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SportsSoccer

Brazil picking up pieces from World Cup embarrassments with friendly victories

Brazil's forward Neymar gestures towards the fans as

Brazil's forward Neymar gestures towards the fans as he celebrates after Brazil won their match against Chile in a penalty shoot out after extra-time in the Round of 16 football match between Brazil and Chile at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 28, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Odd Andersen

Two wins within five days do not make a comeback, but they will have to do for Brazil these days.

The Brazilians continued to dig themselves out of their World Cup humiliation and meltdown with a 1-0 victory over Ecuador in an international friendly at MetLife Stadium on Tuesday night.

Willian scored the lone goal -- off a Neymar feed -- before a disappointing crowd of 35,975 in a match played on grass that was placed over the artificial turf.

It was the second consecutive win for Brazil, which defeated Colombia, 1-0, in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Friday night.

Though the Seleção won't be taken seriously until it wins a major title, such as the 2015 Copa America or the World Cup, the games were the first steps in a recovery process not only for the national team, but for the country.

Soccer in Brazil is not just a sport; it is more a religion. The results of the Brazilians' final two games of the competition were blasphemous -- a 7-1 semifinal loss to eventual champion Germany and a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands in the third-place match -- and embarrassing to a country that has earned a record five World Cup titles.

Brazil coach Dunga said he has been working on building the players' confidence.

"After what happened at the World Cup, after coming off wins against Colombia and Ecuador, we feel an obligation to win," he said. "We have to renovate, do new things. We just got to improve the quality."

What the fans lacked in quantity was replaced by their intensity and enthusiasm. The South Americans finally rewarded their faithful, scoring a goal in the 31st minute that would have made many a Brazilian legend proud.

Instead of launching a 30-yard free kick on goal, Oscar sent a short pass to his right to Neymar. The Barcelona standout chipped the ball to an onrushing Willian, who slipped it past goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez into the right corner from 7 yards.

With Ecuador pressing for the equalizer, keeper Jefferson knocked away a close-range header from Enner Valencia in the 61st minute before Filipe Luis cleared an errant ball off the goal line.

Recovered from his back injury suffered in the World Cup, Neymar endured a frustrating night. He motored into the penalty area, launching a 15-yard attempt that sailed over the net in the 22nd minute.

Six minutes later, Neymar came close again as he hooked a 25-yard free kick just over the left post and into the outside netting. His night of near misses continued in the 47th minute, drilling a point-blank attempt off the crossbar that landed just outside the goal.

"He has played at a very high level," Dunga said of Neymar. "He's got a good personality. He played very well. When you have a player of this quality, he's going to get better."

Neymar had one last opportunity, firing an 18-yard free kick past an eight-man wall barely right of the goal in the 82nd minute.

Dunga was decidedly upbeat. "I didn't see anything negative," he said. "I only saw positive things tonight."

New York Sports