MONTEVIDEO • At 28, Neymar may be on his way to becoming Brazil’s greatest-ever scorer but his coach Tite was reluctant to compare his current star with the legends just yet.
The forward overtook Ronaldo and moved into second place behind Pele on Brazil’s all-time goalscoring list after notching a hat-trick in a 4-2 victory over Peru on Tuesday in a World Cup qualifier.
The Paris Saint-Germain player now has 64 goals, two more than Ronaldo and 13 behind Pele, who heads the list with 77, according to the count by world football governing body Fifa.
“It’s unfair making comparisons,” Tite insisted.
“What I can say is Neymar has this unpredictability. He is the bow and the arrow, he’s a player who both makes and takes chances. And he gets better and better, and more mature.”
On Tuesday, Neymar equalled and then surpassed Ronaldo with two penalties either side of halftime before grabbing No. 64 in injury time at Lima’s National Stadium.
He celebrated by holding up the No. 9 with his hands in what appeared to be a tribute to Ronaldo, the former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Corinthians striker.
Neymar, who made his Brazil debut in 2010, scored his 64 goals in 103 games.
Everton striker Richarlison netted the other goal for Brazil, while Andre Carrillo and Renato Tapia scored for Peru.
Richarlison thanked the team’s medical staff for getting him fit to play. The 23-year-old was carrying an ankle injury when he arrived in Brazil for the qualifiers against Peru and Bolivia. He managed a substitute appearance in last Friday’s 5-0 win over Bolivia but was fit enough to start against Peru.
“I’m very happy to be back after 11 months,” he said of the long layoff caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
What I can say is Neymar has this unpredictability… he’s a player who both makes and takes chances. And he gets better and better, and more mature.
TITE, Brazil’s football coach, who insists that it is futile to compare Brazil’s goal kings from different eras.
“We worked very hard this week. Myself, even with my ankle trouble, I treated it morning, noon and night. I have to thank the medical department who worked hard every day to get me 100 per cent for this game.”
Richarlison is enjoying a superb start to the season at Everton, who top the English Premier League with four wins from four games.
He also lauded the patience of the Brazil team in getting the victory in different conditions to what they are used to.
“The coach prepared for this, what he said in the dressing room was we need to keep our heads and that was what we did out there, we were very focused,” he said.
“Playing here is hard, the ball sticks in the grass a lot, we’re used to much quicker pitches.”
Also on Tuesday, Joaquin Correa scored the winner 11 minutes from time as Argentina laboured to a 2-1 victory over Bolivia in La Paz.
It was a second narrow win in a row for Lionel Scaloni’s team following last Thursday’s 1-0 success over Ecuador.
In Merida, Paraguay took the points with a 1-0 win over Venezuela, Gaston Gimenez scoring for the visitors with five minutes left.
Brazil and Argentina top the group after winning both of their opening matches. The next round takes place next month.
The top four from the 10-team group qualify directly for Qatar with the fifth-placed side going into an inter-confederation play-off.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE