Neymar puts aside sniffles to snuff out Japan with four-goal blitz

Lionel Messi grabs two off bench as Argentina score seven against Hong Kong

Brazil’s Neymar celebrates scoring his fourth goal against Japan during their soccer friendly  at the National Stadium in Singapore. Photograph: Edgar Su/Reuters

Brazil’s Neymar celebrates scoring his fourth goal against Japan during their soccer friendly at the National Stadium in Singapore. Photograph: Edgar Su/Reuters

 

Friendly international round-up: Neymar shrugged off a cold to score all four goals in a sumptuous display as Brazil beat an under-strength Japan 4-0 in a friendly in Singapore on Tuesday to maintain Dunga’s perfect start since returning as coach.

The Brazilian skipper took his impressive tally to 40 goals in 58 matches after his strikes against the shabby Asian champions on a patchy National Stadium pitch deemed “far short of international standards” by Singapore’s Football Association.

Neymar had no problems with the poor surface, however, as the Barcelona striker entertained the 51,577 crowd with flicks and tricks around his cool finishes.

“We have told him he still has a lot of areas where he can improve,” Dunga told reporters after making it four wins out of four with no goals conceded since returning in July.

“Now that he is captain he has more responsibility and status in the Brazil team, he has responded well but still looks like he is playing with his friends, yet we still want to see him play even better.”

Neymar rattled the post with a free-kick just before opening the scoring in the 18th minute when he rounded Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and lashed the ball into an empty net after being put clear by Diego Tardelli.

The goal allowed Brazil, who had been lethargic after the heavy travel schedule and Saturday’s 2-0 win over Argentina in Beijing, to slow the tempo against the Asian champions, who were missing the injured Shinji Kagawa and opted to start with Keisuke Honda and Yuto Nagatomo on the bench.

Honda came on at the start of the second period but it was the Brazilian bench who had a greater impact, with replacement Philippe Coutinho slipping a ball through Japan’s porous backline to Neymar, who slotted home a second in the 48th minute.

The hard-working Shinji Okazaki almost pulled one back but he rattled the post from a narrow angle in a brief highlight for a team still struggling to adapt to their new Mexican coach Javier Aguirre.

Dunga, criticised at home for being too negative before his first stint ended in 2010, has had no such issues as he continues to fix up a battered team humiliated 7-1 in this year’s World Cup semi-final by Germany.

He brought on Robinho and Kaka, who almost scored with his first touch but the forward’s 77th-minute header was pushed on to the bar by Kawashima.

Japan, though, failed to clear and when a shot came back in from the left the goalkeeper could only palm the ball straight to Neymar who swept it home.

Kaka then turned provider as he swung over a cross from the left and Neymar leapt highest to head home in the 81st minute.

Lionel Messi scored twice after coming off the bench as an experimental Argentina side destroyed Hong Kong 7-0.

Argentina fielded a completely different line-up from the one which lost to Brazil last week but the World Cup finalists still waltzed to a facile triumph.

The home crowd, some dressed in Argentina jerseys at the Hong Kong Stadium, saved their loudest cheers for the arrival of substitute Messi, who came on after an hour to score twice and make another goal.

With so many of his team-mates absent, Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain took the onus on himself to entertain the crowd by terrorising the Hong Kong defence and scoring a goal either side of the interval.

Benfica’s Nicolas Gaitan also netted twice after Ever Banega had opened the scoring for Argentina.

Following Saturday’s 2-0 loss against arch-rivals Brazil in Beijing, coach Gerardo Martino left Messi, Angel di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano and Marcos Rojo on the bench against Fifa’s 164th-ranked team in a match staged to celebrate the centenary of the Hong Kong Football Association.

Argentina goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman and his second-half replacement Agustin Marchesin barely had a touch of the ball between them as the visitors utterly dominated.

Hong Kong frustrated Argentina initially as the world’s number two side pressed hard for an opening goal but a defensive error in the 19th minute opened the floodgates.

Hong Kong goalkeeper Yapp Hung Fai spilled Gaitan’s shot from inside the box and the botched clearance reached an unmarked Banega, who calmly converted.

Higuain, denied by a flying save from Yapp 10 minutes later, had to wait until the 42nd minute to head in a precise cross from Leonel Vangioni to make it 2-0. A left-footed drive from Gaitan made it three just before the break.

In the 54th minute, Banega’s defence-splitting pass found Gaitan, who passed square for Higuain to tap in his second goal.

Messi, whose every touch was applauded by the half-full stadium, did not have to wait long after coming on as he played a one-two with Gaitan and finished effortlessly in the 66th minute.

Six minutes later, the Barcelona maestro returned the favour for Gaitan to score his second before Martino, having had the chance to look at his fringe players, added to Hong Kong’s woes by sending on Di Maria and Mascherano.

Argentina continued to create a flurry of chances before Messi, who had missed a penalty against Brazil on Saturday, cut in from the right and sent his left foot shot past Yapp. It was his 44th goal for his country.

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