Brazil take on Paraguay on Saturday night in the final quarter-final tie of the 2015 Copa America, with a semi-final match-up against favourites Argentina at stake
Following Argentinaa s penalty shoot-out win against Colombia, there is already heightened anticipation amongst neutrals of a Brazil v Argentina semi-final a two historic super-powers and traditional South American rivals taking on each other with a place in the final on the line. It would be folly, however, to rule out Paraguay. If nothing else, a cursory glance at recent Copa America history indicates that La Albirroja should not be taken lightly. It was Paraguay who knocked out the Samba boys in the 2011 edition of the Copa on penalties a at the quarter-final stage, co-incidentally a on their way to the final.
The Sele A?o have had well-documented problems throughout this campaign, losing their most important player by far in Neymar, whose red card and subsequent four-game ban ruled him out of the tournament. In contrast, even though Paraguay entered the tournament with a new coach who had barely any time to work with his team, Ramon Diaza s men have showed that they are no pushovers. Brazila s indifferent form in the tournament in conjunction with Paraguaya s resilience and fighting spirit a most prominent in their come-from-behind 2-2 draw against Argentina a means that this quarter-final will be a close affair.
Team News and Tactics
Dunga has persisted with a 4-2-3-1 formation throughout the Copa, and is unlikely to change that on Saturday night. Although he has played around a little with his defensive line, it is likely that Thiago Silva and Miranda will be the centre-back pairing against Paraguay. Is it perhaps due to this uncertainty at the back that Brazila s defensive frailties were exposed by Venezuela, particularly after the Sele A?o conceded a goal, and Paraguay will note that pressurising that back-four is likely to yield results.
Dunga has also, unsurprisingly, shuffled the pack in terms of his attacking selections. Coutinhoa s injury and Neymara s suspensions have played a role, undoubtedly, but Chelsea midfielder Willian has been the only constant amongst the four attacking players ahead of the Fernandinho-Elias double-pivot. Based on the showing of the Venezuela game, it would be surprising to see any major changes, and as such, new Liverpool signing Roberto Firmino could well start up front with club-mate Philippe Coutinho playing in the hole.
The Sele A?oa s main concern a as it has been for quite a while, even with Neymar a is finding a way to break down what will be an organised, disciplined defence. With Neymar on the sidelines, that task becomes that much harder, considering in particular the Barcelona forwarda s ability to change games in a matter of seconds through moments of magic.
It will fall to the likes of Philippe Coutinho a who has, on occasion, shown he is capable of producing such moments a Firmino, Robinho and Willian to get in behind La Albirrojaa s defence. The full-backs Filipe Luis and Dani Alves could be extremely important, particularly in a game such as this, as they can be extra men in attack, overlapping the wingers on their flanks and helping the Sele A?o utilise the full width of the pitch.
Possible starting line-up: Jefferson; Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Filipe Luis; Fernandinho, Elias; Robinho, Coutinho, Willian, Firmino
La Albirroja are one of only three teams a along with Argentina and Chile a who have yet to lose a game in the tournament so far. Ramon Diaza s side have very few big-name stars that have the individual ability to decide games. However, they make up for that with their determination and fighting spirit a as they showed when they came back from 2-0 down against Argentina to earn a draw.
Veteran striker Lucas Barrios has shown he is still a significant goal threat, with the 30-year-old scoring against both Argentina and Uruguay in the group stages. If chosen ahead of former Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz, he will be looking to create problems for the likes of Thiago Silva and Miranda given his intelligence and efficacy in the penalty area.
Edgar Benitez is another who can cause the Sele A?o a few problems, particularly considering Dani Alvesa attacking tendencies, which might leave space for Benitez to exploit on the counter-attack. Benitez, who has played on the left for Paraguay, scored the winner against Jamaica and set-up Barrios for the equaliser against Uruguay.
However, given Brazil are the better side technically by some distance, Paraguaya s game-plan on Saturday night will simply be to sit deep and contain the Sele A?o. It would be fair to surmise that Paraguay will have very little of the ball, and as such, must be extremely organised off it a the longer they manage to keep the game scoreless, the more Brazil are likely to crack under the pressure and make a defensive mistake, which will in turn give Paraguay an opportunity to land a killer blow.
Possible starting line-up: Villar; Caceres, Da Silva, Valdez, Piris; Bobadilla, Ortigoza, Molinas, Benitez; Valdez, Barrios
- Paraguay are yet to lose a game at the 2015 Copa America, winning one and drawing two of their group stage games.
- The last competitive fixture between the two was at the quarter-finals of the 2011 Copa America, where La Albirroja triumphed on penalties after a goalless draw in normal time.
- Brazil have won 12 of their 13 games under Dunga, and have never conceded more than a single goal in any of those games.
With a A?29m move to Anfield now secured, Roberto Firmino can be sure that there will be several extra eyes watching his every move on Saturday night. The former Hoffenheim forward scored a crucial second goal against Venezuela with a perfectly timed run inside the penalty area, and he has the ability to do more of the same against Paraguay. He is likely to be spearheading the Sele A?o attack, and it will fall to him to make a telling contribution.
Brazil 2 a 1 Paraguay
Dungaa s men arguably played some of their best attacking football in periods against Venezuela in their last game, and should have enough creativity to find a way past the Paraguayan defence. It will be a tight game, but the Sele A?o have enough individual quality to edge it.
Blast from the past