Neymar scored a goal and set up the injury-time winner for Douglas Costa, helping Brazil open its Copa America campaign with a 2-1 over Peru on Sunday.
Costa found the net from close range after receiving a perfect pass from Neymar two-minutes into second-half injury time, calmly sending a low shot past the Peruvian goalkeeper.Peru surprised early with a goal by midfielder Christian Cueva less than three minutes into the match after Brazil ‘keeper Jefferson made a mistake trying to clear the ball inside the area after a tough pass from David Luiz. Neymar equalized two minutes later with a firm header from near the penalty spot.
The victory gave Brazil the early lead in Group C along with Venezuela, which defeated Colombia 1-0 earlier Sunday in Rancagua. Brazil next faces Colombia on Wednesday, while Peru plays Venezuela on Thursday.
“The opening match is always difficult,” said Neymar, who scored his 44th goal for Brazil. “Especially in a competition like this one, with the rivalry in South America. But we got the victory, which is the most important thing.”
Brazil has won 11 straight games since coach Dunga replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari after last year’s World Cup at home.
The Copa America is Brazil’s first official competition since it was humiliated in a 7-1 World Cup semifinal loss to Germany. With six players from that squad, Brazil is trying to win the South American tournament for the first time since 2007, when Dunga was in charge of the national team for the first time in his career.
Brazil has won four of the last six Copa Americas, including two of the last three.
Brazil controlled possession during most of the match at German Becker Stadium, but struggled to create many significant scoring opportunities. One of the best chances was a shot by Neymar that struck the crossbar in the 53rd, with Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese already beaten.
Cueva opened the scoring after Luiz passed the ball back to Jefferson while under pressure inside the area, and the goalkeeper misplayed the ball while trying to clear the box. It went straight to Cueva, who easily found the net from close range.
Neymar was free from any defenders when he headed in the equalizer off a right-side cross by Barcelona teammate Daniel Alves, who was a late addition to Dunga’s Copa America team.
Neymar then set up the winner with a low pass that crossed the area through several defenders and found Costa in great position to score.
“It was an important goal,” Costa said. “It was a perfect pass from Neymar and I was able to control the ball and get a shot on goal.”
Costa, who entered the match in the second half, had already missed on another great chance on a breakaway started by Neymar in the 75th.
“We had a chance to at least get a draw, but it didn’t happen,” Peru midfielder Jefferson Farfan said. “We played a good match. We will stay focused, knowing that we still have a chance to advance to the next round.”
Dunga could not count on Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho because of a muscle injury sustained in practice. Brazil had already lost several players because of injuries ahead of the tournament, including left back Marcelo, playmaker Oscar, defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo and right back Danilo.- Agencies