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Neymar helps Brazil cruise to Copa win over Venezuela
- Updated: June 14, 2021
BRASILIA: Star forward Neymar netted a penalty and created a second as hosts Brazil eased to a 3-0 victory over a coronavirus-depleted Venezuela on Sunday (Jun 13) in the opening match of the 2021 Copa America.
Centre-back Marquinhos opened the scored midway through the first half and Gabriel Barbosa sealed the Group B win a minute from time.
In a tournament already delayed a year and moved from its original hosts Argentina and Colombia due to the pandemic, it was fitting that the coronavirus should take centre-stage right up to the tournament kick-off.
Played in front of an empty Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia due to COVID-19 restrictions, Brazil made light of the continent’s minnows, who arrived with a makeshift side missing eight players ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus the day before.
Venezuela called up 15 emergency replacements but could still only name seven out of a possible 12 substitutes due to a lack of available players.
“It’s not just being without key players, we didn’t have time to prepare better for this team,” complained Venezuela’s Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro.
The game went ahead and, predictably, reigning champions Brazil were well on top.
“The three points are important. We had to start well regardless of our rivals having players out,” said Brazil captain Casemiro.
Following a minute’s silence to remember Covid victims, Richarlison was denied from close range by Venezuela’s goalkeeper Joel Graterol early on before the forward flicked a header wide form a corner.
Centre-back Eder Militao was also off target with a header while Graterol did well to hold a Danilo volley from distance.
Venezuela produced little going forward but Jose Martinez did have the Brazil defence back-pedalling with a dangerous burst before winning a corner that came to nothing.