Tournament hosts Brazil are out for redemption as they take on Paraguay in the first of this year’s Copa America quarter-finals.
Eight-time winners of the competition Brazil have been eliminated at this stage by the same opponents in their last two knockout-round involvements, both times on penalties.
Brazil failed to make it as far as the last eight in the United States three years ago but they had less trouble progressing this time around, sealing top spot in Group A with a resounding 5-0 victory over Peru in their final group game.
Tite’s decision to shake up his attack paid off in Sao Paulo as Casemiro and Roberto Firmino put the hosts 2-0 up, and further goals followed from star man Everton, captain Dani Alves and substitute Willian.
And after being jeered by supporters in their first two matches – a disjointed 3-0 win over Bolivia and a goalless draw with Venezuela – Tite admitted favourites Brazil cannot afford to drop their levels following the confidence-boosting victory over Peru.
“It was one of our best games,” he said. “It is a game that must be continued.
“We are here to win and we want to play good football. We want to do the best and we are happy about it.”
Paraguay finished runners-up in 2011 and reached the semi-finals in 2015, but they have been given far less hope of knocking out Brazil this time around.
Eduardo Berizzo’s side are the first team to advance past the group stages of a Copa America with only two points since three points for a win was introduced in 1995, progressing through as one of the best third-place finishers.
But Berizzo felt Paraguay were worthy of a place in the last eight as their performances against Qatar, Argentina and Colombia deserved more.
“Hopefully we can start a totally different Copa America in the next phase,” he said after the 1-0 loss to Colombia on Sunday.
“I hope we are rewarded for our two good matches, or two-and-a-half very good matches.”
0 – Brazil have kept a clean sheet in each of their group stage games of a @CopaAmerica tournament for the first time since 1995. Wall.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Brazil – Everton
The Gremio forward was handed a start against Peru after impressing as a sub in Brazil’s first two matches and he more than justified his selection with his goal and all-round play, which should be enough for him to retain his place out wide.
Paraguay – Miguel Almiron
Newcastle United’s club-record signing assisted goals in Paraguay’s first two matches but had far less impact against Colombia last time out, managing just one shot of any note. Far more will be expected on Thursday.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Brazil have lost only two of their 38 home matches against Paraguay in all competitions (26W 10D). Those defeats were in August 2002 (1-0) in an international friendly and in May 1949 (2-1) in Copa America.
– Brazil will play in the Copa America quarter-finals for the 10th time since the introduction of the current format (1993).
– Brazil have kept a clean sheet in all their games at this tournament (2W 1D) – their longest such run in the competition since 1997.
– Paraguay have won only one of their last 20 games in the competition (11D 8L) – 1-0 against Jamaica in 2015.