BELEM: Brazil lived up to expectations by smashing Bolivia 5-1 at home in their 2026 World Cup qualifiers opener on Friday (Sep 8), with Neymar surpassing the late great Pele as the country’s top scorer.
The 31-year-old Neymar, who recently joined Saudi side Al-Hilal, bounced back after missing a penalty in the first half, scoring two goals in the 61st and 93rd minutes to become the country’s all-time top scorer with 79 goals.
“Congratulations Neymar for surpassing the King in goals for Brazil. Surely Pele is applauding you today!” was written on Pele’s official account on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Real Madrid’s Rodrygo also shone with a double, opening the scoring in the 24th minute and bagging his second in the 52nd off a great through ball from Newcastle United’s Bruno Guimaraes for 3-0.
“It really is a very special day … Neymar is my idol, being able to help him become the top scorer will stay with me forever,” the 22-year-old Rodrygo told Brazilian broadcaster TV Globo.
Raphinha, who replaced Antony in the Brazilian squad, scored to make it 2-0 in the opening seconds of the second half with a shot at the far post after picking up Neymar’s pass in the edge of the box.
Bolivia got their consolation goal through Victor Abrego’s powerful shot in the 78th minute.
Brazil will look to continue their good form when they visit Peru on Tuesday in the second round of CONMEBOL qualifiers.
Elsewhere, Uruguay started their qualifying campaign on the right foot by beating Chile 3-1 at home to hand former Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa his first official win at the helm.