VIENNA. — Neymar marked his return to the starting line-up with another brilliant goal as Brazil eased to a 3-0 win over Austria in Vienna yesterday in their final friendly match ahead of the World Cup soccer finals. Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho netted either side of Neymar’s strike at the Ernst Happel Stadion, as the world’s most expensive player confirmed his return to fitness following a foot operation three months ago.
It was an encouraging way for Tite’s side to complete their preparations before their departure for their base in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi.
The Brazilians are due to arrive there in the early hours of today, ahead of their opening game at the tournament against Switzerland next Sunday.
Neymar’s goal was his 55th in a Brazil shirt, allowing him to draw level with Romario on his country’s list of all-time leading scorers – only the great Pele and Ronaldo have scored more goals for Brazil than the Paris Saint-Germain superstar.
The 26-year-old had come off the bench to score in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Croatia in Liverpool, his first appearance since suffering a foot fracture playing for PSG in February and then returning to his homeland for surgery.
He played 84 minutes in the Austrian capital after replacing Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho in the starting line-up, surviving a couple of bruising challenges from Austria’s Watford defender Sebastian Proedl, who was booked in the second half.
Brazil, wearing black armbands in tribute to the country’s tennis legend Maria Esther Bueno who died on Friday aged 78, had chances to go in front before Jesus opened the scoring in the 36th minute.
Marcelo’s long-range shot was blocked, but the ball fell to Jesus inside the area and the Manchester City striker took a touch before finishing beautifully past Heinz Lindner in the Austrian goal.
Jesus is Brazil’s leading scorer under Tite’s management, ahead of Neymar, who got his name on the scoresheet in the 63rd minute.
It was a quite superb effort, the former Barcelona man controlling Willian’s chipped pass on his thigh just inside the box and then leaving Austrian defender Aleksandar Dragovic on the floor with some delightful footwork before rolling the ball home.
Tempers had flared just before that with the Brazilians taking exception to tasty tackles on Neymar and Coutinho