Brazil are once again the champions of South America, defeating Peru 3-1 in the Copa América final and winning the tournament once again for the first time in 12 years.
The glimmer of hope in the eyes of the Peruvian national team that they could pull off this incredible upset despite losing 5-0 to the championship favorites in the group stage died out soon after the 11th minute. After sizing up their opponents, Brazil quickly reverted to the world-beating form that most have grown up knowing best. They dominated possession, exploited any and all gaps in Peru’s defense, and placed enough pressure to make even counterattacks impossible. It was Everton Soares who got on the board first for Brazil, after Dani Alves sent an incredible pass to Gabriel Jesus, who flung the cross to the goal-scorer.
Even though anyone who was even slightly paying attention to the game could have seen the score coming, the goal surprised and rattled Peru all the same. The defense somehow softened even more and allowed more chances that were too close for comfort, but ultimately did not make it to the back of the net.
As the chances for Brazil built up, the squad appeared to get bored with the constant dominance and took their foot off the gas pedal. The Peruvians noticed this and began to keep pressing their luck against a clearly-superior Brazilian squad. Eventually, their pushes got them into the penalty box, where they were able to get Thiago Silva to commit a handball foul and give Peru a penalty. After a VAR check gave him a lot of time to think about the shot, Paolo Guerrero still remained composed enough to send Alisson the wrong way on the penalty to tie things up.
The moment of glory lasted mere minutes for Peru, whose defense had one player cough up a costly turnover, and two players slip on the grass as Gabriel Jesus carved his way towards restoring Brazil’s lead at the end of the first half.
The second half played out in waves of effort for both teams. There’s no question that Brazil dominated most of the time, but occasionally Peru would have these pockets of resurgence where they put the Brazilians on their back foot before the Seleção remembered who they were, and brought pressure back.
Yet even with this consistency, frustration seemed to mount on both sides of the ball, with hard fouls flowing left and right and the referee avoiding any serious punishments. At least, that was the case until Jesus made the grave mistake of, uhh, running into Carlos Zambrano a bit harder than he should have. The official determined this was worthy of Jesus’s second yellow card and he was sent off.
The call was soft and Jesus was understandably upset, so much so that he started crying in the tunnel. It was a fair emotion to experience given that his team was now down a player with 20 minutes left, and Peru theoretically having enough talent to get that equalizer.
But no equalizer came. After a few commendable attempts at building up towards a goal, balance of play began to settle down, even with Peru playing with the one-man advantage. This was mostly thanks to the efforts of Everton Soares, who turned Peruvian defenders, namely Luis Advíncula, into mincemeat with his one-on-one playing abilities on the wing. At one point, he was able to turn his man and get into Peru’s penalty box. While chasing after the ball, the referee determined that Zambrano had now run into Everton a bit harder than he should have and called for a Brazilian penalty.
Brazil would see this score to the end to win the Copa América. The tournament’s trophy weren’t the only ones that Brazilians lifted, as Dani Alves won best player of the tournament, Brazilian Alisson won best keeper, and Everton won top goalscorer—a true reflection of how the team has either dominated, or bribed, their way into victory this summer, depending on who you are.