Willian’s Brazil take South American crown; Former Blue John Mikel Obi hopes for final Nigeria success

Despite a thigh injury which was reported as likely to keep him out of the Copa America final, Willian made the bench for the game in which Brazil overcame Peru to claim their continental championship.

The Chelsea player was a late addition to the Brazil squad at the start of the competition due to an injury to Neymar but he has made an impact, coming on as a substitute in two group games, scoring one goal and then converting a shoot-out penalty which helped his nation win their quarter-final.

He was also brought on at half-time in the semi-final when the Selecao overcame their biggest rivals Argentina and although his previous injury and the state of the game more than likely left him unused in the final, Willian was still left smiling as Brazil lifted this trophy for the first time in 12 years.
 

In the 2019 final of this longest-running of all international tournaments they took on Peru and won 3-1 in the famous Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, maintaining a record of having lifted the trophy on all four occasions they were host nation, the most recent previously being in 1989.

For Sunday’s game Brazil named an unchanged side from the semi-final and were 2-1 up at half-time. Everton, a striker with Brazil side Gremio, opened the scoring early on but the Peruvians equalised from the penalty spot on 44 minutes after a handball by Thiago Silva. Paolo Guerrero who plays his club football in Brazil was the scorer. However there was still time for Brazil to take the lead before the interval when Man City’s Gabriel Jesus netted.

His game changed considerably when he was sent-off for a second yellow card with 20 minutes to go but home fans’ anxiety was eased close to the end when Everton won a penalty which, to keep the Everton theme going, was converted by Toffees player Richarlison to ensure Brazil are South American champions. Our former left-back Filipe Luis has also been involved for Brazil.

Meanwhile, earlier in the weekend, Kenneth Omeruo was part of the Nigeria side which made it through to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations which are being held in Egypt.

His side beat defending champions Cameroon 3-2 having scored first but then needing to recover from going 2-1 behind shortly before half-time.
Omeruo, the 25-year-old central defender who spent last season on loan in Spain at Leganes, played the whole game in Alexandria and supplied a cross from which Nigeria scored midway through the first half. Former Watford striker Odion Ighalo’s effort was deflected in.

Cameroon turned the tide through two France-based players, Stephen Bahoken and Clinton Njie, but Ighalo scored again just after the hour to level it at 2-2 before Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi struck the winner three minutes later.

Our former defender Ola Aina, who moved permanently to Torino this summer after a successful loan there, partnered Omeruo in the Nigeria defence but John Mikel Obi did not take part due to injury. The midfielder who left Chelsea in 2017 after a trophy-filled time as a Blue has 89 caps for Nigeria and was part of their side which won the Africa Cup of Nations six years ago. He has not ruled out being fit to play a further part in their quest for a repeat in 2019 but has announced it will be his final international tournament, and possibly his swansong for his county altogether.
 

He said: ‘It's been an amazing ride for me in the national team. Thirteen years I think is enough. I've won trophies, I've had a lot of amazing times. I think it's time for these young guys to carry on.

‘I'm mostly here in Egypt to support the young guys and make sure they're on the right track. I think my presence is always important for them, hopefully I can finish with the trophy.’

Nigeria’s quarter-final is against South Africa on Wednesday.

 

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