Brazil striker Neymar made a spectacular return on Sunday after a three-month absence with a foot injury and celebrated a superb individual goal with his surgeon.
Playing for the first time since February, Neymar scored the opener in Brazil’s 2-0 friendly win against Croatia in Liverpool. The striker then ran to hug Brazilian soccer confederation doctor Rodrigo Lasmar on the sidelines at Anfield.
Neymar had replaced midfielder Fernandinho at halftime with the score at 0-0 and needed less than 25 minutes to make his mark and raise hopes of Brazilian fans for the World Cup, which starts June 14.
Neymar, who withstood a few challenges in the game, received the ball from Philippe Coutinho in the 68th and dribbled past Croatia defenders Sime Vrsaljko and Duje Caleta-Car. He smashed the ball into the net from around five meters (yards) with his right foot.
Neymar injured the same foot playing for Paris Saint-Germain and underwent surgery in Brazil in early March. He did not warm up with the Brazilian team on Sunday.
Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino scored Brazil’s second goal in the 90th. After Casemiro put the ball in the penalty box, Firmino controlled with his chest and sent the ball over Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to step up his challenge for a starting position in the team.
Brazil captain and No. 9 Gabriel Jesus was not as impressive in the first half of the match, and was replaced by Firmino after an hour.
The same Liverpool supporters who cheered Firmino went out of their way to jeer Coutinho, who left the Reds for Barcelona earlier this year.
Until Neymar stepped onto the pitch it was Croatia who had the best opportunities in a match that seemed headed for a dull draw.
Defender Dejan Lovren had the best chance to open in a header that grazed Brazil goalkeeper Alisson’s right post after a corner.
The five-time World Cup champions play their last pre-World Cup friendly against Austria on June 10.
Brazil’s World Cup opener is on June 17 against Switzerland.