SAO PAULO • Before the Copa America, few people outside Brazil would have heard of Everton, but his stock is on the rise after a series of scintillating displays in a team beginning to look like the Selecao of old.
The Gremio forward won Man of the Match honours in the host nation's 5-0 Group A hammering of Peru on Saturday, scoring an excellent goal in what was his first full game for the national side.
His start on the left wing had been expected after two substitute appearances and a goal in Brazil's first two games of the tournament.
Both cameos brought an attacking verve to the side and the home fans had clamoured for coach Tite to name him in his starting XI.
Known as Cebolinha or Little Onion in Portuguese, because of his resemblance to a Brazilian cartoon character of the same name, Everton was electric against Peru, cutting in from the flank and getting to the byeline to provide cut-backs and crosses.
His step-overs and back-heels also delighted the crowd at the Arena Corinthians, who chanted his name whenever he got on the ball.
However, in his post-match interview, Everton was quick to praise the collective rather than accept the individual accolades.
He told reporters: "If there was a lack of confidence in the group before, then we played an excellent match and did it doing what we did in other games, creating chances.
"And now, the chances turned into goals."
Group winners Brazil will now face one of the two best third-placed teams at the Gremio Arena on Thursday, and Everton revealed he was looking forward to starring on a ground where he knows "every square metre of that place".
He said: "I'm particularly happy. Going back there with the national team... I hope to be happy with the national team too."
Early goals settled the tournament favourites - Casemiro, who will be suspended on Thursday, opened the floodgates while captain Dani Alves and substitute Willian also got on the scoresheet.
Roberto Firmino's no-look strike was the pick of the bunch, and Philippe Coutinho looked far more assured in contrast to the player who endured an indifferent season at Barcelona, when paired in midfield with club teammate Arthur.
Together, the team conjured up some of the five-time world champion's most exciting play in ages, even if it was against a poor Peru side, leaving Tite purring after "one of the best" matches of his reign.
He said: "We were creative, precise, clinical and effective. Since we scored in the first half, we had to maintain that tempo. We kept the same attitude, and we were still creating chances in the 47th minute of the second half."
And Alves, who also announced on his Instagram page yesterday that he was leaving French Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, echoed Tite's thoughts that the team were now the ones to watch, having "improved from the first to the second, to the third match".
The eight-time Copa champions have lifted South American football's premier competition the four previous times that they were hosts.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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