By AP and published by Yahoo!sports
Doha, Qatar – It was the same old Neymar out there, looking fit and scoring a goal to move closer to Pele’s all-time record and lead Brazil into the World Cup quarterfinals.
Neymar returned from injury and converted a first-half penalty in Brazil’s 4-1 win over South Korea in the round of 16 on Monday. He reached 76 goals with the national team, one shy of the mark set by Pele, who said he would watch the match from his hospital bed in Sao Paulo.
The 82-year-old Pele is recovering from a respiratory infection that was aggravated by Covid-19, leaving fans in Brazil and in Qatar worried about his condition. Neymar carried a banner with the soccer great’s image and “Pele” written on it after the match, and the entire team then posed behind it near midfield.
South Korea was trying to advance past the round of 16 for the first time since its historic run to the semifinals as a co-host in 2002.
Neymar damaged ligaments in his right ankle in the team’s opening match against Serbia and at the time there were doubts if he would play again at the World Cup. He was clearly back, and there were no signs of the injury as he led Brazil to a comfortable victory and a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals for the eighth straight time.
Brazil will next play Croatia on Friday.
Neymar scored his first goal of this year’s World Cup after kissing the ball and calmly sending a low shot from the spot after waiting for the goalkeeper to choose a side in the 13th minute. He danced as his teammates huddled around him, then did dance moves along with Vinicius Junior and other teammates before raising his arms to the sky and smiling broadly.
Neymar was forced out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after getting hurt in the quarterfinals.
Fans chanted his name as he walked off the field after the match. He had been substituted in the 81st.
Vinicius Junior scored the first goal from inside the area after a cross by Raphinha in the seventh minute, Richarlison added to the lead from close range after a nice exchange of passes by the Brazilians in the 29th, and Lucas Paqueta scored the fourth before halftime after an assist by Vinicius Junior.
They celebrated each goal by dancing, and even Brazil coach Tite participated in Richarlison’s traditional “pigeon” celebration.
Paik Seung-ho scored South Korea’s goal in the 76th minute.
Tribute to Pele
There were many banners and shirts honouring Pele at Stadium 974, and fans chanted the Brazil great’s name and opened a large banner with his image behind one of the goals in the 10th minute of each half. Pele used to wear the No. 10 jersey.
It was the last World Cup match at Stadium 974, which is expected to be fully dismantled. The port-side structure that seats more than 40,000 fans was partially built from recycled shipping containers and could be shipped to other countries that need the infrastructure.
Croatia going deep again at World Cup after shootout win
Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic saved three penalty kicks in Croatia’s 3-1 win over Japan in a shootout on Monday, securing a return to the quarterfinals for the runner-up in the 2018 tournament. The match was tied at 1-1 after extra time.
On its surprising run to the final in Russia four years ago, Croatia needed extra time in each round in the knockout stage – and twice came through a penalty shootout.
“History keeps repeating itself,” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said with a smile.
Livakovic was the backup goalkeeper to Danijel Subasic in 2018 but took centre stage this time, diving to his left to keep out Japan’s first penalty by Takumi Minamino, to his right to block Kaoru Mitoma’s effort from the second penalty, and then again to his right to deny Maya Yoshida off the fourth.
That gave Mario Pasalic the chance to put away the clinching penalty. The substitute joined the rest of Croatia’s jubilant players in heading right for Livakovic after hitting the back of the net.
“In Croatia, we do things this way,” Livakovic said. “I continued the tradition.”
The similarities with 2018 do not stop there. Just like in every game in the knockout stage that year, Croatia fell behind to Japan when Daizen Maeda swept in a close-range finish in the 43rd.
Ivan Perisic equalised by meeting Dejan Lovren’s cross from the right with a header into the bottom corner from near the penalty spot in the 57th.
Dalic said his team’s ability to recover from losing positions “reflects the Croatian people,” with a nod to a psyche the players forged growing up in a country ravaged by war as the former Yugoslavia broke up in the 1990s.
“We never give up … We have been through so much pain and the players have great pride,” Dalic said. “The whole of Croatia is supporting us and this is a way of giving them faith for a better tomorrow.”
While Croatia – also a semifinalist in 1998 – prepares to take on Brazil in the quarterfinals, Japan exits a World Cup in the round of 16 for the fourth time, just like in 2002, 2010 and 2018. The Asian team also lost in a penalty shootout to Paraguay at that stage in 2010.
Asia is still waiting for a second team to advance beyond the last 16, after South Korea on home soil in 2002.
Japan made its mark in Qatar, though, beating Germany and Spain – two of the last three World Cup champions – in huge upsets in the group stage.
“The players showed a new era of Japanese football, I think,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said. “They should use this feeling of being upset and try to go further next time.
“We cannot be superheroes in one go. We have to improve step by step. But Japan is reaching a level where we can play on the world stage.”
The result guarantees at least one more World Cup game for 37-year-old Croatia captain Luka Modric, one of the best midfielders of his generation. The 2018 world player of the year had a quiet game, save for one pass with the outside of his right foot that sent Perisic away for a shot on goal in the first half.
Modric was substituted in the first half of extra time and wasn’t part of the shootout.
Dalic never doubted Livakovic in the shootout. “Yesterday during training, we practised penalty kicks and he really saved many shots,” Dalic said. “So when we started the shootout, I was very confident. He proved to be like Subasic in Russia.” Three of Croatia’s four penalty-takers were substitutes.
Since 1998, all of Croatia’s knockout matches at a World Cup or European Championship have gone to extra time except for the 2018 World Cup final loss to France.
With his goal, Perisic became the first Croatia player to score 10 goals at major tournaments.
Top: Brazil’s Neymar celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Brazil and South Korea, at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. Photo: AP /Manu Fernandez and published by US News & World Report
Insert: Croatia’s goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic saves from Japan’s Maya Yoshida during a penalty shootout at the end of the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Japan and Croatia at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. Photo: AP /Frank Augstein and published by Yahoo!sports
Front Page: Brazil’s Richarlison makes it 3-0 against South Korea in the 29th minute. Photo: Getty Images and published by The Hindu