Philippe Coutinho can establish himself as one of the leading names in world football this summer, if Brazil use him in the right way during the Copa America – South American’s version of the Euros.
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The 22-year-old only has six caps for his country thus far, despite making his debut back in 2010, while he also missed out on last summer’s World Cup. However, after an impressive season on Merseyside, this feels like his time to shine.
He’s long since been pinpointed as someone with incredible potential. Indeed, Brazil’s greatest ever player, Pele, has been full of praise for his fellow No. 10, describing him as someone with ‘real talent’ (via the Daily Express).
However, it’s hard to understate the pressure on his shoulders. Coutinho comes into a Brazil side that is struggling – with just one World Cup semi-final to their name since 2002 and the still fresh memories of their German-inspired humbling on home soil last summer.
Brazil’s last Copa America was not much better. Back in 2011, when they were the defending champions, they were embarrassingly knocked out in the quarter-finals at the hands of Paraguay, winning just one of their four games in total.
It was a tournament that was arguably the making of one former Liverpool player, Luis Suarez, who scored both his side’s semi-final goals and the opener in the final as Uruguay lifted the trophy. Four years on, Coutinho has the opportunity to have the same golden moment.
Brazil are crying out for the little magician. The days of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho are gone. Even the likes of Adriano, Robinho and Kaka now seem like worlds away. They’re desperately struggling for inspiration at the top end of the pitch. Even with the mercurial Neymar running the show. He cannot do it all on his own.
Below, we outline Brazil’s potential starting XI at the tournament, utilising Coutinho in the same No. 10 role that he plays for Liverpool – with Neymar and Willian dragging defenders away from him and with Firmino giving him a target to interact with up front.
Neymar, who has scored 43 goals in 62 games for his country, will thrive off the service a player such as Coutinho can provide – cutting in off the wing and allowing the playmaker to pick his passes at will.
You’ll see that the rest of this potential starting XI is robust and technically capable in defence and sturdy and robust in midfield – enabling Coutinho the base from which to perform. In fact, the players in this side benefit his strengths more than ours do at Liverpool.
Marcelo and Danilo’s overlapping runs should give him even more options, while Neymar, Willian and Roberto Firmino will enjoy his attempted one-twos and deft flicks.
Only by playing Coutinho in his most natural position will their manager, Dunga, get the best out of our Anfield favourite. He’s proved all season long that he can produce if given the ammunition, as demonstrated by his multiple PFA nominations. If Brazil do the same, then it will be they that are lifting the trophy come July.
If Coutinho does indeed have a good summer in Chile, then we could be looking forward to welcoming back an all new phenomenon come the start of next season, one that is ready to fire us to success!