Neymar inspired Brazil to a 3-0 opening win over a Covid-hit Venezuela at the Copa America, a tournament they only knew they would be staging a fortnight ago.
Standing in for Argentina and Colombia, who were both stripped of their hosting rights because of the coronavirus situation in their country, they easily beat a side which had 12 players ruled out following a raft of positive tests in the build-up to the game.
Marquinhos opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a fortunate back heel which found the back of the net, before Neymar doubled their lead with a penalty in the 64th minute after Danilo was fouled inside the area.
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The Paris Saint-Germain forward then turned provider to make it 3-0 to the defending champions with a minute remaining of normal time, as substitute Gabriel Barbosa converted his cross late in the game.
It was a tough night for Venezuela, who had to call up 15 players to their squad on the eve of the match, forcing them to give senior international debuts to two players.
But for Brazil, it was a convincing start to a tournament they looked like they may not take part in at one stage last week. The squad were unhappy their country stepped in to stage the Copa, as are a large number of the general public who are not pleased with the government’s handling of the pandemic, and the players looked close to staging a boycott.
"We knew we were going to come across a Venezuela that shut up shop and make it difficult for us to play," said Marquinhos.
"But thanks be to God we were able to score in the first half and that helped us."
"We know how important it is to score goals, especially in a game like this. Here the first goal is so important to open the game up and force your opponent to play a bit more."
Having had a home Copa taken away from them, Colombia responded later in the evening with a 1-0 win over Ecuador, with Edwin Cardona scoring the only goal of the game.
The Boca Juniors loanee finished off a fine move to volley in a headed knock-down from Miguel Borja.
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