So here we are! As Barcelona fans continue to be mad about everything, the 2019 Copa America is now in the knockout phase, and we all hope for much better football than the boring, VAR-filled mess we saw in the group stage. The lone quarterfinal on Thursday night sees hosts Brazil face Paraguay in Porto Alegre, and on paper this should be an easy 90 minutes for the 2007 winners.
Let’s start with talent: it’s impossible to compare the quality of the two squads: only Miguel Almirón is good enough to be in this Brazil team filled with so many skilled and world-class players all over the roster. Brazil’s front five of Arthur, Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Everton and Roberto Firmino would walk into the starting lineup of almost every national team in the world, and think about the likes of Fabinho, Lucas Moura, Vinicius Jr and Neymar who aren’t even in the Copa América squad!
The performances in the tournament are also very different: Brazil did play mediocre at best in their first two matches, but were truly fantastic against Peru and will start the same team on Thursday with the exception of the suspended Casemiro, who will be replaced by Napoli midfielder Allan. Paraguay have been very bad so far, qualifying with just two points and only looking somewhat okay in the second half of their game against Argentina.
But here’s the funny thing, if you don’t know much about the Copa América: this is what Paraguay do. They don’t play well, ever, they always qualify with four, three or two points, and they come to the quarterfinals without any expectations of doing anything.
That’s what happened in 2011 and 2015. Who did they face in the quarterfinals in both tournaments? Brazil, who were the overwhelming favorites and expect to steamroll over their opponents. What happened? Paraguay parked the bus for 90 minutes, took the game to penalties and won. Both times.
Thursday night at the Arena do Grêmio this is what will happen: Paraguay will park the bus for 90 minutes, not care one bit about attacking and try to take the game to penalties. And then who knows.
Day 12 Schedule
Quarterfinal 1: Brazil vs Paraguay (2.30am CET, Friday)