FOXBORO (AP) — With one of the top players in the world sidelined, another international superstar put on a show.
Neymar scored once and set up Brazil’s other two goals during its 3-1 victory over Portugal in a friendly match before 62,310 fans at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday night.
“He has been playing very well for three, four years,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said through a translator.
“Only once in every 15 or 20 games does he not play what he knows how to do.
“But normally, Neymar is this.”
Thiago Silva and Jo also scored for the Confederations Cup champions and 2014 World Cup hosts, who improved to 13-4-3 all time against Portugal.
The result may have been different, though, had Portugal been playing with Cristiano Ronaldo, who was not in attendance as he deals with tendinitis.
The Real Madrid winger and second-highest goal-scorer in Portugal’s history played through pain Friday, according to team doctor Henrique Jones, recording his first international hat trick in a World Cup qualifying victory over Northern Ireland.
The comeback win briefly left Portugal, ranked seventh in the world, atop Group F before Russia moved back in front with a 3-1 win over Israel on Tuesday.
“Naturally, he’s an important player. We’re talking about one of the best players in the world,” Portugal coach Paulo Bento said through a translator. “Naturally, he has a great influence on the way we play. But we didn’t lose this game due to his absence.”
Scolari wasn’t too disappointed Ronaldo didn’t play.
“I don’t miss him a lot,” he said with a laugh. “He would complicate our life a lot more.”
It was the second game in four days for ninth-ranked Brazil, which defeated Australia 6-0 on Saturday and has lost just once this year.
And Brazil came out sluggish to start.
After hitting the post with a header in the 11th minute, Raul Meireles gave Portugal a 1-0 lead in the 17th when he intercepted a misplayed header by Brazil defender Maicon and slipped the ball past goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Brazil answered in the 24th minute when Neymar’s corner kick found the head of Silva, who rose high in the box above Portugal’s players and drove the ball past keeper Rui Patricio.
Neymar then put Brazil in front for good in the 34th, deftly dribbling 35 yards through at least five Portugal players before sending a shot into the lower left side of the net.
He later slid a pass up the sideline to Maxwell, who centered a ball that Jo easily put into the back of the net in the 49th minute.
“Once we took the lead, we were more calm and then Neymar hit one, two, three players, and the opponent was on its back heels,” Scolari said.
Brazil defender Dani Alves (knee) and striker Hulk (thigh) did not play.
Brazilian great Pele appeared in a pregame ceremony alongside former Portugal star Eusebio.