By AARON CRANFORD
Paraguay has done it again.
Four years removed from its upset win vs. Brazil in the 2011 Copa America quarterfinals, Paraguay defeated Brazil in exactly the same manner in Concepcion, Chile. A 1-1 scoreline wasn’t enough after 90 minutes of play this time around, and Paraguay would come out on top after penalties, 4-3.
Brazil forward Robinho looked set to be the hero for most of the match after his early goal. The 31-year-old striker hasn’t had the smoothest of rides in the last four years, struggling at AC Milan, which saw his minutes for the Italian club reduced and consequently his time for the Brazil national team as well.
With star forward Neymar out of the picture, someone needed to step up for Brazil, and the now Santos striker came through with the first goal vs. Paraguay.
However, his chance wouldn’t be enough for Brazil, as midfielder Derlis Gonzalez would even the score late in the second half from the penalty spot. Thiago Silva was called for a handball, and Gonzalez thumped in the chance. He was also called upon in the penalty shootout, and his score would be the one to see his side through to the semifinals.
Both sides came to play in the beginning, but it was the Selecao who would get on the board first.
In the 15th minute, Robinho tucked in a Dani Alves cross for the opener. Firmino, who looked good for Brazil in the tournament, found Alves darting down the right flank with a perfect through ball, and Alves’ low cross found its way through to the open Robinho, waiting at the six-yard box.
While both sides played free-flowing soccer in the first half, neither could penetrate each other’s defensive backline, and Brazil’s lone goal was the only real chance. Paraguay had a difficult time handling the quickness of Brazil and committed 13 fouls in the first half, while Brazil only converted six in the first 45 minutes.
In the 51st minute, Paraguay had a good opportunity from a free kick, as Gonzalez fizzed in the chance from the far left, but Brazil goalkeeper Jefferson was at his post to touch it out.
The Paraguay pressure kept coming, though, and in the 56th minute, Nelson Valdez attempted a powerful header from a corner kick, but the ball sailed just over the crossbar.
Again, in the 62nd minute, Jefferson made a big save from another header off of a corner kick. However, the time to score finally came for the underdog in the 72nd minute. Thiago Silva was called for a handball in the box after leaping high with his hands above his head and swatting the ball, and Paraguay made Brazil pay. Gonzalez smashed in the subsequent penalty to level the scoreline once again.
The match went to penalties, and Fernandinho blasted the first off of goalkeeper Justo Villar’s hands and into the net. Osvaldo Martinez went for power as well and scored for Paraguay.
In the second round of kicks, Everton Ribeiro’s chance trickled just wide of the right post. Paraguay pounced on the miss, and Victor Caceres scored. Miranda looked composed as he scored the second for Brazil. But Raul Bobadilla netted for Paraguay as well.
In round four, Douglas Costa sailed his chance, but Roque Santa Cruz matched his miss. Coutinho coolly slotted in his chance to put pressure on Gonzalez’s back, but the 21-year-old FC Basel forward came through from the spot yet again.
Paraguay will meet Argentina in the semifinals of Copa America.