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Neymar Erases 3 Defenders With One Nutmeg To Put Brazil In Copa América Final

There’s something enthrallingly stagelike about these Copa América knockout round matches behind closed doors. If Euro 2020 is acting as a celebration of the world moving forward with vaccinations, the Copa can be seen as a reminder of the pandemic’s enforced isolation mixed with unhinged personal tendencies. 

The atmosphere at these matches with fans (provided they weren’t forced to pay half-a-month’s salary for tickets) would’ve been second to none, but the allure of the present is that every little action seems magnified and dramatized.

The passion is unrelenting — it’s vested in the desire to win every ball, and if that doesn’t work, then to win every call. Watching players exert every fiber of physical and emotional being they have takes on a kind of performance art whereby 22 artists captivate, deride and suffer in a space that seeks no convention.

And then there’s watching this Brazil team play. On Monday night against Peru in the semifinal, the Seleção showed why they currently tower above South America — and based on what’s happened in the Euros, maybe the world. 

Brazil should’ve had it won by halftime, but Orlando City’s Pedro Gallese couldn’t be beaten in Peru’s goal until the 35th minute. In the setting of a great drama involving Brazil, you know who’s going to be at the center of it: Neymar.

What the 29-year-old did to conjure the goal could really only be understood on replay. Receiving the ball wide left following a Peru turnover, Neymar took the space in front of him before attempting to square up his marker. The shift wasn’t clean, giving NYCFC’s Alexander Callens hope of taking it off him.

Never hope.

Three rapid touches later, Neymar shifted from left to right, dragged it back left and then touched it through Callens’ legs. Just like that, Neymar also eliminated the support provided by Christian Ramos and Yoshimar Yotún.  

Neymar then quickly spotted Lucas Paquetá for the cutback, and Paquetá did well to steer the bouncing ball on frame past a despairing Gallese.  

The second half performance from Peru was better, but they never really threatened an equalizer. Neymar kept providing the entertainment.  

Argentina plays Colombia on Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. ET. The final is scheduled for Saturday, July 10, at 8:00 p.m. ET. 

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