Brazil became the first team to book their place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday, defeating Paraguay 3-0 in CONMEBOL qualifying in Sao Paulo.
Philippe Coutinho (34th minute), Neymar (63rd) and Marcelo (86th) were the heroes for Brazil, while Paraguay lost an opportunity to gain ground on Argentina for fifth place in the table after La Albiceleste lost 2-0 at Bolivia earlier Tuesday.
The win guaranteed Brazil will advance to the 2018 World Cup in Russia after Uruguay and Argentina were defeated; the Selecao are now nine points ahead of second-place Colombia. And Brazil continue to put forth impressive displays, as soccer writer Roberto Rojas noted:
While Paraguay provided resistance early, it didn't take long for Brazil to break through.
Coutinho's opening goal was a thing of beauty. A clever one-two with Paulinho set him up on the edge of the box, and Liverpool's talisman finished in style, slotting his shot into the bottom-left corner.
Neymar's goal, on the other hand, required a bit of luck. The Barcelona superstar dribbled almost the entirety of the pitch and into the box, creating room to get off a shot with a bit of nifty footwork. His effort deflected off a Paraguay defender and past goalkeeper Antony Silva, who was diving to his left and couldn't recover to stop the misdirected shot.
Marcelo fired the final salvo, caressing a delicate flick over the onrushing Silva after Paulinho played him into the box with a backheel through ball.
Brazil's next World Cup qualifier is against Ecuador on Aug. 31, while Paraguay—seventh in the 10-team group—will face Chile. The top four sides automatically qualify for Russia, and the fifth-place squad will enter a two-leg playoff against a team from the Oceania Football Confederation.