RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – (AP) Brazil didn’t need Neymar to win another Copa América title at home. With its injured star watching from the stands at a packed Maracanã Stadium on Sunday, Brazil beat Peru 3-1 to win its 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 one to give Brazil its ninth Copa América trophy, and fifth at home.
Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison also scored for Brazil, which has won the title every time it 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, and he’s a top three 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 couldn’t 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, which had been routed 5-0 by Brazil in the group stage and barely avoided early elimination, was trying to win its first Copa América trophy since 1975 and just its second overall. It hadn’t returned to the final since 1975.
The victory helped Brazil to regain the confidence of some supporters following its 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 player selections and the team’s lackluster performances.