Brazil thrash Argentina as Neymar puts Lionel Messi in shadows in World Cup Qualifier
By Mark Ashenden
Last Updated: 11/11/16 9:27am
Neymar outshone Lionel Messi as Brazil beat Argentina 3-0 to leave their rivals struggling in the 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign.
While Uruguay maintained their push towards the finals in Russia with a hard-fought defeat of Ecuador, the Brazilians cemented their spot at the top of the South American group with a stunning show in Belo Horizonte in the Estadio Mineirao.
Barcelona superstar Neymar scored his 50th international goal, a landmark strike sandwiched by a spectacular effort from Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and a second-half finish from China-based midfielder Paulinho.
It was a sweet return to the venue for the five-time World Cup winners who were humiliated 7-1 at the same ground by Germany in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup.
It was also a fifth consecutive qualifying victory under the reign of new coach Tite, who took over following the sacking of Dunga in June after Brazil's Copa America Centenario debacle, when they failed to advance from the group stage.
Brazil now have 24 points from 11 games, one clear of second-placed Uruguay who have 23 points.
The Brazilians are six points clear of third-placed Colombia and seven points clear of Ecuador and Chile, who are level on 17 points after 11 games.
Argentina are now languishing outside the qualifying places in sixth with 16 points and face a crucial game at home to Colombia next Tuesday which they must win to avoid falling further off the pace.
Argentina captain Messi said: "We're down but we're still alive. We have to forget the situation we're in and start thinking about Colombia. If we get a result against Colombia it will make things look a lot different."
Argentina manager Edgardo Bauza added: "It's a hard defeat. I did not think we would lose 3-0, I thought it would be an even game," Bauza said. "But when they got their second it was all over."
Uruguay stayed firmly on Brazil's shoulder with a 2-1 defeat of Ecuador at Montevideo's Estadio Centenario.
Elsewhere on Thursday, Copa America Centenario champions Chile, missing injured Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez, had captain and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to thank for a hard-earned point in a 0-0 draw against Colombia in Barranquilla.
Paraguay suffered a 4-1 mauling against Peru in Asuncion to derail their qualification campaign, while Venezuela scored their first win of the qualifiers with a 5-0 thrashing at home to Bolivia, with Josef Martinez scoring a hat-trick.