Firmino brace helps Brazil hammer Bolivia in WC qualifier


Sao Paulo (AFP) – Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino scored a brace as Brazil romped to a 5-0 victory over Bolivia in their opening 2022 World Cup qualifier on Friday.

Barcelona playmaker Philippe Coutinho and Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos also got on the scoresheet while star forward Neymar set up two goals in a totally one-sided encounter that sent Brazil top of the South American qualifying table.

In a Corinthians Arena deserted due to Covid-19 restrictions, Bolivia showed almost no ambition as Brazil dominated throughout, with PSG’s Neymar starting after overcoming a back problem.

Inside the first minute, winger Everton volleyed wide from inside the six-yard box and three minutes later his cross was headed off-target by Marquinhos from a similar position.

Bolivia couldn’t get out of their half, or on the ball, as Coutinho and Everton created a slew of chances down Brazil’s left.

The pressure told on 16 minutes as Marquinhos headed home from an identical position to his earlier chance as full-back Danilo swung over a cross from the right following a short corner.

Even a first half downpour couldn’t dampen Brazil’s thrust as Coutinho forced a diving one-handed save from goalkeeper Carlos Lampe with a deflected shot.

At times it looked like a handball game with Brazil camped on the edge of Bolivia’s box, and the visitors keeping 10 men behind the ball at all times.

But on the half hour, left-back Renan Lodi got in behind the defence and his cross from the left was turned home from barely a yard out by Firmino.

Lampe made a fine one-handed save from a Casemiro free-kick and then smothered a close range finish by Neymar.

By the end of the first half, Bolivia had had less than 20 percent possession and their only shot at goal was a free-kick from 40 yards by Fernando Salidas that didn’t even beat the wall.

If there were still any doubts Brazil would stroll to victory, they were dispelled three minutes into the second period when a sublime pass from Neymar presented Firmino with a tap-in from six yards.

On 65 minutes, a cross from Coutinho flew into the net off the unlucky Jose Carrasco’s chest.

Coutinho then got on the scoresheet heading home a cross from Neymar from six yards.

Neymar’s attempts to join retired great Ronaldo as Brazil’s second highest scorer of all time were frustrated by an offside flag and an injury time save by Lampe.

In the night’s other match, Atalanta pair Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel fired Colombia to a 3-0 win over Venezuela.

Zapata slid in a Juan Cuadrado cross from inside the six-yard box on 16 minutes and a brace from Muriel had settled the match by half-time.

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