Brasilia (AFP)

Brazil, in the absence of an exciting game but with a still decisive Neymar, opened the Copa América by pushing a Venezuela strongly handicapped by cases of coronavirus, Sunday in Brasilia.

"Ney", in search of his first major title in the selection, still managed the combined goal plus assist, by transforming a penalty obtained by Danilo (64th) then by sending an offering to Gabigol, who only had to push the chest ball in the empty cage (89th).

The N.10 had already managed this type of double in the two previous matches of the Seleçao, 2-0 victories against Ecuador and Paraguay on June 4 and 8 in qualifying for the World Cup-2022.

Neymar is now 67 goals in 106 caps, just ten lengths from Pelé's national goalscoring record.

Before him, his Paris SG teammate, defender Marquinhos, opened the scoring (23rd) for the defending champion Brazil and host of the tournament.

Venezuela, however, surprisingly thwarted Brazilian plans, while it was handicapped by the absence of eight players who tested positive for the coronavirus, in addition to a few injuries.

The coach, José Peseiro, suddenly called on 15 new players to compete in the competition, most of them playing in the Venezuelan league.

The Vinotinto, therefore cruelly lacking experience, defended en bloc, in a "very closed" way in the words of Marquinhos at the end of the match, but ended up breaking down.

The Seleçao were rather dull, camped in the opposing camp and monopolized the possession, but without cutting edge.

Neymar was the most destabilizing element, offering a few flashes, like these two tumbled down while speeding and dribbling completed by a narrow shot off target (30th, 83rd), addressing a few well-felt passes and crosses, but his teammates did were not having a great day.

"The three points are important. We had to start well, regardless of whether the opponent has had a lot of forfeits or not," said Casemiro, the Seleçao captain, at the microphone of the Brazilian channel SBT.

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In this group B, Brazil will face Peru on Thursday, while Venezuela will meet Colombia.

© 2021 AFP