An early goal from Neymar and a late second from Lucas Paqueta gave Brazil a 2-0 win against Paraguay in a World Cup qualifier in Asuncion on Tuesday, giving the nation its sixth straight victory in South America's preliminaries.
Brazil had not beaten Paraguay away from home since 1985 but that record looked in danger as early as the third minute when Neymar controlled an awkward cross from Gabriel Jesus and side-footed home from eight meters out.
The Paris St Germain striker came into this match with four goals and three assists in the team’s five qualifying games so far, the best haul in the tournament, and the goal was his 66th in 105 games for Brazil.
“It was a game where we scored early in the first half and that really settled us down and allowed us to play the ball about and Paraguay had to chase the game and we killed it right at the end,” said defender Marquinhos.
Wearing their change blue strips, Brazil players were on top throughout and should have added to their total before the fourth minute of injury time when Paqueta scored with a splendid left-foot shot into the bottom corner.
Paraguay was unbeaten in five games in the South American qualifiers but rarely threatened the visiting team, and even when it did it found Ederson, a surprise choice to replace Alisson Becker in goal, equal to its efforts, with one flying save from Omar Alderete right out the top drawer.
The clean sheet was Brazil’s fifth in six games and it is off to its best start to a World Cup qualifying campaign since 1969, when it also won its first six games.
The result leaves the side on top of the South American qualifying group for Qatar 2022 with a maximum 18 points. The top four teams qualify automatically for Qatar and the fifth-place side goes into an intercontinental play-off.
“We knew how hard it is to come here,” Marquinhos said. “We’re delighted to open up a gap with the second placed team in the table.”