The 31-year-old forward entered the game level with Pele at 77 goals, and he had a pivotal moment in the 17th minute when Brazil received a penalty. However, his soft spot-kick was saved by Bolivia’s goalkeeper, Guillermo Viscarra, leaving the scoreline goalless.
Brazil eventually took the lead seven minutes later when Rodrygo reacted swiftly to slot home after Raphinha’s shot was parried by Viscarra.
After the break, Brazil doubled their lead as Raphinha’s low shot, deflected slightly, found the bottom corner of the net.
Neymar played a role in Brazil’s third goal with a clever chipped pass that Bruno Guimaraes flicked into the path of Rodrygo, who confidently scored.
Then came Neymar’s historic moment as he capitalized on a loose ball in the box and tucked away his 78th goal in his 125th appearance for Brazil, raising his hands and gaze to the sky.
Bolivia managed to pull one back when Victor Abrego broke through a disorganized Brazil defense and fired an unstoppable shot past Ederson.
But Neymar wasn’t done yet. In stoppage time, he connected with a low ball from Raphinha to extend his record tally and cap off a memorable night for the forward.
The 31-year-old, who recently made a move from Paris Saint-Germain to Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal, now stands alone as Brazil’s all-time top scorer, surpassing the legendary Pele, who scored 77 goals for Brazil between 1957 and 1971. Pele passed away in December at the age of 82.
This victory marked an ideal start for Brazil’s new coach, Fernando Diniz, who took over from the previous coach, Tite, following Brazil’s World Cup quarter-final exit last year.
In another match on Friday, under the guidance of new coach Marcelo Bielsa, Uruguay defeated Chile 3-1. Bielsa chose a youthful lineup, omitting veteran strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. The move paid off, with Nicolas de la Cruz scoring twice for Uruguay.
De la Cruz opened the scoring with a superb left-foot strike, and Federico Valverde doubled the lead just before halftime. De la Cruz completed his brace in the 71st minute after a swift left-sided break.
Chile managed to pull a goal back through Arturo Vidal three minutes later, following a Diego Valdes header that hit the bar.
The qualification process for the 2026 World Cup, expanded to 48 teams and hosted in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, offers two additional spots for South America, with six teams securing direct qualification and the seventh heading to an intercontinental playoff.
On Thursday, Argentina defeated Ecuador 1-0 with a goal from Lionel Messi, while Peru played to a 0-0 draw against Paraguay, and Colombia secured a 1-0 victory over Venezuela in the opening matches of the qualifiers.