Brazil beat Peru to clinch 1st Copa America title since 2007

Members of the Brazilian national team celebrate with the trophy after winning the Copa America final against Peru. (AFP)
Updated 09 July 2019

Brazil beat Peru to clinch 1st Copa America title since 2007

  • Coach Tite’s team regain supporters’ confidence following their 2018 World Cup quarterfinal exit

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil did not need Neymar to win another Copa America title at home.

With their injured star watching from the stands at a packed Maracanã Stadium on Sunday, Brazil beat Peru 3-1 to win their first South American title since 2007.

It was Neymar’s replacement, Everton, who led the team to victory, scoring a goal and setting up another to give Brazil their ninth Copa America trophy, and fifth at home.

Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison also scored for Brazil, who have won the title every time they hosted the tournament.

“I gave everything I had today,” said Everton, who was voted player of the final and also finished as one of the tournament’s top scorers with three goals.

“Who would have thought that Everton would be playing in the final and would be named the man of the match,” Brazil coach Tite said.

Neymar, who was ruled out before the tournament because of an ankle injury, sat with his son close to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro among the crowd of nearly 70,000 at the Maracanã.

“Neymar is extraordinary, he’s a top 3 player,” Tite said. But “with teamwork we stayed strong.”

Brazilian fans had some reason to worry after Gabriel Jesus was sent off in the 70th minute because of a second yellow card, but Peru could not pull off one last upset after eliminating Uruguay in the quarterfinals and two-time defending champion Chile in the semifinals.

“Brazil deserved the victory,” Peru coach Ricardo Gareca said. “We played better than we did in the previous match. We have improved as a team. We still have to improve more, but we are on the right track.”

Peru, who had been routed 5-0 by Brazil in the group stage and barely avoided early elimination, were trying to win their first Copa America trophy since 1975 and just their second overall. They had not returned to the final since ‘75.

The victory helped Brazil to regain the confidence of some supporters following their quarterfinal exit at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It will also ease some of the pressure on coach Tite, who had been criticized for his selections and the team’s lackluster performances.

Brazil had not made it past the quarterfinals of the Copa America since beating Argentina 3-0 in the 2007 final in Venezuela. They did not even get past the group stage in 2016.

The last time Brazil won the Copa America at home had been in 1989, when Romario scored the winner against Uruguay at the Maracana.

Brazil’s only other trophy since 2007 came in the 2013 Confederations Cup, also at home.

Brazil arrived as a heavy favorite but it was an even match from the start, with the hosts not being able to press too much despite being urged on by most of the crowd at the Maracana.

Everton opened the scoring in the 15th from close range after a well-placed cross by Gabriel Jesus, who made a surging run down the right flank.

“I’m happy with the goal and with the penalty in the end,” Everton said. “I have to thank my teammates for helping me finish as a top scorer.”

The 23-year-old Everton was elevated to the starting lineup after Neymar was ruled out and his initial substitute, David Neres, struggled in the first couple of matches.

Veteran striker Paolo Guerrero equalized with a 44th-minute penalty after a handball by Brazil defender Thiago Silva. The goal allowed Guerrero to become the Copa America’s all-time leading scorer among active players with 14 goals.

It was the only goal conceded by Brazil in six games.

Gabriel Jesus put the hosts ahead again in the third minute of first-half stoppage time with a low shot after an assist from midfielder Arthur.

Peru tried to take control after Gabriel Jesus was sent off for a hard foul on an opponent, but the visitors were not able to create many significant chances.

Brazil sealed victory when Richarlison, who had missed a few matches because of the mumps, converted a penalty kick in the 90th after Everton was fouled.

Both penalty kicks had to be delayed for video reviews. Brazil’s veteran right back Dani Alves was voted the player of the tournament.


Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

Updated 25 August 2019

Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

  • When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain

NEW YORK: During a break in practice two days before opening his US Open title defense, Novak Djokovic pulled off his blue shoe and white sock so a trainer could look at his right foot.

Did it again a little while later.

And then, toward the end of Saturday’s training session in Louis Armstrong Stadium with 2014 runner-up Kei Nishikori, Djokovic stopped a sprint and pulled up short of a ball, raised his right leg off the ground entirely and hopped repeatedly on his left, wincing. Nothing to worry about, Djokovic said later at his pre-tournament news conference: Just blisters.

“A minor thing,” Djokovic called it. “Like anybody has ... Nothing major that is causing a concern for the event.”

When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena, a 26-year-old from Spain whose career-best ranking was 72nd.

Carballes Baena has an overall career record of 43-50. That includes 2-7 at major tournaments, 1-1 at Flushing Meadows, where he made his debut a year ago and lost in the second round.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has won 33 of his past 34 Grand Slam matches en route to collecting four of the past five major titles. That allowed the 32-year-old Serb to raise his career haul to 16 trophies, putting him just two away from second-place Rafael Nadal’s total of 18, and Roger Federer’s 20, which is the record for men.

He’s not shy about trying to catch those guys.

“More or less everything is about Grand Slams, in terms of how I see tennis and how I approach it, because they matter the most,” Djokovic said. “So I will definitely try to play my best tennis — and aim to play my best tennis — at these events.”

And while many would attribute Djokovic's success to his ability to return serves, say, or his mental strength and propensity for coming up big in the biggest moments — such as saving two match points along the way to edging Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker in the Wimbledon final last month — there's something else the man himself would point to as his most vital quality.

That's the way Djokovic can cover a court, which is why the state of that right foot is actually a rather big deal.

His movement, Djokovic said Saturday, is "the base of everything" and "the most important thing."

"It just allows you to be more in balance. And at the end of the day, that is what you're looking for as a tennis player," he explained. "How can you hit the ball, being in the right balance, so you can penetrate the ball with the right speed, accuracy and precision?"

Watch Djokovic during a match, and you'll see him change direction in a heartbeat, twist and turn, contort his limbs, slide — on clay, on grass, even on hard courts — always getting to the right spot at the right time.

He attributes his strength in that area to the flexibility of his ankles and is grateful he used to participate in another sport while growing up back home in Serbia.

"I credit my childhood spent on the skis. I used to spend a lot of time skiing," Djokovic said. "That had an effect as well, with kind of coordination and changing movement from one side to another. Even though they're different sports, in essence, you're using some major muscle groups and joints and stuff like this in most of the sports."

It is Djokovic's right elbow that gave him the most trouble a couple of seasons ago.

He missed the last half of 2017, including that year's US Open because that arm was bothering him, then wound up having surgery in February 2018. It took some time for Djokovic to get going after that. All's good these days, though.

"Novak had a couple years where he didn't seem like the same guy," ESPN's John McEnroe said. "Now he's back with a vengeance."

Only 1½ months have passed since Djokovic edged Federer in that classic title match at the All England Club.

Not a lot of time to savor the victory. Not a lot of time to rest a weary body.

"This sport can be a little bit 'cruel,'" Djokovic said, using fingers to indicate air quotes, "when it comes to, I guess, marveling or celebrating your own success. You don't have that much luxury of time to really reflect on everything because the season keeps going."