South American correspondent Tom Webber brings you all the action from the Copa America.
With the hosts, Argentina, out of the competition last night, Brazil assumed the role of favourites for the title. The Brazilians have performed below their potential ability so far in this tournament, with a single pleasing attacking display in their last group game against Ecuador. They faced Paraguay who drew all three of their group games, including a 2-2 result with a fortunate Brazil side, securing the point in injury time courtesy of Fred.
The first half was a disappointment. Brazil struggled to create many opportunities with only a couple where they could have taken the lead with the best chance of falling to Lucio. After winning a free kick wide on the left, Andre Santos played a delightful ball in to the box, finding the space between the goalkeeper and his back line. Lucio met the ball and poked it at goal but Justo Villar got down to it and turned the ball away.
Villar kept his side in the game with numerous fantastic saves. The first from Ganso, whose volley from the edge of the box after some terrific attacking play by Lucio was turned round the post by Villar. The Paraguayan got right down low to his left to make the save. He then made two saves from Alexandre Pato from point blank range. The first he rushed out to meet Pato’s rifled shot, staying big and closing the angles. The second was not quite as successful as the ball looped up towards the byline. Pato just could not get his head around the ball sufficiently and head it in to the open net. In the final minutes Fred had a header cleared off the line by substitute Edgar Barreto.
Extra time offered little chances for either team to take the lead, with Paraguayan seemingly playing for penalties. However, both Lucas Leiva and Antolin Alcaraz were sent off after some a number of fiery challenges in quick succession led to some swinging arms and a loss of conduct. Brazil lost their cool when it is not going their way yet again, a factor that is becoming somewhat of a trait for the national. You may rememeber the side combusting against the Netherlands at the last World Cup leading to their exit. Hernanes continued this in their friendly loss against a France. The Lazio player performed a kung-fu kick that Nigel de Jong would have been proud off and was sent off.
This loss of cool transferred into a loss of nerve when it came down to the penalty shootout. Elano’s penalty was the first and the worse, the Santos maestro skied his penalty, then placing the blame on the penalty spot. Paraguay also missed their opening penalty but scored the next two, whilst Brazil missed their two including a save by Villar from Thiago Silva. Fred needed to score to keep Brazil in the game. He took a long, stuttering run up before placing the ball wide of the left hand post.
This Brazil squad not only lacked a strong presence in the box, they lacked creativity and placed too much responsibility on young talents Neymar and Ganso. The formation of choice for Mano Menezes, the 4-2-2-2, did not work leading to the isolation of the forward players. Perhaps Menezes should have tinkered with his tactics as they were clearly not working in the early stages of the tournament. A lack of tactical mobility also proved to be the downfall of Argentina and it seems Brazil have suffered a similar fate. They now have no competitive senior fixtures until World Cup 2014, the Olympics in the meantime will not provide enough competitive football. It is likely that Menezes will still be in charge for the tournament.
Paraguay would go on to play the winner of Chile vs Venezuela which was to be played in San Juan shortly after this shock result.The Copa America is now wide open due to the elimination of the two powerhouses of South American football and any team could win it.
Read more from Tom at his excellent blog Purple Patch