Brazil gets 3-0 win over Japan in Confederations Cup opener
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -Neymar started to live up to the huge expectations of a demanding public only three minutes into the Confederations Cup on Saturday, scoring an early goal to help Brazil beat Japan 2-0 in the opening match of the tournament.
The Brazil striker scored with a firm shot from outside the penalty area, connecting with the ball after Fred controlled a long cross from Marcelo with his chest. The ball bounced only once before Neymar whacked it in.
For the next two minutes, most of the 67,432 fans at the National Stadium chanted Neymar's name, relishing the knowledge that their poster boy is already starting to deliver for the national team with one year to go before the World Cup.
Paulinho added the second goal for Brazil in the 48th, deftly controlling a cross from Dani Alves before turning inside and shooting. Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima got his hands to the ball, but it was too powerful for him to stop. Jo got the third, latching onto a through ball from Oscar and sliding it past Kawashima in injury time.
The win puts Brazil at the top of Group A with three points. Italy and Mexico will play in the other group match on Sunday.
Neymar entered Saturday's match facing a minor wave of criticism. He has become something of an idol in Brazil, but a nine-match scoreless streak had heaped pressure on the 21-year-old striker heading into the Confederations Cup.
The fickle Brazilian fans, who had taken to booing their team in recent weeks, were firmly behind the "Selecao'' and its star this time, however.
With his hair long on top and short on the sides, Neymar has already started to transcend the game in Brazil, like David Beckham nearly everywhere else. His picture is plastered around the country in underwear and phone ads, to name a few. He has also appeared on Brazilian TV, appearing as himself in one of the country's biggest soap operas.
That's just off the field. On it, Neymar has earned himself a massive transfer from local club Santos to Barcelona, where he will be teammates with Lionel Messi next season.
The match against Japan was likely something Neymar was looking forward to. The Japanese have never beaten Brazil in 10 games, earning only two draws - both at the Confederations Cup, first in 2001 and then again in 2005.
The last time they played, in a friendly in Poland in October, Neymar scored two goals. This time, he was named "Man of the Match.''
Not everything was perfect for the young star on Saturday, however. In the 15th minute, Neymar was stuck on the sidelines fiddling with the socks on his right foot. He came back on the field about two minutes later - after the fans took a moment to boo referee Pedro Proenca for not letting their star back on more quickly.
Midway through the second half, he was briefly knocked down. When he got back up, the fans started chanting his name once again.
And then, about six minutes later, Neymar was taken off and replaced by Lucas. The decision halted the Neymar chants, but not the cheers for Brazil from the yellow-clad faithful.
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