After so many speculations, protests and chopping and changing of venues, finally, one of the oldest showpiece events in the history of football – Copa America have got underway. This time around, Brazil are hosting the event again and as usual, the hosts are the ultimate favourites to defend their title and guess what, they started off brightly in the opening encounter against Venezuela.

Brazil opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, taking advantage of one of six first-half corner kicks. Neymar’s service pinballed around the area before falling to the thigh of Marquinhos with  Venezuela goalkeeper Joel Graterol stumbling in the wrong direction, Marquinhos timed the ball well and rolled it into the net.

Since the start of the 2020-21 season, Marquinhos has scored eight goals for club and country, six of which have been headers, including one tonight. He’s posting figures reminiscent of a certain centre-back called Sergio Ramos, just without the penalties.

Richarlison had the ball in the back of the net two minutes later, seeming to hand Brazil a commanding two-goal advantage, only to be adjudged offside and the goal called back.

And on the half-hour mark, Neymar danced his way into a free shooting opportunity from the top of the box, only to put his effort narrowly past the post.

The missed opportunities would continue in the second half. Seven minutes after half-time Gabriel Jesus put a low cross across the area, with Neymar arriving unmarked at the far post, but Brazil’s No. 10 couldn’t make contact with his sliding effort.

But Brazil would get their second in the 64th minute when Neymar converted from the spot, sending Graterol the wrong way and coolly rolling the ball into the bottom right corner. The hosts were awarded the penalty after Yohan Cumana took down Danilo near the byline.

Full marks for that, but it cannot be ignored that his penalty-taking style is very risky, and goalkeepers can easily guess the right way sometimes.

He took his time after the referee blew the whistle, scampered up a few steps, and then slowly took a shot which, in this case, sent the opposition goalkeeper the wrong way. However, in a match to Ecuador earlier this month, and in a Ligue 1 clash in May, the star didn’t have so much luck.

It led to his technique being widely criticized and as long as Neymar continues with this, he’s going to miss a lot more penalties in the future.

Gabriel Barbosa made it three after chesting home a Neymar cross in the 89th minute, putting the result beyond all doubt – it was Gabigol’s first goal in a yellow short since 2016.

How a side that won by a margin as comprehensive as 3-0 can lack a cutting edge is a question on a lot of minds. The fact is, this could’ve been a rout of Venezuela had Seleccao not been so wasteful with their chances earlier on.

Within the first 10 minutes of the clash, Brazil came close to scoring on three occasions. Each time, they were let down by some poor finishing, especially from Militao, who headed just wide off the post from close-range.

The reigning champions lost some of this early momentum as the match went on, but then sprung up with two more opportunities.

Venezuela’s squad is ravaged by 13 positive COVID-19 cases. The list includes key stars like Tomas Rincon, Roberto Rosales, Romulo Otero and Josef Martinez, while prolific striker Salomon Rondon is out injured. Without so many of their regulars, La Vinotinto were always going to struggle and so they did.

In large swathes of the game, Jose Peseiro’s side struggled to even get hold of the ball. Brazil would immediately close their players down and force them into committing mistakes. Indeed, Venezuela registered just 32% of the ball possession in the game!

They struggled to produce anything meaningful going forward and it comes as no surprise that Venezuela’s only shot on target in the match too came from a set-piece situation.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for them. Joel Graterol, their goalkeeper of the night, put on a fine display, making several crucial stops and saves to frustrate Brazil.


He twice produced strong hands to deny Gabriel Jesus and even came out of his line to collect the ball when needed to evade danger, showing maturity and vision that went beyond his years. It’s hard to believe this was only his third outing with Venezuela, for he looked right at home between the sticks!

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