Coutinho: Brazil yet to hit peak form


Brazil's 5-0 victory over Peru on Saturday has provided the five-time world champions with renewed confidence as they prepare for the Copa America knockout phase, midfielder Philippe Coutinho said on Monday.

The hosts beat Bolivia 3-0 in their opening match before laboring in a 0-0 draw with Venezuela. But Coutinho said the emphatic victory against the Blanquirroja proves the Selecao are on the right track ahead of Thursday's quarterfinal here against a yet to be determined opponent.

"We've had three difficult games," the Barcelona attacker told a news conference. 

"The first one was complicated because of everything it involves. In the second, we didn't play as well as we expected and in the third game we showed that we have made progress. We expect to improve even more from here."

Brazil will be without Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro for the clash at Arena do Gremio. In his place will be Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho, who has been criticized for his performances in recent major tournaments for Brazil.

Coutinho backed the former Shakhtar Donetsk player to show his worth to the team on Thursday, praising the 34-year-old's experience and leadership.

"He is a great player, a leader in our group," Coutinho said. "People always try to point the blame when you lose. But football is a team game. When it does not work, it's the group that hasn't worked.

"He has certainly gotten over it [the criticism] and it's no coincidence that he's had a great season."

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