Roberto Firmino was given the nod to lead the line for Brazil in the Copa America opener last night—and produced a lively performance and an assist.
A year ago in the World Cup, Firmino largely watched on as sub, usually called upon late in the game, as Gabriel Jesus toiled and Brazil went out early.
One year later and Jesus played an important, but very much squad support, role for Man City in winning the title—while Firmino was Liverpool’s first-choice forward again as they won the Champions League.
That has seen him rewarded by becoming first pick at international level, too, and in the No. 20 shirt last night he was heavily involved as Brazil started with a 3-0 win over Bolivia.
It took until early in the second half for the opening goal to come as ex-Red Philippe Coutinho scored a penalty, before Firmino really made his presence felt as he beautifully teed up his former team-mate to head home a second goal.
WHAT A MOVE!
Richarlison to Firmino to Coutinho
— Watch Copa América 2019 live on Premier Sports ? (@PremierSportsTV) June 15, 2019
An inch-perfect cross from Bobby was nodded home by the now-Barcelona man to get Reds fans reminiscing about the duo linking up at Anfield.
Firmino, still finding full fitness after his end-of-season injury, was subbed on 65 minutes for Jesus.
Potential Reds target David Neres also started, on the left of the 4-2-3-1, and after he was subbed off late in the match it was his replacement, Gremio’s talented 23-year-old Everton Sousa Soares, who scored the goal of the game with a dribble and arrowed shot in the closing stages.
Firmino himself had just one shot in the game, but was as selfless as ever with two key passes and plenty of off-the-ball movement and work rate.
At the other end of the pitch, it was a much quieter night for Alisson Becker.
Bolivia were very much on the back foot all game, having just 25 per cent of possession across the 90 minutes and managing just five shots, one of which was on target.
In fact, the match was a quieter evening for the goalkeeper than the previous day—as he attended the birth of his son in Porto Alegre.
With the match taking place in Sao Paulo, over 1,000 km away, it meant the Reds’ No. 1 had to catch a two-hour flight back on the day of the match, as Brazil’s backup—Man City‘s Ederson—was injured.
The Copa America continues on Saturday evening with Venezuela vs. Peru and Argentina vs. Colombia.
Brazil’s next fixture is on Wednesday at 1:30am BST, when they face Venezuela in their second group game.