In the opening match of Copa America, before the empty stands in Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, Brazil defeated Venezuela 3-0 in a match that should have ended 8-0 at least, with Neymar missing five times as many chances as he converted. With 62% of possession and 18 shots to Venezuela’s 3, the hosts were awful at converting their myriad opportunities.
Marquinhos bobbled the ball over the line at the 23rd minute when at least five clear chances had been missed by Richarlison (3), Gabriel Jesus (1), and Neymar (1). Then, returning for the second half with a 1-0 lead Neymar missed another three chances, most notably one where he dribbled through four defenders only to shoot wide with the entire goal at his disposal and only the goalkeeper to defend.
Several chances ensued and were missed until Danilo dribbled into the Venezuelan box and was brought down. Neymar converted the penalty at the 64th. Twenty-five minutes and at least seven more chances missed later Neymar again dribbled past his markers, down the left flank, and into the box with the goalkeeper played out and Gabriel Barbosa, Jesus’s replacement, awaiting the pass. The hard cross reached Gabigol who forcefully chested the ball into the empty net for the final score.
It was a tough match for the injury and illness-stricken Venezuelans who were barely able to field their second-best lineup and tried their best to compete. Similarly, it was not a great performance by the hosts, but inasmuch as there was little to take forward for the visitors, there were at least a few things for the hosts to rescue from the three-point three-goal win.
Neymar showcased his new take on team leader, and in one sequence, annoyed at his team’s inability to stop a Venezuelan attack, ran sixty yards from his left-wing attacking position all the way to the Brazilian box to slide tackle the ball away and regain possession.
In another highlight, the Brazilian team’s defensive and midfield control and attacking prowess did not lose a beat when coach Tite made wholesale substitutions changing the make-up of each line and still obtaining the same level of match control throughout. It will be another story when the selecao meet the likes of Colombia and Peru or even Ecuador. Then, Neymar and company better finish the chances they create.
Colombia 1-0 Ecuador
Edwin Cardona’s stumbling drawing board goal at the 42nd minute was the difference in a match that was played on even terms and had few true chances. The Ecuadorians managing 46% of possession and playing well against the superior Colombians.
Ecuador will nevertheless need to improve as two of their next three matches are against Peru and Brazil. Colombia will likewise have to raise their level as only Venezuela seem a winnable match if they don’t improve.