LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 3, 2018: Brazil and Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring the second goal during an international friendly between Brazil and Croatia at Anfield. Brazil won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Roberto Firmino finds his scoring touch as Brazil run riot in qualifier

Roberto Firmino was one of Brazil’s stand-out performers and scored his first goals of the 2020/21 season as his side hit Bolivia for five in a World Cup qualifier.

Liverpool’s centre-forward hasn’t quite been firing on all cylinders domestically yet this season, so the sight of him netting a brace on home soil in Sao Paulo was a welcome one.

While Firmino started and starred, Fabinho was left as an unused substitute and, of course, Alisson is not in the squad after suffering an injury.

Marquinhos scored Brazil’s first before Firmino almost claimed an early assist with a typical piece of Bobby brilliance: a fierce press, successful tackle and smart pass to former team-mate Phil Coutinho, whose shot was tipped around the post.

But our No. 9 showed his predatory instincts soon after, surging into the six-yard box at the back post to slide home a low cross from Atletico Madrid’s Renan Lodi.

Minutes after the restart Firmino had his second: another lung-busting run saw him overtake around eight players between the halfway line and the penalty box, latching onto the influential Neymar’s through pass and finishing first-time between the ‘keeper’s legs.

That brings Firmino’s total haul at international level up to 15 goals in 45 caps, a one-in-three strike rate which is pretty impressive considering how much else he brings to teams and the fact he spent far too long as a late sub for Brazil in his earlier senior days.

Firmino played 71 minutes before being subbed off, though he almost got his hat-trick before doing so as another Coutinho cross sought him out – only for Jose Maria Carrasco to head into his own net as he tried to stop Bobby netting a third.

The unusual sight of Coutinho scoring a powerful header on the run wrapped up the scoring, with Brazil going top of the league right at the start of their long qualification process.

In South America it’s a 10-team league-style group, so 18 matches to play and the top four go to Qatar 2022, with fifth taking a play-off spot.

Brazil are next in action against Peru at 1am (BST) on 14 October, when Fabinho will also hope to get his chance to shine – before the Reds duo race back to Merseyside for the derby against Everton on the 17th.

ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 3, 2018: Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri with a ball in hands in the Knockout Stage Round of 16 football match between Sweden and Switzerland at Saint Petersburg Stadium (Krestovsky Stadium) at FIFA World Cup Russia 2018; Sweden won 1-0. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS

As for the rest of the Reds’ international contingent, a couple could be in action on Saturday evening.

Xherdan Shaqiri is back in the Switzerland squad after a false positive and they face Spain in the Nations League at 7:45pm BST.

Naby Keita could line up for Guinea in a friendly against Cape Verde Islands, which kicks off at 3pm BST.

Far more representatives of the Reds could feature on Sunday, when the likes of England, Netherlands, Portugal, Netherlands, Scotland and Wales are all set to play.