LOS ANGELES: Philippe Coutinho completed a hat-trick as Brazil routed Haiti 7-1 at the Copa America Centenario on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) while Ecuador produced a gutsy fightback to thwart Peru’s push for a quarterfinals berth.
Coutinho conjured up the sort of form which made him one of Liverpool’s most potent attackers in the Premier League last season as the Brazilians outclassed Haiti in the first ever competitive meeting of the two nations.
The 23-year-old attacking midfielder grabbed his first two goals inside the first half hour of a one-sided Group B game at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl in Florida.
Coutinho then grabbed his third in the dying seconds of injury time, curling in a spectacular shot to complete a fine night’s work.
Brazil, who had drawn 0-0 with Ecuador in a lackuster opening game last weekend, now lead Group B on goal difference, level on four points with Peru, who were held 2-2 by the Ecuadorans elsewhere on Wednesday.
Brazil manager Dunga was left purring with pleasure at the performance of Coutinho, who scored 12 goals in all competitions for Liverpool this season.
“He is really taking advantage of the opportunities he has been given,” Brazil’s 1994 World Cup-winning captain said.
“We have talked quite a lot to him about being the ‘Liverpool Coutinho’ – to take the initiative, be a leading part of the team, all within his own style,” added the coach.
Brazil’s other goals came from Renato Augusto (2), teenage star Gabriel Barbosa and Lucas Lima.
‘We’ve done nothing’
The goal-feast was a welcome return to potency for Brazil’s attack against admittedly feeble opposition.
Defender Filipe Luis however cautioned that Brazil would face a sterner challenge against Peru in their final Group B game at Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
“It was a comfortable win but we have to be humble, we have done nothing yet,” the Atletico Madrid left back said.
“We tied the opening game so it was really important for us to win, which we did. Now we have to win against Peru.”
Haiti midfielder Jean-Marc Alexandre meanwhile said the memory of his first game against Brazil would always be clouded by the result.
“It is very bitter-sweet for us. You always remember defeats like this. You can’t make mistakes against a team like Brazil and they punished us for every mistake we made,” Alexandre said.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, Ecuador frustrated Peru’s hopes of sealing their quarter-final berth, fighting back from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw in Glendale, Arizona.
A superb individual strike from West Ham’s Enner Valencia and a second half effort from Brazil-based midfielder Miller Bolanos completed Ecuador’s comeback.
The Ecuadorans had earlier been left reeling after falling 2-0 down inside the first 13 minutes.
Peru, who had beaten Haiti in their opening game on Saturday, appeared to be cruising into the last eight after the early efforts from Christian Cueva and Edison Flores.
But Ecuador’s recovery leaves Group B evenly poised heading into the final round of games.
Brazil are in pole position likely needing only a draw against Peru to advance given their goal difference of plus six following their big win over Haiti.
However Ecuador could conceivably sneak into the last eight with a big win over Haiti in the final game. Ecuador are third with two points from two games.