June 23 (Bloomberg) -- Neymar scored in his third straight Confederations Cup match and Fred got two goals for Brazil in its 4-2 defeat of Italy last night that ensures the host the top spot in its pool in the warmup tournament for soccer’s World Cup.
Neymar put Brazil ahead after Emanuele Giaccherini tied the match following Dante’s first half opener. Fred got a third for Brazil before Giorgio Chiellini’s goal made for a tense finale at Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova. Fred’s second goal settled the match.
“Neymar is an idol of all Brazilians,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. “Only those who have a great qualities, those we can call geniuses, those who have a notion of what’s happening in matches can make a difference, and he’s been making a difference for us.”
A third straight victory for Brazil means the hosts head to Belo Horizonte to meet Group B’s runner up, while Italy goes to Fortaleza where it will likely meet world and European champion Spain. Brazil and Italy were guaranteed places in the semifinals after winning their two opening games against Japan and Mexico. Mexico beat Japan 2-1 in the evening’s other match.
The tournament, an eight-team test event for next summer’s World Cup, has been played against growing protests by Brazilians in as many as 100 cities. They’re demanding better public services and complaining about the escalating costs of staging sport’s most-watched event.
Earlier this week, protesters in Salvador targeted vehicles, including two belonging to soccer’s governing body FIFA, increasing concerns over last night’s game. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli yesterday said his team had been confined to its hotel because of the deteriorating security situation.
While the match went without incident, the situation in Belo Horizonte, where the already-eliminated Japan and Mexico played, was different. Globo television reported police fired tear gas as some demonstrators tried to storm the stadium.
Brazil looked like going into the halftime break without a goal to show for its dominance after playing the majority of the first 45 minutes in Italy’s half. Dante, who came on as a substitute, put the hosts in front in injury time. The defender reacted quickest to shoot past Gianluigi Buffon after the Italian goalkeeper had blocked Fred’s header off Neymar’s freekick.
Neymar, who completed a 57 million euro ($75 million) move to Spanish champion Barcelona before the tournament, has been Brazil’s top performer, and he gave the hosts the lead for good after Giaccherini latched on to Mario Balotelli’s flick to bring Italy level.
Neymar was fouled outside the area and slammed the resulting free-kick past Buffon to continue his record of scoring in every game of the tournament. Fireworks went off outside the arena as Neymar danced in celebration and the crowd of 48,874 chanted his name.
Fred Gets Two
Neymar’s strike partner Fred made sure of the victory in the 66th minute by powering past Chiellini and driving a shot into the roof of the net. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari brought Neymar off with 20 minutes remaining.
His exit was the cue for Italy to launch a late assault on the Brazil goal. Chiellini pulled one back for Italy by slotting a shot into the corner following a scramble in Brazil’s penalty area and Christian Maggio drew gasps as his header cannoned back off the crossbar.
“We found in the first half a very strong Brazil, it didn’t let us play the way we wanted to,” Prandelli said. “In the second half, we had the courage to move forward and the team played really well.”
Fred got his second of the game shortly before fulltime when he followed by Marcelo’s shot which was parried by Buffon.
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