Neymar, Brazil rally past France to extend winning streak

Brazil's Neymar is congratulated by teammate Oscar after scoring a goal against France.

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil continued its perfect record in Dunga’s second spell in charge as the team came from behind to beat France 3-1 on Thursday.

The visitors went into the game at the Stade de France having won six of six under Dunga following their humiliating semifinal exit at last year’s World Cup on home soil.

And Brazil produced another demonstration of its progress with a resilient performance against a France side that had not suffered defeat since its World Cup elimination at the quarterfinal stage.

With the heroes of France’s 3-0 win over Brazil at the 1998 World Cup final at the same venue watching from the stands, Didier Deschamps – the man who lifted the trophy that day – saw his team take a 21st-minute lead through Raphael Varane.

The Real Madrid defender produced a header reminiscent of Zinedine Zidane’s opening goal in that famous showdown to put France ahead, only to be pegged back as Oscar equalized from close range in the 40th minute.

Barcelona forward Neymar lashed home Brazil’s second at the near post 12 minutes after the break, with Luiz Gustavo then converting from Willian’s corner to make sure of triumph for the South Americans.

France went close in the eighth minute as captain Karim Benzema’s header was brilliantly kept out by a flying save from Jefferson at the far post.

But, shortly after Neymar had been thwarted by a Steve Mandanda stop at the other end, Varane did put France ahead.

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Varane rose highest to meet Mathieu Valbuena’s left-wing corner with a powerful header into the bottom-right corner. 

Mandanda was tested again by a low drive from Roberto Firmino, who then supplied the key pass as Brazil was rewarded for its attacking initiative.

The Hoffenheim man – making his first start for Brazil – slipped Oscar through to level matters with a cool low finish.

Mandanda needed to be alert following the restart, with the Marseille goalkeeper demonstrating his reflexes once more by throwing himself down to his right to keep out a Gustavo strike.

But Mandanda could do nothing to prevent Neymar from completing the turnaround with a fierce strike after he had latched on to Willian’s well-placed pass.

France responded with an almost immediate flurry that saw Moussa Sissoko denied as Jefferson flew off his line to make a close-range stop, before Benzema fired over the crossbar from Valbuena’s far-post cross. 

A long-range Antoine Griezmann strike drew another acrobatic Jefferson save, but the game was put beyond the hosts by Gustavo in the 69th minute.

Oscar had a curling shot from the edge of the area turned behind by Mandanda, but France failed to deal with the resulting corner, allowing Gustavo to find the net with a precise header into the ground.

Further heroics from Mandanda prevented Willian from netting Brazil’s fourth, but that mattered little as Dunga’s men cruised to another confidence-boosting result ahead of the Copa America in June.

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