passes or more than any other team at the 1970 finals.

Team

Sequences per game of 10+ open play passes

Brazil

5.2

England

3.5

Czechoslovakia

2.7

Peru

2.5

Romania

2.3

 

 

Tournament average

1.9

And as you can see below they were prepared to hang on to the ball to find the right moment to strike, performing with the grace and rhythm of a slow, quick, quick of the Samba.

Team

Ave passes/sequence

Ave Sequence time (secs)

Brazil

3.6

11.5

Germany

3.1

10.6

England

3.2

10.5

Romania

3.0

10.2

Czechoslovakia

3.0

10.0

That fourth and final goal against Italy was inevitably set up by Pele. That assist was his sixth of the tournament and remains a record tally for a single World Cup tournament that Stats Perform have analysed.

He created 28 chances in total, 27 from open play. Only Johan Cruyff (29) in 1974 has created more in a single tournament since 1970, having played a game more. 

Player

Team

Assists

Pele

Brazil 1970

6

Maradona

Argentina 1986

5

Littbarski

Germany 1982

5

Gadocha

Poland 1974

5

Häßler

Germany 1994

5

Pele was the second most prolific player in relation to attacking contribution at the 1970 World Cup when combining Expected Goals and Expected Assists per 90 minutes, scoring four goals and registering six assists. He was narrowly behind Gerd Muller who netted 10 goals, but those two are way out ahead of anyone else in the tournament.

It was not all grace and guile from the three-time World Cup winner.

Having been fouled repeatedly and injured in both the 1962 and 1966 editions, Pele certainly showed he knew how to look after himself in 1970. Only five players since 1966 have committed more fouls in a single tournament than the 23 the playmaker was penalised for in 1970.

Pele retired from international football in 1971 and Brazil have spent many years since trying to emulate that 1970 team's iconic achievement, with limited success.

Although they won the World Cup in 1994 and again in 2002, there were criticisms of those teams' styles of play, while the beautiful attacking flair of the squads of 1982 and 1986 ultimately went unrewarded as they were knocked out of the tournament early.

Perhaps Andy Warhol was right when he said: "Pele is one of the few who contradicted my theory: instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries."

Peru defender Carlos Zambrano launched a scathing criticism of Neymar's behaviour, labelling the Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain star a "clown".

Neymar scored a hat-trick as Brazil twice came from behind to beat Peru 4-2 in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

In a repeat of last year's Copa America final, Neymar earned two penalties and converted both as he leapfrogged Ronaldo for the second most goals in Brazil's history.

Zambrano was sent off in the final minute of regulation, after substitute team-mate Carlos Caceda saw red three minutes earlier in Lima.

While acknowledging Neymar's quality and status within football, Zambrano – who plays for Boca Juniors – hit out at the former Barcelona forward.

"Honestly, he is a great player, one of the best in the world, but for me he is a real clown," Zambrano told American Television program 'La banda del Chino'.

"[Neymar] is aware of everything he did on the field, he is a great player but he was looking for the slightest foul.

"In the penalty area he threw himself four or five times to see if they would award him a penalty and in the end he achieved his goal, with two penalties, but they weren't."

Zambrano added: "It's Brazil and at the touch [immediately] they went to look at the VAR. Whether the play was positive or negative, they did review the images because it is Brazil."

With 64 international goals, Neymar moved past Ronaldo (62), only adrift of Pele (77) for Brazil's all-time record at the age of 28.

Neymar's treble performance against Peru was also the fourth occasion he has scored three or more goals for his country in a game, but the first time in a competitive fixture.

Ronaldo lauded countryman Neymar after being surpassed by the Paris Saint-Germain superstar to the second most goals in Brazil's history on Tuesday.

Neymar's hat-trick in a 4-2 World Cup qualifying win over Peru saw him eclipse Brazil great Ronaldo on the nation's goalscoring list.

With 64 international goals, Neymar moved past Ronaldo (62), only adrift of Pele (77) for Brazil's all-time record at the age of 28.

Ronaldo, who won two World Cups during his time with Brazil between 1994 and 2011, used social media to praise Neymar's achievement.

"All my respect for you @neymarjr!," the 44-year-old former striker wrote via Instagram on Wednesday.

"He plays a lot, gives assistance, plays, dribbles and thrashes. The sky is the limit. Fly, kid!

"What a beautiful story you are writing. A complete and increasingly mature player. Crack!... Handling the pressure off the pitch is sometimes more challenging than the ball itself.

"Now tell me: where did we come from, where did we arrive ... who is going to tell us what is impossible? Keep trusting your instincts because the talent is yours and nobody can take it from you.

"You have a lot of records to overcome and marks to leave. Proud to see a Brazilian at the top!"

Neymar's treble performance against Peru was also the fourth occasion he has scored three or more goals for his country in a game, but the first time in a competitive fixture.

Tite hailed Neymar and said the Brazil star was only getting better after the forward moved past Ronaldo on the nation's goalscoring list.

Neymar scored a hat-trick as Brazil recorded a hard-fought 4-2 win over Peru in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

With 64 international goals, he moved past Ronaldo (62), with only Pele (77) having scored more times for Brazil than the 28-year-old.

Tite was full of praise for Neymar, who netted two penalties in the win over a 10-man Peru.

"Each historic moments of the selection, each generation, it has its own values," the Brazil coach told a news conference, via Globo.

"It has Ronaldo, extraordinary phenomenon. There are Rivaldo, Romario, Bebeto, each one in his own moment. It is unfair to make comparisons in the stages of each one.

"What I can say is that Neymar has this unpredictability. He is a bow and arrow. He is the player for the assist and the finish too, better and better and with an increasing degree of maturity."

Brazil trailed twice against Peru as Andre Carrillo and Renato Tapia scored, only for their efforts to be cancelled out by Neymar and Richarlison respectively.

Neymar scored another spot-kick in the 83rd minute before sealing the win, and completing his hat-trick, in additional time to give Tite's men a second win in as many qualifiers.

"Playing against Peru is always very difficult. There is a great degree of difficulty, a history of games like that," Tite said.

"Playing here and imposing oneself is very difficult."

He added: "We took the goals in two moments that we were better. Reacting here is very difficult and we did it."

Neymar scored a hat-trick to lead Brazil to a hard-fought 4-2 win over Peru in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

The forward starred in Lima as Brazil twice came from behind to make it six points from two games to begin their campaign.

Neymar moved past Ronaldo and into outright second on Brazil's all-time goalscoring list, taking his tally to 64 – behind only Pele (77).

He first cancelled out Andre Carrillo's opener before Richarlison made it 2-2 after Renato Tapia had restored Peru's lead.

Neymar was fouled to win a penalty for the second time and he converted before later sealing the win in what was a repeat of last year's Copa America final.

Peru were also reduced to 10 men as Carlos Zambrano was sent off late.

The hosts had made a dream start, opening the scoring in the sixth minute through Carrillo.

A tame clearance from Marquinhos – who was substituted soon after with a suspected injury – fell to Carrillo to volley superbly into the corner.

Roberto Firmino should have brought Brazil level in the 13th minute, but the Liverpool forward was denied by a fine save from Pedro Gallese after Richarlison's header into his path.

But the visitors would get an equaliser from the spot, Neymar fouled before finding the bottom corner with a penalty for his 62nd international goal.

Neymar thought he had given Brazil the lead on the half-hour mark, only for his effort to be ruled out for a narrow offside decision against Richarlison.

Miguel Trauco forced Weverton into a good save with a strike from an angle early in the second half before Peru restored their lead in the 59th minute.

Tapia's volley from 25 yards took a huge deflection off Rodrigo Caio, wrongfooting Weverton and finding the back of the net to make it 2-1.

However, Brazil were level five minutes later, Richarlison forcing a Firmino header over the line after Neymar's corner.

Neymar converted another penalty in the 83rd minute to give Brazil the lead.

The star forward was fouled by Zambrano as he tried to get on the end of an Everton Ribeiro cross, before again placing his spot-kick into the bottom corner.

Making matters worse for Peru, Zambrano was sent off for an elbow on Richarlison, with Carlos Caceda having also been shown a red card while on the bench minutes earlier.

Neymar wrapped up his hat-trick in additional time, tucking away a finish from close range after Everton hit the post.

What does it mean? Brazil stay perfect

Tite's men were made to work hard, but two wins from two gives them a dream start to the gruelling campaign. But they were also put through two different encounters – a 5-0 thrashing of Bolivia followed by the test against Peru.

Neymar steals the show

Neymar was the star once more for Brazil. Along with his hat-trick, he was also involved in Brazil's other goal as his corner led to Richarlison's effort. Aged 28 and within 13 goals of Pele, Neymar seems certain to pass the all-time great on Brazil's goalscoring list.

Brazil encounter defensive issues

While they kept a clean sheet against Bolivia and in their previous win over South Korea in November last year, Brazil had conceded in six straight games before that. They had problems defensively again against Peru as Marquinhos' poor clearance was punished before his replacement, Caio, also headed into a dangerous area and threw himself at Tapia's shot, although the deflection was unfortunate.

What's next?

Brazil's campaign continues with clashes against Venezuela and Uruguay next month, while Peru will face Chile and Argentina.

Neymar drew level with Ronaldo for the second most goals for Brazil with a first-half penalty against Peru on Tuesday.

The Paris Saint-Germain star put away a penalty in the 28th minute of the World Cup qualifier in Lima.

Neymar, 28, moved onto 62 goals in 103 games for Brazil, drawing level with the great Ronaldo in second place on the nation's all-time goalscoring list.

Ronaldo scored 62 goals in 98 games for Brazil.

Only Pele, who netted 77 times, has scored more goals for Brazil than Neymar and Ronaldo.

Roberto Firmino lavished high praise on Brazil team-mate Philippe Coutinho, claiming he has "magical powers" that help him see passes and moves that other players could not imagine.

Coutinho and Firmino have been team-mates since 2014 when the latter broke into the Brazil setup, four years after the Barcelona attacker.

But in 2015 they became Liverpool colleagues as well when Firmino joined from Hoffenheim, as the foundations for Jurgen Klopp's all-conquering Reds began to take shape.

Coutinho ultimately left for Barcelona in 2018 before Liverpool realised their full potential, and ever since little has gone right for the Vasco da Gama youth product, who struggled at Camp Nou before failing to earn a permanent move to Bayern Munich.

But Firmino remains convinced of the talent still held by Coutinho, who has been given a fresh chance at Barca under new head coach Ronald Koeman.

"He's phenomenal," Firmino told FIFA. "You simply can't say that he's not a magician. He has magical powers.

"He produces plays that don't exist, that you couldn't make up. You always have to watch replays of his plays to understand what he's done. He's an unbelievable player.

"It was a pleasure to play with him at Liverpool, and it's a pleasure to play with him for the Selecao. I'm a huge fan of his. He's one of the very best players in the world."

Like Coutinho, Firmino scored in Brazil's most recent match – the 5-0 demolition of Bolivia in Sao Paulo.

Firmino was the leading the line for Brazil, a role he has become accustomed to both at club level and with the Selecao, and he hopes to be a long-term option in a position the team has arguably been short in since the days of Ronaldo.

"Yes, definitely, I love playing in this position, I want to be the player Brazil can rely on in this position," he said, before outlining how coach Tite has asked him to play the role.

"It's not that he asked me not to help out, but he wants me to always be in the area. I still have to get back to mark, but he wants me to chase back less after the ball, be in the box more.

"I have a natural urge to help out, get back – I do this for Liverpool – so I have put this aside and do what Tite has asked of me.

"I enjoy being involved in play, creating goals, but I also enjoy being in the box, scoring goals."

Brazil sensation Rodrygo said he does not want to become the "new Neymar" as he addressed comparisons to the Selecao superstar.

Rodrygo is one of the most exciting young players in football following his exploits for LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

The 19-year-old winger's €45million switch from Santos to Madrid in 2019 has carried weight amid comparisons to Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar and Robinho, who both emerged from the Brazilian club.

But Rodrygo is uncomfortable with the comparisons, telling reporters on the eve of Brazil's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier against Peru on Tuesday: "From the beginning of my career when I started at Santos, they already compared me as the 'new Neymar' and with Robinho, I always had that weight over me.

"I always said that I wanted to be Rodrygo and make my story, Robinho and Neymar are great idols of Santos and of all the places where they played. I'm just starting out and I think there is only one Neymar.

"I always had that weight over me, but I just want to be Rodrygo."

Rodrygo – who has three international appearances to his name – came off the bench in Brazil's 5-0 rout of Bolivia in Sao Paulo on Friday.

He has made two LaLiga appearances for Madrid in 2020-21, having played 19 matches last term and 26 across all competitions.

"I think it is very important to have a good level, we all know that we have excellent players in my position," Rodrygo said. "It is very important that when it is my turn to play I do well and do what Tite asks of me in training and before each game.

"It is important that I have continuity in my work to continue being summoned in the national team."

Brazil coach Tite praised the performance of Neymar and was pleased at Roberto Firmino's contribution in the 5-0 thrashing of Bolivia. 

Liverpool forward Firmino scored twice as Brazil opened their World Cup qualifying campaign in impressive fashion, despite having not played an international fixture in nearly 12 months. 

Marquinhos and Philippe Coutinho also scored, with Bolivia not helping their cause with an own goal in the rout in Sao Paulo. 

Neymar did not score but was influential throughout, the Paris Saint-Germain forward showing no signs of the back problem that had bothered him during the build-up to the game. 

"We seek knowledge, strategies, [to play] with harmony," Tite said after the resounding victory. 

"Neymar was looser, more central, with freedom of movement, as the opponent's marking is more demanding.  

"Coutinho played inside, with Firmino not far behind. He [Firmino] did not seek the ball so much, he waited for it more.  

"He scored two and could have had two more. As the game requires, we may not change the function of the team, but adapt it to suit."

Brazil are next in action on Tuesday, when they are away to Peru. 

Tite will hope his side can be just as clinical on their travels in what will be a repeat of the 2019 Copa America final in Rio de Janeiro, a game the Selecao won 3-1 to lift the trophy.

"It is a feature to maintain possession of the ball. But there is no use getting the ball and finishing little," the Brazil boss added in his press conference.

Roberto Firmino scored twice as Brazil eased past Bolivia 5-0 in a dominant display to kick off their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Brazil barely raised a sweat in their opening CONMEBOL qualifier on Friday, outclassing Bolivia thanks to Firmino's brace, while Marquinhos and Philippe Coutinho were also on target, to go with a Jose Carrasco own goal.

Tite's Brazil had not played since their 3-0 win over South Korea in a November friendly after the coronavirus pandemic forced World Cup qualifying to be postponed in March, but the Selecao did not look like a team featuring for the first time in 2020.

Brazil dominated from the outset and they should have scored two goals inside three minutes, however, Everton and Marquinhos wasted golden opportunities in the pouring Sao Paulo rain.

Marquinhos, who glanced a header wide in the third minute, made no mistake in the 16th minute as he got on the end of a Danilo cross and headed powerfully past Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe to open the scoring.

Bolivia could not get close to Brazil and the visitors almost conceded again after Coutinho's shot from the top of the penalty area took a wicked deflection and skidded off the turf, forcing Lampe into a fine diving save.

Bolivia's non-existent defending was exposed when Renan Lodi made an unmarked run and whipped a ball across the six-yard box for Firmino to tap home.

Brazil continued where they left off in the second half after Firmino netted within four minutes of the restart – Neymar playing a ball to his team-mate, who routinely poked home.

Weverton – playing in the absence of injured number one goalkeeper Alisson – had nothing to do until he was called into action by Bruno Miranda's rising shot in the 50th minute.

Brazil showed no mercy as Carrasco deflected the ball into his own net past the hour mark, before Neymar provided the cross for the onrushing Coutinho to head home emphatically with 17 minutes remaining.

 

What does it mean? Brazil dance to their own beat

Brazil took to the field for the first time in almost a year and the South American giants did not look off the pace, unlike rivals Argentina on Thursday. Albeit against weaker opposition, Brazil kicked off their road to Qatar 2022 in ruthless fashion.

Neymar pulls the strings

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar was not on the scoresheet, but he produced a great performance. After shaking off a back problem, Neymar was at the heart of Brazil's big moments, providing a pair of assists in his 102nd international appearance.

Sorry Bolivia

It was always going to be an uphill battle for South America's whipping boys. Bolivia – beaten 3-0 by Brazil in their last meeting at the 2019 Copa America – rarely threatened, pegged back in their own half for the majority of the contest.

What's next?

Brazil will face Peru on Tuesday, while Bolivia host Lionel Messi's Argentina on the same day.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar is doubtful for Brazil's opening World Cup 2022 qualifier against Bolivia with a back injury.

Footage on social media this week showed Neymar putting his hand on his lower back and keeling on the floor in pain during a training session.

He was unable to train on Thursday and Tite is now preparing to be without his key man for Friday's clash in Sao Paulo, with Flamengo's Everton Ribeiro on standby.

Brazil's team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar confirmed a decision will be made on Neymar's availability on Friday and Tite added: "We will have to wait and see.

"If we are without Neymar then it will be Everton in his place."

Brazil are already without goalkeeper Alisson and striker Gabriel Jesus but Tite still has a deep squad to choose from for the double-header with Bolivia and Peru.

Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro will captain the side in the absence of Dani Alves, who is regaining fitness after an injury layoff, while Weverton and Douglas Luiz will also start.

"The captain for tomorrow's game is Casemiro," Tite said. "He is one of the captains, one of the leaders we have.

"We have three great goalkeepers but Weverton has played at a high level.

"Douglas Luiz is another. We want to give him greater freedom to attack from the left side. He needs to be able to supply the man up front."

Brazil will belatedly get their qualifying campaign up and running after the first four rounds of fixtures were called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Selecao won the 2019 Copa America but have advanced past the quarter-final stage of the World Cup just once since 2002, when they won the fifth of their titles.

That occasion was on home soil in 2014, in which they suffered a humiliating 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany.

"It is about enjoying the pressure," Tite said at his pre-match news conference on Thursday. "It is my responsibility to make decisions and win titles.

"I have the opportunity to be a world champion with Brazil. But this is a team under construction."

Vinicius Junior has paid tribute to Karim Benzema for selflessly taking the young Brazilian under his wing when he first made the move to Real Madrid.

Los Blancos paid a reported €45million for Vinicius in May 2017, the winger joining from Flamengo the following year when he turned 18.

Vinicius has already played 72 times for the club but struggled for consistency despite often catching the eye with his skilful style of play.

He has started 2020-21 in encouraging fashion, however, scoring the winning goal in the 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid, before getting the opener in a 2-0 win at Levante last weekend.

That was the first time he had scored in consecutive LaLiga matches, hinting the 20-year-old is beginning to find some continuity alongside Benzema in attack.

And Benzema is regarded particularly fondly by Vinicius for the role he played in his Madrid career.

"Karim is an idol, it is an honour to play with him," Vinicius told RMTV. "We always talk about what I can improve, also how he can help me.

"When I arrived, he did not know me but he still started to help me. He helped, and now he continues to do so, he tells me to be calm and helps me make the best decisions.

"It is a dream to play with Karim and with all the players who are here. I take advantage of all the moments with everyone and I listen a lot because they help.

"They know that I listen a lot and I learn with them."

When Vinicius first joined Madrid, comparisons with former Blanco Robinho were understandable – flashy tricks were a common theme and he often lacked decisiveness in the final third.

But he feels he has matured already and that he is a completely different player.

"I arrived at the age of 18 and having played only in Brazil, so everything was new for me," he added.

"I was learning and I continue to do so to help Madrid. Now I am another player. The people at Madrid help me so that I can help now and in the future.

"I'm very good, very happy with my moment, but also with the team. We have to continue like this, improving the things that we are not doing in this different season because we only had a friendly and it is difficult to start."

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