SAO PAOLO, June 8- First-half goals from Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Diego Tardelli saw a Neymar-less Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 in Sao Paulo on Sunday in their first home game since last year’s World Cup.
With the Copa America starting this week, Brazil were looking to get into gear for the continental championship by reconnecting with home fans after an eight-match run of friendly away wins under coach Dunga.
Dunga, Brazil’s 1994 World Cup-winning skipper, led the five-times world champions to the 2007 Copa title.
He began a second spell in charge last July replacing Luiz Felipe Scolari, who stepped down following the Auriverde’s World Cup semi-final thrashing by Germany.
Sunday’s game was Brazil’s first back on home soil since losing Scolari’s last match at the helm, 3-0 to the Netherlands, in the World Cup match for third place.
With Neymar absent from the encounter in Sao Paulo after his Champions League-winning exploits with Barcelona in Berlin on Saturday, it was Coutinho who put the hosts on the road to victory to settle a crowd who booed the team early on.
“We knew we would be without Neymar and it was a chance to see how the others would do,” said Dunga.
“Without a doubt, it was important to keep the winning run going in our first home match since the Cup,” added Dunga, admitting that players and fans had been a little edgy beforehand.
“We are on the right track, though we haven’t got anywhere as yet. We must improve day by individually and collectively,” Dunga warned.
But he added: “There were several positives” notably the blooding of three emerging faces in Donetsk midfielder Fred, Monaco defender Fabinho and Lazio’s atacking midfielder Felipe Anderson.
The midfielder netted his first international goal on 28 minutes and Shandong Luneng striker Tardelli bagged the clincher after good work down the left by Elias nine minutes later before a 35,000-strong crowd at Palmeiras’ new Allianz Parque stadium.
– ‘Keep stepping things up’ –
The quickfire goals swiftly becalmed fans still smarting from their country’s seven-goal World Cup humiliation by the Germans.
Dunga rang the changes after the break as he withdrew both of his scorers, sending on Everton Ribeiro and Roberto Firmino.
Thereafter, the Brazilians were content to sit on their lead with the Mexicans unwilling to chase a lost cause.
“It’s great to get off the mark with my first goal, but we have to keep stepping things up,” said Coutinho.
Brazil face Honduras in their final warmup Wednesday, when Neymar will return to the fold before heading to Chile to face Group C rivals Peru, Colombia and Venezuela.
Miguel Herrera’s Mexico, who beat the Brazilians in the final of the 2012 London Olympics, open their Copa campaign on Friday against minnows Bolivia.
Herrera’s men were without several experienced names including Carlos Vela, “Chicharito” Hernandez and keeper Guillermo Ochoa, who will compete in the CONCACAF Gold Cup rather than the Copa.
Hosts Chile set the Copa ball rolling against Ecuador on Thursday.