A brace from Philippe Coutinho handed hosts Brazil a winning start to the Copa America on Friday in a 3-0 victory over Bolivia as the absence of superstar Neymar was quickly forgotten. Barcelona’s Coutinho scored from the penalty spot early in the second half and added a close-range header three minutes later.
Substitute Everton netted a sensational third five minutes from time to clinch victory for coach Tite’s tournament favorites in Sao Paulo.
The build up to the competition had been dominated by Neymar’s woes, firstly when he was accused of rape by a Brazilian mode l, and then when he damaged ankle ligaments in a friendly last week, forcing him out of the Copa.
If Brazil’s first half performance was anything to go by, the Paris Saint-Germain star was sorely missed, but Coutinho’s brace at least papered over the cracks of an at times disjointed performance.
Brazil started the game strongly but found it tough to break down a resolute Bolivia defence. The crucial breakthrough came early in the second half was Jusino handled the ball and Coutinho, on penalty duty in the absence of Neymar, stepped up to put his team ahead.
After that, it forced Bolivia to open up and that played into Brazil’s hands. Just two minutes later and they doubled their lead when a cross from the right was sent to the back post and Coutinho nodded home. With 5 minutes to go Everton grabbed Brazil’s third.
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