Philippe Coutinho's Brace Leads Brazil Past Bolivia in 2019 Copa America Opener

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJune 15, 2019

Brazil's Philippe Coutinho, center, celebrates scoring his side's opening goal with teammates during a Copa America Group A soccer match at the Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Friday, June 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)
Nelson Antoine/Associated Press

Host nation Brazil overcame a sluggish start to open the 2019 Copa America tournament with a 3-0 victory over Bolivia on Friday night at Estadio do Morumbi in Sao Paulo.

Philippe Coutinho scored twice inside the first 10 minutes of the second half to pace a Selecao attack that was mostly listless before halftime. Everton added the other goal in the match's final minutes.

The Brazilian defense looked far more in form for the full 90, holding La Verde to one shot on target to help goalkeeper Alisson secure the clean sheet.

Brazil entered the tournament under a lot of pressure to perform despite the absence of superstar forward Neymar, who suffered an ankle injury during a friendly against Qatar last week.

The weight of those expectations was on display as the Selecao were booed by their home fans after a scoreless first half that featured lackluster movement and virtually no creativity in the attacking third.

Brazil, which began the tournament as an 11-10 betting-line favorite (via Vegas Insider), owned 72 percent of possession in the opening 45 minutes. It generated very little offense, however, forcing a single save from Bolivian goalkeeper Carlos Lampe amid 12 attempted shots.

OptaJavier @OptaJavier

0 - Bolivia 🇧🇴 had no touches in the opp box in the first half, while Brazil 🇧🇷 had 23. Contrast. #CopaAmerica https://t.co/bPng4GQLJQ

The Brazilians came out with much more energy to open the second half and earned a penalty kick for a handball following a VAR review less than five minutes after halftime.

Coutinho delivered a sublime penalty into the left side of the net to give Brazil a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute.


Brazil gets on the board first! 🇧🇷 https://t.co/1GrSTaZ76y

The Selecao increased their advantage just three minutes later as Roberto Firmino hoisted in a picture-perfect cross into the path of Coutinho, who easily headed it past Lampe for the brace.

ESPN @espn

A beautiful ball to put Brazil up 2-0! https://t.co/DYwAkRbJ11

Bolivia lacked the necessary attacking firepower to mount a serious comeback bid. Brazil continued to dominate the possession battle and kept La Verde a good distance from goal despite the underdogs pushing more players forward in the final 20 minutes seeking a late surge.

Everton closed out the opener with a terrific goal on an assist from Fernandinho in the 85th minute:

Telemundo Deportes @TelemundoSports

#CA2019Telemundo ¡Qué golazo! disfruta esta genialidad de Everton Sousa Soares de @CBF_Futebol #Brasil ya lo gana 3-0 a #Bolivia https://t.co/axZSyK79wd

Both squads will return to action Tuesday. Bolivia will take on Peru in the first match followed by Brazil looking to build off its strong second half Friday when it clashes with Venezuela in the nightcap.