Neymar scored a record-breaking brace as Brazil and Uruguay got off to a winning start in their CONMEBOL FIFA World Cup 26™ qualifiers.

Brazil and Uruguay sit top and second-from-top in CONMEBOL’s FIFA World Cup 26™ standings after opening their preliminary campaigns with resounding victories.

The Seleção set the pace with a 5-1 thumping of Bolivia, with Neymar bagging a brace to take an outright lead as the team’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing the great Pele. There was also much to admire in Marcelo Bielsa’s Uruguay, who made light work of Chile in a 3-1 win that included two goals from Nicolas de la Cruz.

Brazil were heavy favourites to beat Bolivia, and the emphatic manner of victory will raise few eyebrows. Rodrygo and Neymar both scored twice, with Raphina grabbing the other, as Fernando Diniz made an impressive start to his tenure. The game was, though, notable for two new records.

Neymar’s will naturally grab the headlines, with the one and only Pele eclipsed at the top of the Seleção scoring chart. But Bolivia’s Marcelo Martins set a new national benchmark too, reaching a record tally of 103 appearances to surpass his old team-mate, Ronald Raldes. While the scoreline ensured it was not a happy occasion for him, Martins will have drawn some significance from breaking the record in Brazil, the homeland of his father and the country in which he won titles with clubs such as Cruzeiro, Flamengo and Vitoria.

“I can repeat mysel,f but this is why Neymar is here,” Diniz said following the game. “We need to talk about him and appreciate the player he is. We have to understand that the big idols and heroes are who inspire the kids.

“He is one of those special people that we have to appreciate and respect.”

The newly-crowned king of Brazilian goal scoring added: I’m very happy, I have no words. I never imagined beating this record. I always wanted to write my story, to write my name in the history of the Seleção, and today I did that. I want to thank my family and all my team-mates.”

Excitement in Uruguay about their team’s potential under Marcelo Bielsa went up a notch or two after an opening-match win that showed the impact their new coach is already making. Chile simply couldn’t live with the speed and attacking aggression of Bielsa’s Celeste, which – in the absence of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez – was captained by Federico Valverde. The midfielder rose to the challenge of assuming that responsibility, producing the kind of performance for which he has become a favourite at Real Madrid. A wonderful goal from outside the box put the seal on a night to remember for Valverde. Nicolas de la Cruz also shone, taking advantage of the spaces generated by his team-mates to score twice and show why he will be another major asset in the Bielsa era.

Next up

Tuesday 12 September

Boliva v Argentina

Ecuador v Uruguay

Venezuela v Paraguay

Chile v Colombia

Peru v Brazil

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