Brazil v Paraguay – Arena do Grêmio at 01:30 GMT+1 live at Premier Sports
Paraguay famously reached the 2011 Copa America final having failed to win a match en-route – progressing after playing out three group-stage draws and back-to-back penalty shootout triumphs in the knockout stages. Now the class of 2019 are looking to emulate that side after reaching the Copa quarter-finals.
La Albirroja booked their place in the last-eight despite picking up just two points (W0-D2-L1) in the pool phase. The Copa America is a forgiving competition – just four teams have been sent home – allowing Eduardo Berizzo’s boys to squeeze through as one of the two best third-place finishers.
Paraguay now face one of their old foes – tournament hosts and hot outright favourites, Brazil. Los Guaranies dumped the Samba Boys out of the 2011 and 2015 edition of the competition on penalties and have plenty of recent history of upsetting the odds and frustrating their more illustrious opponents this century.
However, Thursday night’s contest promises to be a serious test. For starters, Berizzo’s been unable to implement his preferred high-defensive line and press on the Paraguayan outfit. Having only arrived earlier this year, the Argentine has reverted to characteristics that made this nation competitive in the recent past.
Paraguay to play for penalties?
La Albirroja have relished their underdog role, typically putting in defiantly physical performances from a deep defensive block. It enjoyed varying degrees of success against Argentina and Colombia with Miguel Almiron and Derlis Gonzalez adding a touch of pace on the break and Oscar Cardozo leading the line.
The suspicion is, Paraguay will play for a draw, mindful that there’s no extra-time until the semi-finals. Opening yourself up against such skilled operators could be considered suicidal and therefore, a safety-first attitude will likely be applied by Berizzo troops in Porto Alegre.
With that in mind, I’m happy to support Los Guaranies with a +2.25 Asian Handicap start – only a three-goal defeat or more would leave us without profit. Paraguay may have only W6-D5-L18 since May 2016 and only silenced Guatemala in their last 13 outings but they’re rarely sliced and diced.
Brazil to secure narrow success
Brazil have lost one competitive home outing since 1975, are unbeaten against CONMEBOL opponents outside of FIFA’s top 20 since 2009 and have W31-D6-L2 under Tite’s watch, conceding just 10 goals. The Selecao have dominated both the attacking and defensive data across the Copa group-stage thus far too.
However, there are a number of slight concerns surrounding the Samba Boys. Firstly, Casemiro, is suspended and his natural replacement, Fernandinho, isn’t fully fit. Elsewhere, Gabriel Jesus is looking increasingly frustrated by his lack of major tournament goals and the Porto Alegre pitch has also been criticised.
Of course, Brazil should seal their spot in the semis without drama. But this team has shown a propensity to panic, and buckle under the weight of expectation when an early breakthrough hasn’t been made. If Paraguay can survive the first-half onslaught, they will be well placed to see this fixture out without a smashing.
The Selecao have W11-D2-L0 since the World Cup, recording 11 shutouts. They have delivered fewer than four goals in all bar one of those encounters and seen no more than three goals in 14 of their last 19 triumphs, scoring more than three times against only El Salvador, Honduras and Peru since the start of 2018.
Backing Brazil to win without conceding is the most obvious selection but Paraguay with the +2.25 has claims that deserve further inspection.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Paraguay +2.25 at 1.730
Preview by: @MarkOHaire.