Football

Philippe Coutinho turns on the charm for Brazil against Honduras

In the absence of the injured Neymar, Barca star helps Brazil trounce Honduras 7-0 ahead of Copa America

Philippe Coutinho helped Brazil prepare for a Copa America without Neymar after 10-man Honduras were comprehensively thrashed 7-0 in Porto Alegre yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar will miss the tournament, which starts on Saturday, after injuring his ankle against Qatar last Wednesday.

But Brazil have ample firepower, with Barcelona's Coutinho providing an assist and finding the net from the penalty spot against Honduras.

Defender Thiago Silva praised the 26-year-old, saying: "He is our reference, especially when we don't have Neymar.

"In the two friendlies, he was the best player on the pitch, not only because of passes and goals, but also with his defence.

"He is finding his happiness again."

Everton's Richarlison and Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus also impressed by getting on the scoresheet against the outclassed Hondurans, who had Romell Quioto red-carded in the first half.

Jesus and Richarlison, who both scored against the Qataris in Brasilia, were particularly lively once again, along with the excellent Coutinho, to prove the Selecao still have plenty of options in attack even without Neymar.

Brazil made three changes from the side that beat Qatar - Ajax Amsterdam star David Neres was brought in to replace Neymar, while Liverpool's Champions League-winning goalkeeper Alisson and PSG's Silva also started.

The five-time world champions are unbeaten since their World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of Belgium last July.

They are the hosts for the Copa America and open with a match against Bolivia.

Honduras fell behind on six minutes and were left chasing shadows for the remainder of a chastening 90 minutes.

Brilliant work from PSG's Dani Alves caused panic in the visitors' defence and forward Jesus was on hand to head home.

Just seven minutes later, Coutinho curled in a dangerous corner which was expertly headed in by Silva.

Now, the challenge for Brazil was to keep their foot on the accelerator, rather than ease off, as they did against Qatar.

Arthur was forced off on 31 minutes, following a two-footed challenge which saw midfielder Quioto receive a straight red. He was replaced by Napoli's Allan but, with the Hondurans down to 10 men, the game was effectively over as a contest.

Richarlison was brought down in the area on 36 minutes, allowing Coutinho to make it three from the penalty spot with his 14th international goal, before twice being denied by the post in the space of a few minutes.

Richarlison remained a menace in the second half and teed up Jesus to make it 4-0 just after the restart.

Neres scored a wonderful individual goal on 56 minutes to open his own account for the Selecao, before a cool finish from substitute Roberto Firmino made it six.

Richarlison finally scored the goal his performance deserved with 20 minutes remaining to give Brazil their biggest win since 2012.

- AFP

Football