Neymar underlined his status as one of the hottest prospects in world football by scoring a breathtaking free-kick in 3-1 win against spirited Belarus at Old Trafford.
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This week Barcelona made it clear they want Neymar to join them after the Olympics and it is easy to see why. His dazzling skills wowed all 66,212 spectators throughout this Group C match, with the crowning glory coming in the 65th minute when the 20-year-old bent a peach of a set-piece over the wall and past the sprawling Aleksandr Gutor.
Brazil have now qualified for the last eight with one match to spare, but they were given a stern test by Belarus, who opened the scoring through Renan Bardini Bressan.
Neymar crossed for Alexandre Pato to equalise and also set up Oscar for Brazil’s third after his brilliant effort had put them ahead.
After the drab 1-1 draw between Egypt and New Zealand that preceded this game, the flamboyant crowd inside Old Trafford were looking for some top-class entertainment from Brazil and they got it in abundance early on.
The Selecao started confidently, with Rafael, Hulk and Pato sending over teasing crosses, but the carnival atmosphere was punctured after seven minutes when Belarus scored.
Aleksei Kozlov of Torpedo Zhodzin raced down the right flank and found Bardini Bressan at the back post where the midfielder directed a downward header past Neto.
Brazil soon had their equaliser. Neymar came in from the left flank and curled a wonderful cross to the back post where the AC Milan man out-jumped his marker to head past Gutor.
Brazil dominated possession, but Belarus still looked dangerous. Bardini Bressan went close with a fierce drive and Neto had to frantically back-pedal to tip over the midfielder’s free-kick shortly afterwards.
After the break Gutor pulled off an athletic save to palm away a drive from Marcelo and Sergi Politevich threw himself in front of Oscar just before the new Chelsea man could pull the trigger.
Bardini Bressan’s cross-shot almost slipped past Neto at the back post during a rare Belarus attack, and the Europeans were looking good value for a draw until Neymar’s moment of brilliance.
Stanislav Dragun tripped the Santos forward 20 yards out and Neymar took the free-kick himself, curling his shot over the wall and into the far corner.
Neymar was desperate for a second but was denied by a forceful challenge after beating three Belarus defenders to break in to the box.
Another moment of Neymar brilliance sealed the win in injury time. The forward drifted in from the left flank and skipped past two defenders before backheeling in to Oscar’s path and he made no mistake from close range.