Philippe Coutinho’s two goals in the second half helped Brazil defeat Bolivia 3-0 in their opening match of Copa America on Saturday at Sao Paulo’s Morumbi Stadium.
The Barcelona attacker netted twice inside five minutes before substitute Everton Soares put a final nail in Bolivia’s coffin with a long-range strike.
Though Brazil won the match with a fair margin, the five-time world champions were below their best against a disciplined Bolivia outfit.
For long periods, Brazil lacked a cutting edge in the absence of their star forward Neymar, who was ruled out of the tournament last week because of an ankle injury.
“It was a tough match for us,” Coutinho told reporters after the game. “At half-time, the manager (Tite) asked us to focus more and to control the ball better. We managed to do that. The first goal changed the course of the match.”
Brazil dominated possession in the beginning but strangled in finding ways to pass a resolute Bolivia defence. Roberto Firmino and Thiago Silva had early chances from corners while Coutinho failed to make clean contact with a header after a Filipe Luis cross.
Brazilian football coach Tite opted against making changes at half-time and his faith was rewarded almost immediately. Argentinian referee Nestor Pitana consulted the video assistant referee before ruling that Adrian Jusino used his left hand to obstruct Richarlison’s chipped shot. Coutinho then dispatched the resultant spot-kick into the bottom left corner.
The goal put Brazil on top of the game and they netted again four minutes later, courtesy a header by Coutinho on a precise cross from Roberto Firmino.
Everton, introduced as an 85th-minute substitute for David Neres, made the change count with a fine solo goal, five minutes from time.
The Gremio forward cut in from the left before smashing a low drive from the edge of the box that curled into the bottom right corner of Carlos Lampe’s goal.