When the Brazil squad for Copa America Centenario was announced without Neymar in it, many wondered where Brazil's goals would come from without their superstar attacker and captain on the pitch. They needed someone to step up and take the reins in his absence, and so far in the Copa, that man has been Philippe Coutinho.
That was Brazil's first goal against Haiti and their first of the tournament so far, and it typified Coutinho's performances in their first two matches -- putting himself in the right position, making the right decision, and finishing things off with gorgeous execution. He would score again in far less flashy fashion 15 minutes later, tapping the ball in from point-blank range after a defensive mistake by Haiti, but even that was another example of that trinity of his quality attacking play: positioning, decision-making, and execution.
Coutinho is coming off an impressive club season for Liverpool. He started the season just as slowly as his teammates, but once Jürgen Klopp arrived and put his stamp on the club, Coutinho absolutely blossomed. The young attacker -- Coutinho turns 24 on June 12 -- grew and grew in quality as the season went on, growing in confidence and consistency en route to scoring 12 goals and picking up a bushel full of assists across all competitions for the English club.
Now he's taking that form and quality to the international scene, and so far in Copa America, Coutinho is looking like the breakout attacking star of the tournament. He impressed in the final third against Ecuador despite the scoreless draw, standing out as Brazil's best player of the day, and his creative flair drove Brazil in their huge 7-1 win over Haiti. If Coutinho continues with this form, Brazil's attack is going to be awfully hard to beat -- especially if he keeps scoring superlative goals like the one he scored to earn his hat trick.
My goodness, Coutinho. Sure, Haiti are far from the best team in this tournament, but that performance would have been jaw-dropping against anyone. If he keeps this up, there may be no one in the Copa America who can stop him or Brazil.