SINGAPORE (AP) — Fans roared when Neymar’s name was read during the pregame introductions, and the Brazilian star didn’t disappoint.
The 22-year-old scored four goals in an international match for the first time and also hit a post in Brazil’s 4-0 exhibition rout of Japan on Tuesday.
“Neymar really enjoys playing, he has a good time,” Brazil coach Dunga said. “He plays the same way he plays with his friends. We want to give him the chance of doing better.”
The Barcelona forward could have even scored more in a performance that showed just how important he is as the team rebuilds following its 7-1 semifinal loss to Germany at the World Cup.
Neymar dispelled pre-match concerns that the patchy, sandy field might make attacking soccer difficult and increased his scoring total to 40 goals in 58 international appearances.
After hitting a post in the 17th minute with a free kick, Neymar gave his team the lead a minute later, running onto a through ball from Diego Tardelli and rounding Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
His second, three minutes after the restart, was similar, though this time the provider was Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho. Neymar completed his third international hat trick in the 77th when he beat Kawashima from close range after the keeper parried a powerful shot into his path.
With Japan’s inexperienced side flagging, Neymar rose unmarked in the 6-yard box to head in his fourth with nine minutes to go.
It was the fourth straight victory under Dunga for Brazil, which beat Argentina 2-0 in China on Saturday in Beijing.
“The way they played in both matches shows they are in the right way,” Dunga said. “The players are trying to prove they should have a place at the next World Cup.”
Neymar was the team’s star at the World Cup, but he was injured in the quarterfinal win over Colombia and sat out the rest of the tournament.
Japan, which has failed to beat Brazil in 11 meetings, didn’t win a game at the World Cup. The team is now focusing on defending its Asian Cup title in January.
Against Brazil, Yu Kobayashi had Japan’s best chance in the 24th minute but sent a left-foot volley over the bar.
Keisuke Honda came on at halftime as Japan coach Javier Aguirre tried to give his side more bite in attack. Shinji Okazaki hit the post in the 55th, but the team struggled to hold its shape as the game progressed.
“Our objective for this game was selection for the Asia Cup. In that sense I could observe the players,” Aguirre said. “The first half they did quite well, but after the second goal by Brazil the system didn’t work well.”
It certainly couldn’t stop Neymar.
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