Brazil's Philippe Coutinho celebrates after scoring against Panama during a U-20 World Cup group E soccer match in Barranquilla, Colombia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Philippe Coutinho scores wondergoal in Brazil’s 3-0 win over Argentina

Philippe Coutinho continued his excellent run of form with a long-range strike as Brazil thrashed Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.

The 24-year-old started alongside Neymar Jr. and Gabriel Jesus as Tite’s side welcomed their South American rivals to Belo Horizonte.

Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho was also named in the starting lineup, as well as former Tottenham Hotspur man Paulinho and full-backs Dani Alves and Marcelo.

Roberto Firmino was left to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench, as Brazil kept up their push for qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Brazil got off to a great start on 25 minutes, and it was Coutinho who struck to give his nation the lead.

Picking up the ball on the left flank, the playmaker cut inside onto his right foot and fired a powerful effort beyond Sergio Romero and into the top corner.

Neymar then struck on the cusp of half-time, before Paulinho’s effort on 59 minutes sealed the victory for Brazil.

Firmino replaced Jesus with 10 minutes left to play, and almost made it 4-0 after hitting the post, but the game ended at 3-0, with Coutinho the star of the show in a majestic attacking display.

Speaking after the game Lionel Messi admitted “Coutinho’s goal stunned us,” as has often been the case for Liverpool’s opponents in 2016/17 so far.

This was a performance that worked to cement Coutinho’s status as an elite player, in arguably his biggest challenge on the international stage, but he was typically humble in post-match.

“Being in the squad is a very proud moment for me,” Coutinho said.

“To be able to participate in such a group, next to great players, playing a classic like this is cause for much happiness.

“But of course we are still trying to achieve our ultimate goal, which is qualifying for the World Cup.

“Playing against Argentina has always been a big dream, every child dreams of wearing the shirt of Brazil and playing a classic like this.

“Today we prevailed on the field, the crowd helped a lot since the first whistle. We leave here very happy.”

Coutinho now has eight goals and seven assists in 16 games for club and country this season, with the importance of tying him down to a new contract increasing by the game for Liverpool.

Both he and Firmino remained injury free in their first outing for Brazil this international break, with the duo set to return to Merseyside after Wednesday morning’s clash away to Peru.

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