Neymar helps Brazil cruise to Copa win

Afp, Brasilia

15 June, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Neymar helps Brazil cruise to Copa win

Brazil forward Neymar (second right) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Venezuela during their Conmebol Copa America 2021 group phase match at Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia on Sunday. – AFP PHOTO

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 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.

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. Brazil took the lead on 23 minutes when Richarlison flicked on a Neymar corner that deflected into Marquinhos's path inside the six-yard box, allowing the centre-back to bundle home. Richarlison had a goal ruled out for offside while Neymar incredibly fired wide from 12 yards out as Brazil threatened to put the game to bed before half-time.

Neymar somehow failed to turn home a cross-cum-shot from Gabriel Jesus from three yards out but on 64 minutes he doubled the lead from the penalty spot. Yohan Cumana clumsily brought down Danilo in the box and Neymar sent Graterol the wrong way from 12 yards.

Neymar then created the third, rounding Graterol before crossing for Gabriel Barbosa to chest home from barely a yard out.

Meanwhile, Edwin Cardona scored the only goal of the game as Colombia held on under second half pressure to begin their Group B campaign with a 1-0 win over Ecuador -- who thrashed them 6-1 the last time the sides met in a World Cup qualifier in November.