Sao Paulo - When Neymar was ruled out of the Copa America with an ankle injury
just over a week before the big kick-off, there was reason for hosts
Brazil to despair.
But one player more than any other has given rise to renewed optimism
within the Selecao ranks, and that's Everton - a player reportedly
courted by both Manchester clubs, City and United, and Paris
The dynamic 23-year-old winger has been a revelation for Brazil since
earning a starting berth in their final Copa America group game against
He had already scored the third goal in a 3-0 win over Bolivia in the tournament opener after coming on as a substitute.
After the dire 0-0 draw with Venezuela, Everton was one of two
changes made by coach Tite to Brazil's attacking triumvirate - Gabriel
Jesus was also promoted to the starting XI - and rewarded his coach
with another goal and swashbuckling performance down the left flank.
And in his home stadium in Porto Alegre, where he plays for Gremio,
Everton was the one player who lifted the crowd onto their feet every
time he got the ball in an otherwise frustrating blank against Paraguay
in the quarter-finals, before Brazil won on penalties.
"He's the one who opens up the marking, who faces up to it," said
Atletico Madrid full-back Filipe Luis, who's linked up well with Everton
down the flank.
"Those who benefit are those players playing close to him."
That's a move that will likely materialize once this tournament is
over for the player nicknamed "Cebolinha" - little onion, a reference
not to him making defenders cry but to his likeness to a cartoon
character of the same name due to the tuft of hair on his otherwise
His popularity amongst Brazilian fans is evident and largely because
he's one of just three of the 23-man tournament squad still plying his
trade in his homeland.
The other two - reserve goalkeeper Cassio and second choice
full-back Fagner - have yet to feature, meaning Everton is the only
home player gracing the Copa America that local fans are able to watch
at close quarters.
Although that is almost certain to change soon enough.
"He's a player who's ready to play in Europe," said Felipe Luis.
After Everton's scoring cameo
against Bolivia, one of the most respected football journalists in
Brazil, Juca Kfouri, wrote in the prestigious Folha de S. Paulo
newspaper that "Everton must start for the Selecao."
"You have to have the courage to pick those that have the audacity to play football," he added.
Everton doesn't quite have the wing wizardry of one of Brazil's
greats, Garrincha, but his bustling, powerful running and impressive
close control are mightily effective, as is his ability to cut inside
Like a right-footed Arjen Robben, who likewise operates on the
opposite flank to the one he should naturally occupy, Everton has been
particularly dangerous cutting in from the left onto his good peg.
Both his goals came from that move, firing an unstoppable shot into
the top far corner against Bolivia, and catching out Peru goalkeeper
Pedro Gallese with a drilled low effort to the near post.
"That's one of my characteristics, I like to cut inside," Everton said after his goal against Venezuela.
"I feinted to shoot twice and then hit it hard, giving the goalkeeper no chance."
That was his first goal for the national team, in his seventh appearance, many of which had been as a substitute.
"I really wanted to score that first goal, I was starting to beat myself up about it and get impatient."
He didn't have to wait long for his next one - it came two matches
later - and given the way he's playing, he surely won't be getting
Brazilians, though, will have to make the most of watching him here
because he looks a certainty to be heading to European shores before the
new season begins in August, no matter how much the fans want to hold
Manchester City are waiting in the wings and although a defiant
internet user suggested this would be possible only if the Premier
League champions offered Sergio "Aguero and €50 million," given his
release clause is €60 million, City won't have to part with their
Argentine star if they do decide to move in on the popular Brazilian.