Paulinho scores hat trick as Brazil clobbers Uruguay to stay unbeaten in World Cup qualifiers
Brazil midfielder Paulinho celebrates after completing a hat trick against Uruguay. AP

SAO PAULO — Brazil was not intimidated by more than 60,000 raucous fans at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, beating second-place Uruguay 4-1 in South America's World Cup qualifying group to retain the lead in the standings after 13 matches.

Midfielder Paulinho scored a surprising hat trick, with Barcelona star Neymar adding another, to keep their team firmly on course for football's main event in Russia next year.

Brazil is still to lose a point under coach Tite, who took over in September and secured on Thursday (Friday, Manila time) his seventh straight win in the South American qualifiers. Now the five-time World Cup champions total 30 points, seven more than Uruguay and 10 above the lowest place that could guarantee a berth in the next World Cup.

With five games to play, Brazil could qualify next Tuesday with victory over Paraguay if Ecuador and Chile fail to win their games.

Fourth-place Colombia also needed a penalty to score a 1-0 home victory against Bolivia.

Elsewhere, seventh-place Paraguay beat fifth-place Ecuador 2-1 and bottom team Venezuela drew 2-2 with eighth-place Peru.

For the first time since September, a team scored against Brazil. A blunder by defender Marcelo led goalkeeper Alisson to foul striker Edinson Cavani only 7 minutes after kick off. That allowed the Uruguayan to score his ninth goal in South American qualifiers, more than any other player. It was the first time coach Tite saw his team trail, and that happened against a team that had won all six home games.

Ten minutes later midfielder Paulinho leveled the game with a blast from the edge of the box into goalkeeper Martin Silva's left corner. Scores remained level at halftime, but Brazil's dominance was evident. At 52 minutes, Paulinho scored again to put the visitors in front. The Estadio Centenario went silent.

Uruguay stepped up the pressure to level, but Brazil was countering dangerously. On 74 minutes, Neymar's genius appeared. After defender Miranda cleared the ball from his box, the Barcelona star beat Uruguayan Coates in a quick race and lobbed Silva to make it 3-1 and score his first goal against Uruguay. By then the Montevideo stadium, which hosted the 1930 World Cup final, sounded more like the Maracana in Rio, with only Brazilian voices being heard.


But that was not all. At 92 minutes, after Brazil wasted a series of other opportunities, Paulinho completed his hat-trick with his chest, after a cross from the right from Dani Alves. "Not in my wildest dreams I expected something like this," the Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder said after the match.

Asked about the historic performance, coach Tite said it was "more than the expected."

"I was happy about the 90 minutes ... our capacity to absorb a goal against us and keep playing based on one idea. Our team is very self-aware that it has to triangulate. We did more than controlling the match, we were dominant," he said in a post-match press conference.

Uruguay resented the absence of suspended targetman Luis Suarez, while Brazil missed teenage sensation Gabriel Jesus, who has a broken toe.

Brazil will miss defender Dani Alves in the clash against Paraguay on Tuesday in Sao Paulo -- the match that will likely secure its spot in the next World Cup. Uruguay will travel to face Peru.

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