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3 things we learned from Brazil and Ecuador’s draw in Copa America

The match may have ended in a scoreless draw, but there was nothing boring about the action on the pitch.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Excellent performances from Brazil and Ecuador ultimately canceled each other out, with their Copa America Centenario match ending as a scoreless draw, leaving the pair deadlocked in second place in Group B. Neither side can be ashamed of their performance, though, as both South American teams put in impressive performances as they endlessly tried everything they could come up with to find that crucial winning goal that just wouldn't come for either team.

The opening of the match was wide open and wildly entertaining, with both teams showing plenty of pace and willingness to get forward. The first clear chance of the match fell to Ecuador, who saw Enner Valencia lash a shot just barely wide of the post -- a shot hit so hard it damaged the video advertising board behind the goal. Brazil responded quickly, with Filipe Luis and Willian combining on an attack that ended with a shot flying just over the bar, establishing a tone and pace to the match that barely relented in the first half.

Both sides did their best to eschew the defensive reputations they carried coming into the match, though it did require excellent defensive performances from Marquinhos and Gabriel Achilier for Brazil and Ecuador respectively to keep their opponents at bay -- and at times they only barely got the job done.

The halftime stats showed Brazil dominating in both possession and shots taken, holding the ball nearly two-thirds of the half and outshooting Ecuador six to three. Ecuador's pace on the counter was causing Brazil all kinds of trouble, though, regularly creating situations where Brazil midfielders and defenders were forced to foul an Ecuador attacker to break things up, resulting in three first-half yellow cards to Brazil players. The match was very much anyone's for the taking as both teams headed to the tunnel, and it had been every bit as exciting as fans could have hoped for.

The second half saw Brazil try to slow the pace a little bit. They'd struggled with the speed of Ecuador's counter attacks, so the obvious aim was to try to blunt that speed as much as possible by trying to hold possession in Ecuador's half of the field and keep them from getting opportunities to fly forward quite as aggressively.

That style also somewhat blunted Brazil's attacks, however, as that style of play required contributions from Jonas up top, and the more technical striker struggled to find the space he needed to use his skills to Brazil's benefit. Despite him working best with a larger partner to clear room for him up top, Brazil played Jonas alone, and once they slowed the game down their attack suffered for it, though Philippe Coutinho and Renato Augusto did their best to make up for his struggles.

Brazil responded to those issues by taking Jonas off just after the hour mark and replacing him with one of their most exciting young talents, 19 year old Gabriel "Gabigol" Barbosa, who has been enjoying an incredible time with Santos in Brazil, scoring 19 goals for the club in 74 matches despite his young age. He picked up his nickname because of his penchant for scoring big goals already in his career, and sure enough, when he debuted for Brazil last weekend he scored against Panama.

Ecuador thought they had scored not long after Gabriel came on, though, when Miller Bolaños fired in a shot from a tight angle that Alisson fumbled at the post and spilled into his own goal. The referee waved the goal off, though, sparing Alisson an incredible embarrassment as the ball was just out past the byline when Bolaños struck it.

As the minutes ticked away and the day's heat and humidity took its toll on the players, the match continued to slow, though the effort was never lacking from any of the players on the pitch, as typified by the near-miss try at goal from Lucas Moura, who at a dead sprint whipped in a header that buzzed only inches past the post. No one was willing to give up on the match and settle for the scoreless draw, but that effort only served to keep both teams at bay.

The draw sees both teams sit behind Peru after the first round of action for Group B in the Copa America Centenario, and both Brazil and Ecuador will be fighting all the harder on Wednesday to get a win over Haiti and Peru, respectively, as they try to position themselves to top the group. Things have definitely been set up for a close-knit and hard-fought group stage, and if both of these teams step up to the challenge we could see a couple of special matches because of it.

Brazil: Alisson; Dani Alves, Gil, Marquinhos, Filipe Luis; Casemiro; Willian (Lucas Moura 75'), Elias (Lucas Lima 86'), Renato Augusto, Philippe Coutinho; Jonas (Gabriel Barbosa 61')

Goals: None

Ecuador: Esteban Greer; Juan Carlos Paredes, Arturo Mina, Gabriel Achilier, Walter Ayovi; Christian Noboa, Carlos Gruezo; Antonio Valencia, Miller Bolaños (Fernando Gaibor 90'+1), Jefferson Montero (Fidel Martinez 81'); Enner Valencia (Jaime Ayovi 81')

Goals: None

Three things we learned

Brazil really missed Neymar ...

You could tell quite early in the first half that Brazil very much wanted their captain and best player on the pitch, but Neymar was watching from the stands of the Rose Bowl as he's resting ahead of the Olympics in Rio later this summer. There were a lot of sequences and attacks in the half that you could see were designed with Neymar in mind or would have been more effective with him on the pitch, and you can't help but think that if Brazil had him in the side and played this wonderfully aggressive style, they would have been much more lethal in front of goal.

... but Philippe Coutinho is a pretty good fill in

That said, the man tapped to replace Neymar had a pretty stellar day. Coutinho has never gotten a particularly large role in the Brazil side, with only 13 caps scattered over six years since his first senior call-up, but he was given a big chance to make an impact in the Copa after his excellent season with Liverpool, and one match in it certainly looks like he's seizing the opportunity. Brazil's best chances consistently came through him, and the tricky little attacker constantly used his agility and positioning instincts to pop up in places that Ecuador didn't seem to expect him to be in. If Coutinho keeps on this form in the rest of the Copa, he's going to force Dunga to find a way to keep utilizing him once Neymar is back in the side.

Ecuador are a lot of fun

Ecuador came into the match with a reputation of playing very defensive football -- a reputation that was perhaps unearned based on recent performances, but was there nonetheless. They showed their true colors in this match, however, playing an aggressive counter-attacking style that pressed high and looked to win the ball in all areas of the pitch before launching lightning-quick strikes up the pitch. Their speed and tenacity make them a very enjoyable side to watch, because you just know that at any given moment they could throw themselves forward and make something happen.