Brazil turned on the style and piled on the goals as they continued their perfect home World Cup qualifying record with a comfortable 4-0 win over Paraguay in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.
Leeds United forward Raphinha had a goal disallowed by the VAR early before netting the opener in the 28th minute, with new Aston Villa signing Coutinho adding a second on 62 minutes for his first international goal since 2020.
Brazil added two more in the dying minutes as Ajax forward Antony curled in, before Newcastle United addition Bruno Guimaraes laid off for Rodrygo to tap home.
The victory means Selecao, who have already clinched their spot at Qatar 2022, are unbeaten in 15 qualifiers and remain four points clear of rivals Argentina at the top of the CONMEBOL standings.
Brazil have also won seven out of seven qualifiers on home soil, netting 18 goals and conceding only once, while Paraguay officially cannot qualify for Qatar 2022 due to the defeat.
Raphinha thought he had opened the scoring in the second minute but after a lengthy VAR review had his strike ruled out for handball.
The Leeds man would not be denied when he expertly controlled Marquinhos’ pass, fired in low at the near post for 1-0.
Vinicius Junior should have doubled Brazil’s advantage prior to half-time when in one on one but his heavy touch allowed Paraguay goalkeeper Antoni Silva to clear.
Silva made a fine save early in the second half from Thiago Silva’s header while Lucas Paqueta’s 56th-minute close-range effort went over the bar after a sublime pass from Coutinho.
Coutinho finally added the second when afforded too much space as he lashed into the top corner from outside the box in the 62nd minute.
Antony bent home the third off the post in the 86th minute, with Guimaraes cutting back for Rodrygo’s 88th-minute tap-in.
What does it mean? Brazil on track for top spot
Brazil were utterly dominant although they only held a 1-0 lead up until the hour mark. Selecao had 77 per cent possession and 22 shots including eight on target, with the result moving them close to securing top spot in World Cup qualifying, which would be a nice triumph over Copa America winners Argentina.
With three qualifiers to go, including the previously-suspended game against La Albiceleste, Brazil lead by four points.
Coutinho impresses again
Brazil’s 29-year-old midfielder Coutinho had been in the international wilderness for 12 months due to injury prior to returning in last week’s 1-1 qualifying draw with Ecuador. He started again against Paraguay, netting his side’s second goal and offering a creative force in attack before being replaced on 73 minutes.
Paraguay officially out
La Albirroja qualified for four straight World Cups from 1998 to 2010 but have now missed out in the past three. Paraguay have the worst attacking record in CONMEBOL with only nine goals in 15 qualifiers, with only two on the road.
Already-qualified Brazil host Chile in qualifying in March, while already-eliminated Paraguay will take on Ecuador.