By Samindra Kunti in Rio de Janeiro
July 7 – Brazil won the Copa America for a ninth time on Sunday, defeating Peru 3-1 in the final to retain the championship on all five occasions they have staged it. Everton Cebolinha, Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison were on the mark for the hosts.
Brazil entered the tournament under huge pressure after their World Cup failure last year against Belgium and on Sunday they delivered on their return to the Maracana for the first time since a 3-0 win against Spain in the 2013 Confederations Cup final in a tense 90 minutes against the surprise package of the Copa America Peru.
Brazil’s homecoming was far from smooth. In the 89th minute Everton’s Richarlison delivered the title-winning goal from the penalty spot, a fitting way to end a slow-burning tournament. The Copa America failed to ignite and so did Brazil. They laboured their way through the first round and the knockout round and in Rio the hosts never looked like repeating the 5-0 group stage win against Peru.
That rout had been the best performance of the tournament for Brazil and early on they seemed on course for another easy win when Cebolinha, the tournament’s revelation, connected at the far post with a cool finish in the 11th minute. Except, Peru didn’t follow the script, dug in and refused to roll over.
Brazil dominated, created a few half chances, but Peru equalized at the other end from the penalty spot. Veteran striker and ex-Flamengo player Paulo Guerrero converted the spot kick. Peru couldn’t enjoy their goal for long as Arthur and Gabriel Jesus carved through the Peruvians’ defense on the brink of half time and the Manchester City striker made no mistake from the edge of the box to put the hosts back in front.
After the interval Brazil’s number nine lost his cool and was sent off for a second booking. Tite tweaked the set-up of his team and introduced Eder Militao to shore up the defense and protect the result. In the waning moments of the game Richarlison scored from the penalty spot to put the result beyond doubt just.
Brazil’s 3-1 victory was far from convincing, but enough to win the Copa America on home soil, repeating feats of 1919, 1922, 1949, 1989. It was the third Copa America triumph for Brazil since the turn of the century. The five times world champions had last won the title 12 years ago in Venezuela when they defeated Argentina 3-0 in the final. Speculation had been rife over the future of coach Tite heading into the final, but the win will offer Tite some stability in the month to come. Brazil return to action on September 9 in Miami against Colombia.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1569070344labto1569070344ofdlr1569070344owedi1569070344sni@o1569070344fni1569070344