Tim Vickery’s Notes From South America: Everton Makes Up For Historic Miss At Copa America

A butterfly flaps its wings and the course of the world’s weather is altered. An extra layer on the story of a little onion has an impact on the development of the global game.

The ‘little onion’ in question is Brazilian winger Everton – the nickname comes from a perceived resemblance to a local cartoon character.  And for the important layer of the story we have to go back to the end of last October.

Gremio of Brazil were the reigning champions of South America’s Copa Libertadores – and they were very close to having a chance to defend their title. In the first leg of the 2018 semi final they won away to River Plate of Argentina.  The following week in Porto Alegre they were a goal up – 2-0 ahead on aggregate – with time running out. Forced to chase the game, the Argentines left themselves open at the back. A pass from Gremio midfielder Cicero put Everton behind River’s defensive line. He was one on one with the goalkeeper.

If he scores, the game is effectively over. River would need three goals in around 15 minutes. Gremio would have made it through to the final. There would have been no historic decider between Boca Juniors versus River Plate. The violence that erupted outside River’s stadium would not have happened. There would have been no need for that controversial decision to take the Libertadores final to Madrid. The plans for the South American 2030 World Cup bid would have not have suffered such a blow. Argentina would not need to try and wipe the slate clean by co-hosting next year’s extra Copa America. The tournament, along the lines of the 2016 version, would probably have taken place in the United States, further enhancing co-operation between Conmebol and Concacaf.

But all of that belongs to an alternative reality – because Everton wasted the chance. His shot was poorly directed, was blocked by the goalkeeper, River took advantage to snatch two late goals, before going on to win a famous victory over Boca and claim the title.

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River’s decisive goal against Gremio came from a 95th minute penalty, when the video referee intervened to award hand ball against centre back Bressan.

The unfortunate defender was drummed out of the club, and now represents FC Dallas in the US Major League. Everton, meanwhile, appears to have suffered no ill effects as a consequence of his decisive miss. Instead, he has gone from strength to strength.

He was not even in the Gremio starting line up that night, coming off the bench early in the second half. And now, less than 9 months later, he is a national hero. The break out star of the Copa America, joint top scorer with 3 goals and the man seen as the team’s best representative of the great Brazilian tradition for bold, unpredictable wingplay, he now seems on the verge of a big money move to Arsenal in the Premier League.

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