Brazil recovered from an early setback to thump Uruguay 4-1 in their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Thursday, stretching their lead at the top of the South American group to seven points in the process.
Paulinho, plying his trade in the cash-rich Chinese Super League for Guangzhou Evergrande, scored a screamer in the 19th minute to equaliser after Edinson Cavani had won and converted a penalty to give the hosts the lead.
Brazil’s starting XI had quality all over it, with Neymar, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho the front three in a 4-3-3 formation that has become standard for coach Tite.
The hosts, were missing the services of Luis Suarez and it was up to Cavani to lead the line in his absence, but as is often the case with the PSG forward, after a blistering start he started to fade away.
Brazil started to grow into the game as half-time approached but Uruguay managed to hold on till the interval with the score reading 1-1.
Post the break, Brazil’s intense pressure was rewarded in the 52nd minute when Firmino spun on the edge of the box which could only be parried into Paulinho’s path by Martin Silva to give the visitors the lead.
The hosts were stung into action and began to press Brazil as they searched for an equaliser but left themselves susceptible to an counter-attack which Neymar took full advantage of in the 74th minute to effectively seal the result.
A speculative clearance found the Barcelona forward clear on goal and he deftly chipped Silva in goal to put Brazil 3-1 up on the night.
And Paulinho added gloss to the scoreline deep into injury-time, chesting home a Dani Alves cross from close range to get the Samba party started.
Brazil remain in 1st place with 30 points from 13 games, seven ahead of second-placed Uruguay and barring an unprecedented collapse, have effectively qualified for next year’s World Cup in Russia.