LONDON • Neymar's return to action from injury could not have been scripted better, as he scored the opening goal for Brazil as a second-half substitute in the 2-0 win over Croatia at Anfield yesterday.
The 26-year-old was brought on by coach Tite immediately after the interval and it did not take long for him to make an impact in the World Cup warm-up match.
He showed no signs of rust as he got on the scoresheet in the 68th minute with a sublime individual effort - getting past three defenders in the penalty box before firing an unstoppable shot which flew in off the crossbar.
His superb goal prompted former England international Gary Lineker to tweet: "Great to see @neymarjr back and scoring a terrific goal. The World Cup needs its biggest stars."
It was Neymar's 54th goal in 83 appearances for Brazil and one behind Romario, who is third in the all-time scorers list for the Selecao.
Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino sealed victory in stoppage time by lifting the ball over Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.
Neymar had been sidelined for over three months after fracturing his foot while playing for his club Paris Saint-Germain against Marseille in Ligue 1 on Feb 25.
He had sprained his ankle and fractured his fifth metatarsal, requiring an operation which had left him facing a battle to be fit in time for Brazil's opening World Cup match against Switzerland in Rostov on June 17.
But the striker has made a strong recovery and handed Brazil a pre-World Cup boost, 11 days before the start of the tournament, when he came off the bench to replace Fernandinho for the second half.
Neymar, the world's most expensive player following his blockbuster move from Barcelona last year, had spoken last month of his concerns about winning that race and described his rehabilitation as the biggest challenge of his career.
He also sat out training with the five-time world champions in London on Thursday as a precaution.
The game with Croatia was Brazil's penultimate match before their World Cup campaign starts.
Brazil will face Austria in Vienna on Sunday - one week before their World Cup quest gets under way. Besides Switzerland, Tite's men will also take on Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E in Russia.