Football: Neymar brilliance all but puts Brazil into semis

FORTALEZA, Brazil (AFP) - Brazil superstar Neymar scored one goal and set up the other to give hosts Brazil a 2-0 win over Mexico in their Group A game and all but assure them of a place in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup in Fortaleza on Wednesday.

Brazil will be assured of a place in the last four should Japan fail to beat Italy later on Wednesday, while Mexico will be out if the Asian giants get anything less than three points.

The 21-year-old took his tally to 13 goals in his last 15 games for his country with a superb left-footed volley early in the first-half, and then produced a brilliant shimmy between two Mexican defenders in second-half stoppage time to set up Jo for the second goal.

Neymar, whose new employers Barcelona will have been delighted with his showing, was unsurprisingly named man of the match but shrugged it off saying the team's overall performance was the crucial thing.

"We are progressing with each match, we get more and more engaged as each game goes on and then we take the good things out of that performance to use the next time," he said.

"Brazil is always one of the favourites in whatever football competition we play in, but we must keep our feet on the ground.

"Our next match is against Italy who are a really good team and we must hope to achieve our objective in winning."

The former Santos star, who cost Barcelona 57 million euros (US$96 million), dismissed worries about his bandaged right thigh.

"It is nothing, I just took a small blow to it." For Brazil it was a much cheerier occasion than the last time they played in Fortaleza in 2002 as their celebrations at winning the World Cup in South Korea and Japan fell flat as Mexico beat them 1-0.

Neymar confirmed Brazil's early dominance with a stunning left-footed volley in the ninth minute after Mexico defender Francisco Rodriguez's header fell to him.

Dani Alves, who had provided the cross which Rodriguez failed to clear properly, then went close with a shot towards the far right corner but Mexico goalkeeper Jose Corona did well to tip it over the bar.

The signs had been there right from the start that Brazil were intent on sealing their place in the last four as Chelsea star Oscar scored after a flowing move only for it to be ruled out by English referee Howard Webb for offside.

Neymar went close to doubling his tally in the 23rd minute as he chested the ball down outside the area and let fly with his shot going just over the bar.

Brazil went slightly off the boil after that and weren't helped when Oscar's Chelsea clubmate David Luiz had to go off for lengthy treatment after injuring his nose in a clash with one of his team-mates.

However, not even with the hosts down to 10 men could Mexico press home the advantage, as they produced lots of pretty football, stemming from Mallorca's Giovanni dos Santos, but failed to round it off with the killer touch.

The Brazilians had the ball in the net early in the second-half as Thiago Silva headed home, but once again it was ruled out for offside.

Brazil had several chances after that as they looked to seal the win but Hulk hit a shot into the side netting, after being set up by Neymar, while the goalscorer also went close.

Luiz, fully rehabilitated after his nose bleed, produced probably a goal saving clearance on the hour mark as he slid in to turn behind a dangerous ball played across goal with Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez lurking just behind him.

The pace of the game slowed dramatically in the second-half as the high humidity had an inevitable effect on the players.

However, it didn't stop Neymar from one last moment of brilliance to set up Jo and send the home fans into ecstasy.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.