Coutinho is Brazil’s main man in Copa
Philippe Coutinho arrived in Brazil for the Copa America expecting to play second fiddle to Neymar. But an injury and two goals have lifted him into a leading role.
When Brazil take on Venezuela today in Salvador, the midfielder will be heir to the injured Neymar in the hearts of local fans.
Coutinho had a disappointing season with Barcelona, but his two-goal performance in the 3-0 opening win over Bolivia last Friday showed he is still capable of organising a team's offence, scoring goals and keeping the pace once the match is settled.
After struggling on the left flank, he moved to a more central position where he was responsible for Brazil's flow and style.
"I am happy to play in that position in the centre," Coutinho said after the opener. "It is a position that I like more. I hope that I can correspond in the best way possible."
While Brazil will qualify for the quarter-finals by beating Venezuela, it face pressure to perform better than it did against Bolivia.
The Brazilians heard boos after an unimpressive first half in Sao Paulo, before Coutinho scored from the penalty spot and with a header after the break.
Without Neymar, who injured his right ankle days before the opening game, Coutinho had more opportunities to shoot from long distance. He also played closer to strikers Richarlison and Roberto Firmino, and captain Dani Alves believes Coutinho can definitely become the team's key player in the tournament.
"All he needed was some self-confidence to have this role. He knows that he has the confidence of the team to be our leading figure," Alves said.
Venezuela, which has never qualified for a World Cup, has won just one of 24 matches against Brazil.