Philippe Coutinho stakes claim as Brazil's latest star after hat trick turn

ORLANDO, Fla -- With a hat trick in Brazil's 7-1 thrashing of Haiti at Camping World Stadium on Wednesday, Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho has not only given Brazilians hope but also gave himself the lead in the Copa América Centenario Golden Boot race.

With two quick goals in the first half, a screamer from just inside the box and another after a collapse in the Haitian defense, and a world-class strike in the 92nd minute from about 22 yards out that curled past Haiti's keeper Johny Placide, Coutinho has shown to fans of the Seleção that they have a star in the making.

"He's taking advantage of the opportunities he's been given," said Brazil's head coach, Dunga after the game. "He's been doing very well for us and gaining more confidence in himself with every game and training."

At 23 years old, Coutinho has bagged 21 goals for Liverpool in the Premier League the last four seasons, becoming their attacking talisman in the process, and possibly even putting him in the conversation as one of the top five players in the world.

"He's one of the top five players in the world" said Brazil midfielder Willian. "It's nothing new to us, we've known the quality he has and not only because he scored three goals today. We on the team already knew he was a top player."

However, for his national team prior to Wednesday, it has been a different story. With 16 national team caps under his belt, Coutinho has had a hard time finding the back of the net for the Seleção, scoring only one goal back in 2015, when Brazil defeated Mexico 2-0.

"We talked a lot with him about being the Coutinho from Liverpool," explained Dunga. "We wanted him to call the game to him a little more, and to take more risks."

Coutinho took his coach's words to heart.

With three fouls suffered and four of his team-high five shots on target, the Liverpool man clearly was more aggressive and was able to find open spots that were the biggest difference from the game versus Haiti.

"It was a good game," said Coutinho. "I did everything the coach asked from me. I moved well without the ball and was able to have the freedom to play the game."

"He had more space to play and the whole team helped him find that space," said goalkeeper Alisson. "He's an important player for us and whenever he's called on he delivers for us."

Haitian national team players had nothing but respect for the 23-year-old, "[Coutinho] is a world-class player," said midfielder Jean-Marc Alexandre. "You saw that clearly in his third goal, which was just like the goals he scored for Liverpool this past season."

Despite the praise he received on the night, Coutinho understands there is still work to be done.

"My goal is to always get better with every game that I'm given the opportunity to showcase my talent. My teammates have given me all the support in the world and I'm happy to be able to show them I'm capable."