Football: Neymar scores hat-trick to lead Brazil romp

SOWETO (AFP) - Neymar scored a hat-trick as Brazil ended a run of narrow victories over South Africa by cruising to a 5-0 triumph at Soccer City stadium in Soweto on Wednesday.

A much-hyped friendly between the last and next World Cup hosts lacked bite as the 'Selecao' exploited woeful Bafana Bafana (The Boys) defending.

Oscar opened the scoring on 10 minutes, Neymar struck once in the first half and twice in the second, and Fernandinho got on the scoresheet as well.

Brazil had won four previous games between the countries since 1996 - all by one-goal margins - but showed no mercy this time.

It was the final warm-up for the 2014 World Cup title favourites before the May announcement of the 23-man World Cup squad.

South Africa, who stunned World Cup and Euro title-holders Spain 1-0 at the same stadium last November, were overawed and outclassed.

Coach Gordon Igesund has been branded a 'dead man walking' after poor tournament results and this loss greatly lessens his chances of a new contract in mid-year.

"The victory margin suggests it was easy. but the first half was even before our third goal killed off South Africa," said Brazil assistant coach and ex-South Africa handler Carlos Alberto Parreira.

"Our players were fighting for World Cup squad places and it showed in an excellent performance. We have a good team and they are on the way to being ready for the tournament." Igesund looked understandably glum as he said: "Brazil played much better than us and the first and third goals were bad ones to concede.

"We only played well in patches and that was never going to be good enough against the World Cup favourites." South Africa gave a first cap to goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, 22, in the absence of injured captain Itumeleng Khune with centre-back Thabo Nthethe taking over the armband.

Brazil also introduced new faces as coach Luiz Felipe Scolari gave first starts to Bayern Munich defender Rafinha and Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho.

It did not take the South Americans long to establish control before a crowd that grew to 51,000 despite an early kick-off and heavy mid-day rain.

A Brazilian goal was inevitable and it arrived on 10 minutes as Oscar outpaced Nthethe to a Rafinha pass and lobbed the ball over Williams.

Tortoise-slow Nthethe suffered against the slick visitors and his defensive partner Bongani Khumalo was an early injury casualty, giving way to Siyanda Xulu.

The persistent pressure told again on 41 minutes with Neymar the scorer, hammering the ball past Williams from close range.

Veteran Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar was a virtual spectator until first-half stoppage time when a Dean Furman drive flashed just wide.

Brazil made a planned half-time change from a yellow-and-blue outfit to an all-blue kit and 25 seconds into the second half they were three goals ahead.

Neymar had time and space he would not normally be accustomed to and calmly lobbed the ball over Williams.

South Africa introduced Ayanda Patosi just past the hour and he almost scored with his first touch, forcing Cesar into an acrobatic block.

Fernandinho netted 11 minutes from time, latching on to a loose ball and giving Williams no chance, and Neymar completed his hat-trick in stoppage time from point-blank range.

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