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Brazil make underwhelming Copa America start against Ecuador

The result was greeted by boos from the fans.

Ecuador's Jefferson Montero is fouled by Brazil's Elias.
Ecuador's Jefferson Montero is fouled by Brazil's Elias.
Image: Jae C. Hong

BRAZIL SHOWED TOUCHES of magic but a lack of killer instinct as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Ecuador in their Copa America Group B opener on Saturday.

Despite seeing their team force chance after chance, the Selecao traveling support had to settle for a single point as the eight-time champions lost momentum in the second half at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.

The game began at an intense tempo with a flurry of chances at either end in front of a disappointing crowd of 53,158 which filled just over half of the stadium, the venue of Brazil’s 1994 World Cup final victory over Italy.

Both teams had been prepared for intense heat but southern California’s searing daytime temperatures had cooled by kick-off to a merciful 78 degrees fahrenheit [26 degrees celsius].

Brazil were without several first choice players, most notably their talismanic captain Neymar, and they were clearly missing the Barcelona forward’s bite.

The most clear-cut opportunities fell at either end of the match to Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who forced a corner from close range, and Paris St Germain winger Lucas Lima, whose glancing header couldn’t find the target.

Brazil began to take control halfway through the first half as the pace inevitably dropped, with Coutinho and Felipe Luis getting plenty of room down the left and Willian’s pace forcing the aging Walter Ayovi to drop increasingly deeper.

Ecuador looked sporadically dangerous on the counter, tempting Brazil’s Casemiro and Elias into yellow card fouls while Gil was booked for dissent. Their best chance before half time came via a 25-yard free-kick from West Ham forward Enner Valencia, which was plucked comfortably out of the air by Brazil keeper Alisson.

Copa America Centenario Soccer Brazil Ecuador Brazil's Marquinhos under pressure from Ecuador's Frickson Erazo. Source: Mark J. Terrill

Ecuador came to California riding high in their World Cup qualifying group but with a woeful Copa America record of ten defeats and just one win in the last four editions. They started the second half brightly, with Valencia holding the ball up well and Swansea winger Jefferson Montero looking dangerous.

They even appeared to have scored when Alisson fumbled an innocuous Miller Bolanos cross into the net, but it was judged to have gone out of play, and the game limped to a draw to boos from the fans.

Dunga’s five-time World Cup winners face Haiti on Wednesday in Orlando, where they will be expected to win comfortably. Ecuador, who entered the tournament tied with Uruguay at the top of CONMEBOL’s World Cup qualifying table, face Peru in Arizona on the same night.

Earlier in the evening, Peru striker Paolo Guerrero overtook Teofilo Cubillas as his country’s top goalscorer, netting a diving header to defeat Haiti 1-0. In Group A, Costa Rica and Paraguay played out a scoreless draw.

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