Neymar made the difference on the bumpy pitch at Nilton Santos Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The only goal arrived in the 34th minute after he tricked defender Alexander Callens on the left edge of the box and assisted Lucas Paquetá, who pushed the ball in.
Paquetá started the tournament on the bench but has become one of Brazil’s leading players. He constantly received the ball in the middle, eased the pressure on Neymar, and marked with intensity.
Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese starred, notably making two difficult saves from short range in the 18th from Neymar and Richarlison.
Brazil gave the impression it could score when it wanted against Peru, which it beat 4-0 in the group stage and 3-1 in the final two years. But the second half was very different: Gianluca Lapadula forced goalkeeper Ederson to make a key save in the 49th after a cross. Brazil continued to waste counterattacks.
“It (the match against Peru) wears us down not only physically, but mentally, too,” Brazil coach Tite said. “In these Copa America matches we play a mental marathon.”
Brazil players threatened to boycott the Copa America in the week before but, instead, voiced their dissatisfaction at CONMEBOL’s decision to move the tournament to their country, which has suffered a known 18.7 million coronavirus cases, and more than 525,000 deaths, second only to the United States.
The tournament was delayed from last year because of the pandemic and removed in May from Colombia because of political protests, and Argentina because of rising cases of the virus.
Midfielder Casemiro was one of the players who criticized CONMEBOL for sending the Copa to Brazil. “Now it is all about mentality and heart. You don’t play a final, you win a final,” he said.