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Vini Jr. ‘almost perfect’ as Brazil get back on track

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Brazil coach Dorival Júnior hailed the display of Vinícius Júnior after the forward scored twice to help the Seleção get back on track at the Copa América with a 4-1 win over Paraguay in Las Vegas Friday.

Brazil and Vinícius struggled in the team’s opening game of the competition, a 0-0 draw with Costa Rica Monday, in which the Real Madrid star failed to have a shot at goal and was substituted midway through the second half.

But he was switched on from the start against Paraguay, putting Brazil ahead after 35 minutes with a low finish after an assist from Lucas Paquetá. After Sávio had made it 2-0, Vinícius gave Brazil a third goal before half-time when he closed down Paraguay defender Omar Alderete and diverted his attempted clearance into the net.

Vinícius could have had a hat-trick but instead took a backseat, allowing Paqueta, who had missed from the spot in the first half, to step up and score a second-half penalty.

“Today, he played almost a perfect match,” Brazil coach Dorival said of Vinícius through an interpreter. “He was dynamic.”

The goals were Vinícius’ first non-penalty goals for Brazil since scoring against South Korea at the 2022 World Cup and his first multi-goal game in what was his 32nd appearance.

“I always say that I never play for myself, I will always play for my team,” Vinícius said in an on-field interview following the game. “When I’m playing for Brazil I play for my country, I always try to do the best things but it’s not always possible.

“And today I managed to play a great game at the level of a player that I am. And I know that I can still improve a lot to help the Brazilian team, to help this team that works hard every day to be able to put Brazil in the place it deserves. We will continue to work hard to achieve this goal, which is to win the Copa América.”

The victory was quite the response from Brazil after its disappointing beginning to the tournament in the United States and put the nine-time winners on the verge of a place in the quarterfinals.

With four points, Brazil is two behind group leader Colombia, which defeated Costa Rica 3-0 earlier Friday. A victory or tie by Brazil against Colombia on Tuesday ensures one of the group’s two spots in the knockout stage. Brazil also has a six-goal differential advantage over Costa Rica, so a loss likely won’t keep out the nine-time Copa América champions.

“There was a certain level of disappointment for the lack of results in the first match,” Dorival said. “But I think our performance was of a great level. We’ve made great progress in very little time. We almost never have 20 days to work together.

“I told you be patient because this team is trending on the right path.”

Information from Reuters, The Associated Press and ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report

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