Neymar has overtaken Pele to become Brazil’s all-time men’s top scorer, netting twice in his national team 5-1 win in a World Cup qualifying match against Bolivia in the Amazon city of Belém.
The Al Hilal forward was tied with Pele, who scored 77 goals for Brazil between 1957 and 1971. Neymar now has 79 goals in 125 international appearances.
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“I never imagined reaching this record. I want to say that I am not better player than Pele,” said Neymar after the game. “I always wanted to make my own story, write my name in the history of Brazilian football and the national team. And today I did that.”
Brazil women’s forward Marta holds the country’s all-time record with 115 goals in 171 games.
Neymar’s record-breaking goal came after a low cross into the penalty box, which the striker finished with accuracy from close range. He celebrated with a punch in the air, as Pele usually did.
Earlier in the match, Neymar missed a penalty in the 17th minute, which goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra saved.
Pelé’s Foundation acknowledged Neymar’s achievement.
“Congratulations, Neymar Jr, for surpassing the King in goals for the Brazilian National Team in official FIFA matches,” it said on social media. “Surely Pelé is applauding you today!”
Pelé died from cancer Dec. 29 in Sao Paulo at the age of 82.
Striker Rodrygo, who also scored two goals against Bolivia, said he’s still very much a Neymar fan.
“Neymar is very much a hero of mine,” Rodrygo said. “This will be in my memory, this was a very special day.”
New Brazil coach Fernando Diniz said Neymar came to play for Brazil “to score goals, break records, show that he is very much willing to live this [with the national team.]”
“He is a great hero,” Diniz said. “People have to recognize it and accept it. He doesn’t do anything to get this adoration he gets from the crowd, it is because of the natural talent he has.”
Neymar’s most recent match for Brazil before the victory over Bolivia was the World Cup quarterfinal loss to Croatia. He left Qatar with doubts about his future in the national team and did not play the Selecao’s first three games this year.
The former Santos, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain star scored in his Brazil debut in a 2010 friendly against the United States.
Neymar guided Brazil to the Confederations Cup title in 2013 but has yet to lead them to a World Cup final, reaching quarterfinals twice — 2018 and 2022 — and the semifinal in 2014, when they suffered a humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany on home soil.
He missed out on Brazil’s 2019 Copa America triumph through injury and was on the losing side in 2021’s final against Argentina.
The 31-year-old has enjoyed a glittering club career with honours, including two LaLiga titles, a Champions League trophy, five Ligue 1 titles and a Copa Libertadores.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.