Brazil 3-0 Bolivia: Coutinho stars as hosts triumph in Sao Paolo opener
Philippe Coutinho celebrates after scoring the second goal for Brazil (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

Copa America 2019 kicked off in Sao Paolo with hosts Brazil continuing their winning momentum after a 3-0 defeat of Bolivia, despite struggling to find their feet in the first half.

Goals from Phillipe Coutinho and Everton wrapped up the win in an assured and dominant display despite the absence of Neymar, the talismanic darling of Brazillian football - ruled out of the tournament through injury.

Story of the match

Brazil were below-par in the first half, managing just one shot on goal despite dominating proceedings and having 77% of the possession.

Dani Alves went closest for the hosts when Phillipe Coutinho's fourth-minute corner was met by the Paris Saint-Germain right-back, who's snapshot couldn't beat the well-placed Carlos Lampe in the Bolivia goal.

Thiago Silva then went close minutes later from another corner, just failing to direct his header goalwards as it dropped agonisingly wide.

However, history was made in an otherwise lacklustre opening 45 minutes when the first ever Copa America VAR review led to Fernando Saucedo receiving a yellow card for an apparent elbow on Casemiro.

The break in proceedings for the review allowed the visitors to regroup and compose themselves, and they looked to grow back into the contest when it resumed, with Marcelo Moreno launching a strike which couldn't quite trouble Liverpool's Alisson.

The hosts finally made their dominance count early on in the second half, when a second VAR review led to the award of a penalty for handball - Leonel Justiniano blocking Richarlison's cross with an 'unnatural' arm.

Coutinho took responsibility and slotted home, sparking wild celebrations and quite possibly a sigh of relief among the Sao Paolo crowd as Brazil finally breached the stubborn Bolivian rearguard.

The advantage was doubled on 52 minutes when an inch-perfect chipped cross by Roberto Firmino from the right found Coutinho, who just had to nod into an empty net to double his tally for the evening.

The quickfire double killed any momentum Bolivia may have hoped to create, with the away team causing Alisson no problems in the Brazil goal, with the Selecao celebrating their dominance with some beautiful one-touch football typical of the South American giants.

Brazil's performance was capped off wonderfully with six minutes remaining when Gremio's Everton cutting in powerfully from the left, before smashing his shot into the top right corner just minutes after his introduction.

Takeaways from the match

Can Brazil look to Coutinho in the absence of Neymar?

Although the injury to Neymar will have been a huge blow to Brazil, it could also be a blessing in disguise for them in what is a massive crossroads in the PSG man's career. Coutinho shouldered the expectation brilliantly today and led Brazil's creative output excellently, providing a wealth of dangerous set-pieces for his team-mates as well as the two well-taken goals.

Coutinho will be desperate for international success after a tremendously difficult season with Barcelona in his first full campaign at the Catalan club, and winning this tournament will represent the springboard to future success that the ex-Liverpool midfielder desperately needs.

Bolivia should take heart from first-half performance

Although eventually blown out by five-time world champions Brazil in the second half, Bolivia maintained the stalemate brilliantly throughout the first half. The minnows defended resiliently, limiting the Brazilians to set-piece opportunities. Marcelo Moreno will be important for Bolivia if they are to progress in this year's tournament, with the former Wigan Athletic striker's hold-up play imperative to all their attacking play.

Bolivia will cast a close eye on the other game in Group A between Peru and Venezuela (20:00 BST), with the outcome having a huge bearing on their chances of qualification.

Man of the match

Two-goal Phillipe Coutinho is the only real choice, with the Barcelona man the focal point of the star-studded Brazil attack - working closely with former teammate Firmino for the second goal.

The ex-Inter star did well to quell the growing tension inside the stadium with his penalty after an abject first-half display led to a slightly hostile atmosphere inside the Morumbi Stadium.