No Neymar, no problem as Brazil begin new Copa reign

As Brazil geared up for the Copa America last month, a Neymar-induced pall of doom and gloom threatened to scupper the host nation's chances before a ball had even been kicked.

The unrelenting circus surrounding the captain and talisman of the Selecao had included lurid rape revelations before an ankle injury in a warm-up game left the Paris Saint-Germain striker on crutches and out of the tournament.

It was an eerie echo of Brazil's disastrous 2014 World Cup on home soil, when Neymar was injured in the quarter-finals and missed his team's traumatic 7-1 humiliation against eventual champions Germany in the last four.

Yet as this year's Copa campaign unfolded, Brazil demonstrated that it might have finally cast off the longstanding criticisms of "Neymar-dependency."

While Neymar's creative spark was sorely missing in a dour 0-0 draw with Venezuela during the group stage, Brazil gradually grew into the tournament.

And by the time captain Dani Alves hoisted the trophy -- Brazil's first major honor in 12 years -- following the 3-1 victory over Peru in the final at the iconic Maracana stadium on Sunday, Neymar had at last been shoved aside as the Copa's major talking point.

What's more, Brazil had proved in finishing with the tournament's best attack, best defence, top player in Alves, top scorer in Everton and top goalkeeper in Alisson -- a clean sweep of every award going -- that they could thrive without Neymar.

(Agencies)