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Forget Neymar, it’s Coutinho who’s lighting up the World Cup for Brazil

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Brazil v Costa Rica: Group E - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Philippe Coutinho is stealing the show in Russia.

The Barcelona star is taking his game to a whole new level on the biggest stage of all, the World Cup. His dazzling form has been instrumental in Brazil topping their group and despite being surrounded by a star-studded group of teammates it’s the diminutive midfielder who has impressed most.

It was thought that Neymar would be the one to lead the Selecao to the knockout stages of the competition and whilst he’s been one of Brazil’s best it’s Coutinho that’s setting records in the competition.

In a 2-0 win over Serbia, Coutinho became the first Brazilian player since Pele to score or assist in each of their first three World Cup games. His assist for Paulinho was just one of many brilliant passes from a player who is seemingly beginning to reach his peak. Paulinho was suitably impressed, labelling Coutinho a phenomenon.

”I’m always looking for space and that’s the way it happened for the first goal,” Paulinho said.

”The phenomenon Coutinho gave me a great assist and I managed to score.”

Brazil have a multitude of big-name players but you’d be mistaken for thinking this team is akin to the free-flowing and attacking powerhouse teams of years gone by. Instead we see a team that is set up to grind out victories and it’s Coutinho who has been the real difference maker after three games.

Against Switzerland, in Brazil’s opener, it was a sublime long-range goal from the midfield maestro that gave his team the lead in a game that would see Brazil have to settle for a disappointing draw.

Brazil v Switzerland: Group E - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Next up was Costa Rica and after 90 minutes of football it was once again left to Coutinho to draw first blood. His goal was an opportunistic one but his ability to be in the right place at the right time shouldn’t be overlooked.

At 26 years of age, the Brazilian is beginning to show the kind of promise one would expect from a €125 million player. During 2018, Coutinho has either scored or assisted in 22 goals over 29 games for both Barcelona and Brazil. His true potential is becoming increasingly apparent with each game and both his club and country are benefitting immensely.

The real challenge for Brazil may well be further on up the road in Russia but if the first three games are anything to go by, it’s clear that Brazil’s hopes of World Cup glory rest on the play of Philippe Coutinho as much as any player.