2018 FIFA WORLD CUP
Neymar shines as Brazil beats Austria in World Cup warmup
ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 11, 2018 07:15 AM
Brazil's Neymar celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during a friendly soccer match between Austria and Brazil at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
By Eric Willemsen, Associated Press
VIENNA (AP) — Neymar scored his second goal in two matches since returning from injury on Sunday, netting with a superb second-half strike as Brazil defeated Austria 3-0 in its final warmup game ahead of the World Cup.
Set up by Willian in the 63rd minute, Neymar wrong-footed Austria defender Aleksandar Dragovic with a quick move and converted through the legs of goalkeeper Heinz Lindner for Brazil's second goal.
Neymar celebrated by pulling his shirt back over his head and making the "V'' sign with both hands.
Gabriel Jesus gave Brazil the lead after 36 minutes with a slick finish from a tight angle. He was unmarked on the left side of the area when Marcelo's deflected shot came his way and he curled the ball past Lindner before it hit the far post and went in. Philippe Coutinho added a third after being sent deep by Roberto Firmino 20 minutes from the end.
A week before Brazil's World Cup opener against Switzerland, Neymar started for the first time since recovering from fracturing his right foot which kept him out for three months. He stayed on for almost the entire game, being replaced in the 84th by Douglas Costa.
"I don't know the limit of Neymar," Brazil coach Tite said through an interpreter when asked if his main striker was back at full strength. "'If (Austria) opens up in defense, go for it,' I told him at the break. In the end I thought it might be getting too much for him so I took him off."
A week ago, Neymar came on for the second half against Croatia in Liverpool and had an immediate impact as he opened the scoring after dribbling past two opponents to help Brazil win 2-0.
Against Austria, he had no attempt on goal in the opening hour but went down three times following rough challenges by the home side.
The first scare came in the third minute following a late tackle from behind by midfielder Alessandro Schoepf. Similar fouls were committed by Florian Grillitsch in the 35th and Sebatian Proedl in the 53rd.
Each time, Neymar remained sitting on the pitch and holding his left ankle with a painful face, though he eventually got up and didn't looked hampered during play.
And Neymar blossomed in the final half-hour — when Austria's tight defense opened up — showing off his individual skills and crowning his performance with a fine finish that further cracked Austria's resistance.
Costa's return was also good news for Tite. The winger only started training with the squad last week after picking up a thigh injury during Juventus' 2-1 win against Verona in the last round of the Serie A season.
Costa is expected to be a backup for Neymar during the World Cup.
However, Tite had midfielder Fred left off the team after he hurt his right ankle in training on Thursday. Fred underwent further examinations in Vienna this weekend.
Without providing details of the injury, Tite said Fred's situation was "improving" but didn't hint whether the midfielder could be back for the team's World Cup opener.
Tite said his team "can get a bit more effective but still have a week left to work on that."
Brazil will travel from Vienna to its World Cup base in Sochi, though it won't play any of its group matches near the Black Sea resort. After playing Switzerland in Rostov-on-Don on June 17, it faces Costa Rica in St. Petersburg five days later, before wrapping up its Group E campaign against Serbia on June 27 in Moscow.
Austria failed to qualify for the World Cup. It saw a seven-match winning streak, including victories over World Cup host Russia and world champion Germany, come to an end.