Football: Brazil come from behind to down France

Paris: A fine finish from captain Neymar helped secure a come-from-behind 3-1 win for Brazil over France in a friendly in Paris on Thursday as they maintained their perfect record since the return as coach of Dunga.

Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane had headed the hosts in front on a cold night at a packed Stade de France, only for Oscar to equalise late in the first half.

Barcelona forward Neymar then controlled a Willian pass and lashed the ball high into the roof of the net from the left edge of the six-yard box in the 57th minute to put the visitors in front, and a Luiz Gustavo header secured the victory midway through the second period.

Brazil have now won seven consecutive friendly matches under Dunga following the heavy defeats to Germany and the Netherlands that saw their World Cup campaign on home soil last year end in such catastrophic fashion.

And this latest success against an accomplished France side will have been particularly pleasing to Dunga, back where he captained the Selecao in a painful 3-0 World Cup final defeat to the French in 1998.

In the opposite dugout this time was Didier Deschamps, the current France coach who skippered Les Bleus on that glorious night 17 years ago.

Seeing them lock horns once again added extra intrigue to an occasion which was also notable for the French Football Federation`s decision to honour those who have won more than 100 caps for France.

World Cup winners Marcel Desailly, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane were all received by President Francois Hollande inside the stadium and then presented to the adoring crowd before the game.

The French, without goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and midfield duo Yohan Cabaye and Paul Pogba due to injury, had themselves not been beaten since exiting last year`s World Cup at the quarter-final stage to Germany and had not lost a friendly since a 3-0 defeat in Brazil in June 2013.

They started the game well and only a remarkable save by goalkeeper Jefferson prevented Karim Benzema — wearing the captain`s armband in the absence of Lloris — from opening the scoring from point-blank range early on.

That chance had come from a corner and it was from another corner that the hosts got the breakthrough in the 21st minute, Varane rising to meet a Mathieu Valbuena delivery from the left and heading home.

It was a second goal in as many international outings for the central defender, who also scored with his head in the 1-0 friendly defeat of Sweden in November.Neymar had forced a good low save out of Steve Mandanda in the French goal just before that, and Brazil slowly grew into the game, threatening through Robert Firmino before Oscar levelled five minutes prior to the break.

The little Chelsea midfielder exchanged passes with Firmino before stabbing a shot low under Mandanda from just inside the area.

Buoyed by that, Dunga`s men started the second period strongly and Mandanda beat away a Luiz Gustavo shot before they took the lead thanks to Neymar`s 43rd international goal.

Benzema blazed over from a Valbuena cross and Jefferson tipped over a speculative long-range strike by Antoine Griezmann but it was Brazil who struck again on 69 minutes.

Patrice Evra had gone down injured during a France attack but Brazil played on and Oscar saw a shot turned around the post by Mandanda.

The corner that followed was delivered from the right by Willian and Wolfsburg midfielder Luiz Gustavo — the only starter on the night along with Oscar who also started in that infamous 7-1 loss to Germany last year — headed powerfully home.

That put the final outcome beyond doubt, although France substitute Nabil Fekir, making his international debut, curled a shot just wide from a Benzema pass late on.