Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 November 2019

Philippe Coutinho double and Everton Soares screamer gets Brazil's Copa America campaign off to winning start

Barcelona playmaker's second-half double helps settle host nerves before Everton's superb goal seals 3-0 win over Bolivia

Philippe Countinho's two goals helped get Brazil's 2019 Copa America campaign off to a winning start as the hosts beat Bolivia 3-0 in Sao Paulo.

The absence of talisman Neymar, ruled out of the Copa America because of an ankle injury, looked to be hindering Brazil during a dull and disjointed opening 45 minutes but was soon forgotten as Countinho netted twice in the space of three second-half minutes.

The Barcelona playmaker slotted home a 50th-minute penalty and doubled his tally with a close-range header to give Brazil some breathing space.

Substitute Everton Soares scored an absolute peach of a goal five minutes from time to clinch victory for Tite's tournament favourites at the Morumbi stadium.

"In the end, with a bit of patience, we opened things up, we had more of the ball and we created plays," captain Daniel Alves told reporters. "We deserved a big victory."

The build up to the competition had been dominated by Neymar's woes, firstly when he was accused of rape by a Brazilian model, and then when he damaged ankle ligaments in a friendly last week, forcing him out of the Copa America.

Neymar's absence appeared to be having an effect on the Selecao, but Coutinho's double early in the second half allowed the hosts to find their rhythm after an opening 45 minutes in which Brazil had several chances to open the scoring.

The hosts looked at their most threatening from set pieces, with Coutinho's corner delivery causing panic in the Bolivian backline.

Bolivia's goalkeeper Carlos Lampe made an instinctive block from a Roberto Firmino flick that came straight at him.

And a few minutes later, towering centre-half Thiago Silva was left unmarked eight yards out to meet another Coutinho delivery, but he inexplicably headed wide when it seemed easier to score.

The state of the Morumbi pitch hardly helped, with Bolivia in particular failing to get into their stride or threaten Alisson's goal.

Indeed their poor passing almost cost them dear. Richarlison should have opened the scoring for Brazil when he pounced on a poor clearance by Lampe but the Everton forward failed to lift the ball over defender Adrian Jusino, who headed clear from the edge of the area.

Bolivia's game plan was clear: frustrate Brazil by playing 10 men behind the ball with Marcelo Martins Moreno left to plough the loneliest of furrows up top.

With 10 men behind the ball, Bolivia were proving hard to break down but Casemiro went close with what appeared to be a shanked cross that drifted just beyond Lampe's far post with the goalkeeper scrambling to cover it.

Tite's team were treated to a barrage of jeers from the 67,000 crowd when the half-time whistle went.

The jeers quickly turned to cheers on the resumption of play as Coutinho fired home from the spot on 50 minutes after a contentious penalty award.

Richarlison's attempted cross struck Jusino's arm, which was by his side and only slightly away from his body, but after consulting the video assistant referee (VAR), Argentine referee Nestor Pitana pointed to the spot.

Bolivia were stunned and just three minutes later their defence went missing as Firmino, preferred in the lone striker's role to Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus, reached the bye line and chipped the ball to the back post for Coutinho to head home from two yards out.

Reluctant to push men forward, Bolivia never looked like getting back into the match.

The game had slowed to almost walking pace when substitute Everton scored a sensational third, cutting in from the left wing before firing an unstoppable shot into the far corner.

"Tactically Bolivia played well in the first half, the players responded well and when we got the ball we tried to go forward on a couple of important occasions and that left us positive," Bolivia manager Eduardo Villegas told reporters.

"But it was a game of two halves. We have to be honest and realistic, Brazil beat us and they beat us well."

Brazil have won the Copa America on all of the four previous occasions they have been hosts - the last time in 1989.

Tite's team face Venezuela on Wednesday for the second of their group stage matches, while Bolivia will play Peru on Tuesday.

Updated: June 15, 2019 04:11 PM

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