Brazil roared in the World Cup quarter-finals with a 2-0 victory over Mexico as Neymar shone with a goal and an assist that dumped the central Americans out at the last-16 stage for the seventh straight occasion.
The PSG forward slid home in the second half and then teed up Roberto Firmino late on as the five-time champions beat an otherwise stubborn Mexico, whose World Cup began with such promise with a victory over champions Germany, but ended in familiar fashion in the first knockout round.
It was the seventh World Cup running that Brazil have reached the last eight, where they will now face Belgium or Japan, while Mexico have not made it to that stage since they hosted the tournament in 1986.
Mexico, who enjoyed an enviable recent record against Brazil having won seven of their previous 15 matches against them, were a threat on the counter in the first half but then faded without ever really being put to the sword.
A glaring spotlight had been on Neymar after his opening three performances saw him miss a litany of chances, frequently squander possession and spend far too long on the turf.
Minutes after the restart Brazil took the lead in exquisite fashion with Neymar starting and ending the move.
He darted across the edge of the area before a perfect backheel released Willian, whose low cross fizzed into the danger area where Neymar slid in to turn the ball home.
Brazil had to wait until the 88th minute to put the match to bed as Neymar was the architect, crossing for Firmino to tap the ball home.
Neymar’s on-field show, away from the goal and assist, did get a lot of people talking.
Neymar has the lowest pain threshold of any player in World Cups since Opta stats began.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 2, 2018
— fátima❣met Liam (@RealFatimaPayne) July 2, 2018
Neymar’s influence was clear in stats that showed that in Russia he has attempted more shots and created more goalscoring chances than any other player.
In between, however, fans also saw the Neymar everyone loves to hate. With 72 minutes gone, Neymar was fouled and was on the ground with the ball between his feet in front of the technical area.
Mexican Miguel Layun came to take the ball and sneakily put his toe on Neymar’s ankle. Neymar yelped in pain and writhed around on the ground, even though it appeared obvious that Layun, whose heel was on the ground, could not have put any real weight on his opponent.
The position of Layun’s boot was not clear on TV replays and Neymar was slated for his histrionics.
Neymar has undoubtedly been the victim of some tough tackling at his World Cup. Another stat showed the 23 fouls he suffered in Brazil’s four games is more than anyone else in the tournament.
The playacting and diving, though, have made him a figure of mockery, especially in Europe.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies