BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (Reuters) -Brazil scored twice in the last four minutes, including a first international goal for Real Madrid striker Rodrygo, to cap a comfortable 4-0 win over Paraguay in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier in Belo Horizonte.
The defeat ended Paraguay’s hopes of qualifying for Qatar and further cemented Brazil’s position as one of the favourites to lift the trophy in December.
Brazil top the South American qualifying group with no defeats in 15 games and the win extended to 61 matches their unbeaten home record in World Cup qualifiers.
Paraguay, who have yet to win any of their first five games under coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, are second from bottom of the 10-team group with 13 points from 16 games.
It was a successful but frustrating night for Raphinha, who scored one, had another chalked off, and also hit the post.
The Leeds United winger thought he had put Brazil 1-0 up after just 93 seconds only to see the goal ruled out after a lengthy consultation with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
However, with 28 minutes gone he superbly controlled a long ball from Marquinhos and wriggled between two defenders to put Brazil 1-0 ahead.
He was unlucky not to get another early in the second half as he saw his volley come back off the post.
Philippe Coutinho got a deserved second for the home side just after the hour when he placed a sumptuous shot into the top corner of the net from 30 meters out.
Antony made the scoreline more reflective of the play with four minutes left when he curled a left-foot shot past a helpless keeper.
And Rodrygo tapped home a minute later to round off a commanding performance from the five-times world champions.
Vinicius Jnr, Matheus Cunha, and Lucas Paqueta also came close for Brazil, who, with qualification already guaranteed, fielded a much-changed side.
Talismanic striker Neymar was out injured and there were rare starts for goalkeeper Ederson, midfielder Fabinho, left back Alex Telles and captain on the night Dani Alves.
New Newcastle signing Bruno Guimaraes made a substitute appearance in the second half.
In the last game of the round, Peru and Ecuador shared the points in a scruffy 1-1 draw in Lima.
Michael Estrada put Ecuador ahead after two minutes but Edison Flores equalised 24 minutes into the second half.
The result takes Ecuador a point closer to qualification.
The Andean side sit third in the South American group and are hot favourites to cement a place in Qatar in the final two group matches in March.
Brazil and Argentina have already guaranteed their spots.
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Stephen Coates and Muralikumar Anantharaman)