Neymar and Philippe Coutinho each scored as Brazil beat Argentina 3-0 in their 2018 World Cup qualifier.

Coutinho drove in a shot for the opener before Neymar, who might have conceded a penalty for handball earlier, slotted in to extend the hosts’ lead.

The visitors and star player Lionel Messi struggled to make an impact and Paulinho added Brazil’s third.

Argentina are now sixth in the 10-team South American qualifying group, with the top four automatically qualifying.

The fifth-placed country in the group will go into a play-off with the Oceania group winners.

Argentina have 16 points from 11 games, one point adrift of fourth-placed Ecuador but eight behind leaders Brazil, who have 24 points.

“When they hit us hard, we struggled to recover,” said Messi, who plays alongside Neymar at Barcelona.

“We are more than aware that we have to change a lot. Of all the bad points, the good one is that we depend on ourselves but we can’t be giving away any more points.”

All teams have seven games remaining, with the next round of matches on Tuesday when Brazil visit Peru while Argentina host Colombia.