Neymar stars as Brazil thrash Venezuela in Copa America opener


Neymar, with a goal and an assist, helped the hosts in their Open campaign to a 3–0 win in Brasilia.

Brazil on Sunday kicked off the much-awaited tournament in Brasilia as the Copa America 2021 with a 3-0 win over COVID-hit Venezuela.

Marquinhos, Neymar and Gabriel Barbosa scored in the opening game at the Mane Garrincha Stadium on Sunday, less than a day after several Venezuelan players tested positive for COVID-19.

South American football’s governing body, CONMEBOL, chose Brazil as hosts two weeks ago, despite its alarming COVID-19 figures, after Argentina and Colombia were dropped as co-hosts.

Neymar dribbles to Greaterole and crosses Barbosa to chest the ball into an empty net in the 89th match [Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]

Despite opposition from organizing the tournament in his home country, Brazil captain Casemiro stated that the defending champions intended to retain their trophy.

“It could be a friendly, a Copa America or a World Cup qualifier, we play it to win,” Casemiro said after his team’s victory.

“Venezuela had the idea to defend, they wanted a draw. But we were focused and we were on the offensive in the last third of the pitch.

Venezuela called 15 new players on short notice after eight squad members tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, and there was visible disruption on the field.

Brazil opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when Marquinhos scored from close range to end a corner kick.

Brazil coach Tite – who also opposed holding the tournament – removed Lucas Paqueta at halftime, but kept Roberto Firmino on the bench. Instead, Everton Ribeiro stepped forward to provide more maneuverability on the right bank.

Ribeiro finds Danilo in the right edge of the box, and the Brazilian is pushed to the ground. Neymar scored a peaceful goal in 63rd place to take a 2-0 lead.

Neymar dribbled the greatroll and passed Barbosa to chest the ball into the empty net in the 89th to seal the home team’s victory.

Elsewhere, Edwin Cardona scored the only goal of the game as Colombia began their Group B campaign under pressure in the second half with a 1–0 win over Ecuador.

Edwin Cardona scored the only goal of the game as Colombia beat Ecuador 1-0 [Carla Carniel/Reuters]

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