It was always going to be tough, but Brazil are going through to the 2019 Copa America quarterfinals thanks to a 4-3 win on penalties against Paraguay after a 0-0 draw in normal time. The visitors went down to 10 men early in the second half and survived an onslaught from the Seleção to take it to spot kicks, and Brazil were finally able to beat Paraguay on penalties and will play in the Last Four.
As for the Barcelona players on show, Arthur and Philippe Coutinho both played the entire match, and Coutinho scored one of the key penalties to give Brazil a huge victory.
The first half went exactly as expected: Brazil had all of the possession and needed to be patient against a Paraguay team parking the bus with eight players close to their own box and Almirón alongside Derlis González up front trying to create trouble, and the entire period was about which team’s plan would work better.
For most of it Paraguay won the battle with good defending and smart tactical fouls, plus a few harsh challenges that did warrant yellow cards but took Brazil out of their rythm. But in a few moments the Seleção managed to create a couple of dangerous chances, the best of which on a run and shot by Coutinho that was stopped by Fernández.
At halftime Paraguay were halfway through completing their mission of taking the game to penalties, while Brazil needed to stay patient but play better football around the box to find the winning goal.
Brazil started the final period by pressing higher up the pitch and not allowing Paraguay to create counter attacks, and the Seleção really started to dominate and look dangerous. Then Firmino won a penalty, but VAR showed that the foul occurred outside the box and the penalty was denied.
However, Balbuena was found to have denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and was shown a straight red card, which set the table for 30 minutes of all-out Brazilian pressure and Paraguay in pure survival mode.
Brazil sent everyone forward and created loads of giant chances: Firmino and Gabriel Jesus missed two in front of goal on the same play, Everton had two certain goals taken away by a couple of amazing blocks from Piris, Alex Sandro’s beautiful header was brilliantly stopped by Fernández, Willian hit the post.
Despite all the pressure and attacking intent the hosts could not break the bus, and for the third straight time a Brazil-Paraguay quarterfinal in the Copa América was going to penalty kicks.
Third time’s a charm: Brazil made four and missed one of their penalties, Paraguay missed two, and with the clinching penalty scored by Gabriel Jesus the Seleção is moving on. Up next, Venezuela or Argentina. At least it’s not Paraguay again.
Brazil: Alisson; Alves (Paquetá), Marquinhos, Silva, Luís (Sandro); Arthur, Allan (Willian); Jesus, Coutinho, Everton; Firmino
Paraguay: Fernández; Piris, Balbuena, Gómez, Alonso; Pérez (Rojas), Sánchez (Escobar), Ortiz, Arzamendia (Valdez); Almirón; Derlis
Red Cards: Balbuena (58’)
Penalties: Brazil 4 (Willian, Marquinhos, Coutinho, Jesus), Paraguay 3 (Almirón, Valdez, Rojas)