Philippe Coutinho made the most of his return to the Brazil XI with a starring role in Tuesday’s 3-0 dismantling of South Korea.
Coutinho, 27, had been benched by coach Tite for last week’s 1-0 loss in Riyadh to Argentina. But the Bayern Munich loanee – without Neymar by his side – was reinstated on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi.
His performance was highlighted by a trademark rasped free-kick on 36 minutes. The attacking midfielder also had a major hand in Lucas Paqueta and Danilo’s efforts as the Selecao ended a five-match winless run.
On target: 4
Possession (%): 57
The Copa America holders began with purpose in the UAE – and never looked back.
An intricate ninth-minute witnessed Coutinho play in advancing Atletico Madrid left-back Renan Lodi to tee-up Paqueta’s header. The lead would soon be doubled from the aforementioned playmaker’s set-piece from the edge of the penalty box.
This searing pace was maintained in the early stages of the second half. A wonderful passage of play saw Renan put in a perfect low centre that fellow full-back Danilo slammed into the net to make it 3-0 upon the hour mark.
The perfect retort: Only boss Tite will know why Coutinho was only given the second half in Saudi Arabia in the ‘Superclasico’.
If this was meant as a means to gain a reaction, the ex-Al Ain and Al Wahda tactician got it. In spades.
Coutinho was sensational, linking up delightfully with Lodi and also dovetailing in the middle with Paqueta. This could be a winning formula…
Defensive disaster: This really is being pernickety – especially for one of the globe’s most-renowned playmakers.
But inches came between him and a humiliating own goal during the opening stanza. A searching free-kick caused chaos in the penalty box, with Coutinho, somehow, rasping the base of the post before forcing the ball out when he went for it with the wrong foot.
Coutinho is in need of career rehabilitation after an unfulfilled stint at Barca and slower than expected start at Bayern.
One friendly run-out versus Korea will not do this alone. Propitious signs, however, were on show in Abu Dhabi.
Lodi and him were on a wavelength, while an understanding is developing with AC Milan’s Paqueta.
His free-kick was also a joy to behold and unquestionably world class in its application. Consistency is now key.
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