RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Before the Copa América, few people outside Brazil would have heard of Grêmio winger Everton, but his stock is surely on the rise after a series of scintillating performances in a team that is beginning to look like the Brazil of old.
The 23-year-old won Man of the Match in the host nation’s 5-0 win over Peru on Saturday and scored a great goal in what was his first full game for the national side. With this score, the team seals a place in the quarterfinals, alongside fellow South American powers Colombia and Chile.
His start on the left wing was expected after two substitute appearances and a goal in Brazil’s first two Copa América games.
On both occasions, the winger with the face tattoo and the military-style short back and sides haircut brought an excitement and a verve to the side and fans were demanding he play more than a substitute’s role.
Known as Cebolinha, or Little Onion, because of his resemblance to a Brazilian cartoon character of the same name, Everton was electric, cutting in from his spot on the left flank and hitting the byline to provide cutbacks and crosses.
His stepovers and backheels delighted the crowd, who were soon chanting his name.
Everton, however, was quick to praise the collective rather than accept the individual accolades.
“If there was a lack of confidence in the group before, then we played an excellent match and did it doing what we did in other games, creating chances,” he told reporters. “And now the chances turned into goals.”
Early goals settled the side, while there were superb midfield performances by Arthur and Philippe Coutinho, who looked a different player from the one who has struggled this season at Barcelona.
Together they produced some of Brazil’s most self-assured and exciting football in ages, even if it was against a weak Peru side.
Coach Tite refused to single Everton out, but the player can rest assured he will get another start in Thursday’s quarter-final at his home club ground.
“I am particularly happy,” he said. “Going back there with the national team, I know every square meter of that place. I hope to be happy with the national team too.”