Roberto Firmino started at centre-forward and Philippe Coutinho scored the opening goal in Brazil’s 3-0 World Cup qualifier win over Paraguay on Tuesday night.
Brazil are flying high, top of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying table after a ninth successive win under manager Tite, and had Liverpool attacker Coutinho to thank for getting the ball rolling in their latest qualifier.
The Reds’ No. 10 once more started from the right side of Brazil’s three-man attack, with Firmino reprising his centre-forward role in the absence of injured starlet Gabriel Jesus.
The duo, along with Neymar, gave Brazil far too much firepower for Paraguay to contend with over the 90 minutes and in truth it could have been more than three.
5 – Philippe Coutinho has had a hand in 5 goals in 5 home games for Brazil in this WC Qualifying campaign: 3 goals, 2 assists. Magician.
— OptaJavier (@OptaJavier) March 29, 2017
With a far superior side, including last week’s hat-trick hero Paulinho, PSG centre-back Marquinhos and Real Madrid duo Casemiro and Marcelo, it wasn’t a surprise to see Brazil overwhelm the visitors to the Arena Corinthians.
Paraguay are down in seventh in the standings after this defeat and the biggest names in their lineup included veteran defender Paulo da Silva and one-time Liverpool target, winger Derlis Gonzalez.
Even so it took until past the half-hour mark for Brazil to take the lead and it was Coutinho who provided it.
Cutting in off the right flank, his quick one-two with Paulinho provided a first-time shooting opportunity on his left foot and Coutinho made no mistake, bending the effort into the far bottom corner.
After the break, Brazil were more dominant and influential with their play and Neymar added a stunning second just after the hour mark. The Barcelona man dribbled past two down the left flank from inside his own half, cut in toward the penalty box and clipped home his finish.
The goal, though, only came after Neymar had missed from the penalty spot.
Coutinho was again involved in the third strike, feeding a sharp pass into the feet of Paulinho who turned the ball toward the on-running Marcelo, with the left-back coolly finishing in the closing stages.
While Coutinho was heavily involved in the game’s key moments, it was an altogether more frustrating evening for Firmino at times, who made plenty of runs off the ball but was either overlooked for the final pass or else had to come deep to take possession and aid Brazil’s build-up play.
Both Coutinho and Firmino were subbed off with three minutes to play after the points were wrapped up, and both will be headed straight back to Merseyside to prepare for the all-important derby at the weekend.