The Selecao No.10 has a prickly history with Jose Pekerman's side but kept his cool to seal a vital three points over his rivals in an encouraging sign for Brazil
Brazil vs Colombia has taken on a particularly prickly edge since World Cup 2014, and the increasing rivalry shows no sign of slowing following Tuesday’s clash in Manus.
The Colombians had become a thorn in Neymar’s side, or rather his back, since a dangerous challenge from Camilo Zuniga left him with a fractured vertebra and ended what was supposed to be a historic World Cup triumph on home soil two years ago.
The tone was set when the two sides met at Copa America 2015 and Neymar exploded, once again seeing a major tournament come to a premature end – but this time, it was all his own doing.
After a fiery contest in which he was repeatedly singled out for rough tackles and was unable to drag a disjointed Dunga side through a rough patch in Argentina, Neymar erupted at the final whistle. He was sent off and subsequently handed a four-match ban for some overzealous protests aimed at the referee.
August saw Neymar get one back, as he inspired his side past Colombia en route to an Olympic gold medal, but on Tuesday he met the senior side for the first time since that night in Chile.
Right from the off, Neymar was earnestly pursued by a tough Colombian side, and alarm bells were ringing for the Selecao when he went into the book right on the stroke of half-time for a reckless challenge on a sliding Jeison Murillo.
It appeared history may repeat itself. Neymar has missed a number of internationals since 2014, all through suspension.
But this time around, he managed to curb his enthusiasm after cooling off at half-time. As Brazil became increasingly frustrated as they tried time and again to breach a stubborn Colombian defence, Neymar kept his head.
And he was rewarded with 15 minutes remaining when substitute Coutinho found him unmarked to fire home what proved to be the winner, sealing a dream opening week under new coach Tite with two straight victories to fire the Selecao up to second place in Conmebol’s World Cup qualifying table.
Neymar will always be targeted by opposing defences, particularly with a reputation for retaliation.
The last two months, however, have seen him manage to keep a lid on it just when things threatened to boil over.