Brazil may be the heavy favorite to win Copa America, but the hosts needed a penalty shootout in order to get past Paraguay on their quarterfinal matchup on Thursday night.
The two sides played to a scoreless draw in regulation before Brazil managed a 4-3 victory in the shootout to advance to the semifinals.
Gabriel Jesus Buries Winning Penalty Shot
Under Copa America rules, quarterfinal matches that are drawn after 90 minutes will immediately go to a shootout. That will change for the semifinals and final, when extra time will be played first before resorting to spot kicks.
The winning penalty was scored by striker Gabriel Jesus, who had previously missed in an attempt from the spot against Peru in the group stage.
“In the last game I didn’t look at the keeper and I hit it hard straight away and the goalie made a good save,” Jesus said after Thursday’s match. “Today I did it my usual way, I looked calmly at the keeper and I could see him moving to the left and I side-footed it the other way.”
Brazil had the majority of the chances in regulation, outshooting Paraguay 26 to five, including eight shots on goal. Brazil also dominated the ball, holding 70 percent of the possession.
Paraguay’s situation was especially dire for the final half hour of the match. Defender Fabian Balbuena received a straight red card for a foul on Roberto Firmino, with Brazil also initially being awarded a penalty kick. However, the referee determined that the foul took place outside of the box after looking at a replay monitor, resulting in a free kick that Dani Alves put just wide of the net.
But despite the extra man, which resulted in Brazil peppering the Paraguayan goal for the final 30 minutes, the breakthrough goal wouldn’t come, largely because of the eight saves made by Paraguay keeper Gatito Fernandez.
Copa America Pitches Face Scrutiny
Even though it needed a shootout to advance, goalkeeper Alisson said that Brazil deserved the win.
“It was a draw but against a team that didn’t want to play unless it was on the counterattack,” Alisson told reporters. “We’ve gone up one step, two more to go to our objective, to be Copa America champions.”
Even though his team moved on, Brazil manager Tite became the latest figure at Copa America to complain about the state of the pitches that the tournament is being played on.
“It’s absurd that at this high level we are playing on pitches where it is difficult to control the ball,” Tite said to reporters. “Players need three touches to control it. It’s absurd.”
Those complaints echo ones made by Argentinian star Lionel Messi, who lost control of a shot against Qatar after his ball his a divot.
Brazil will now face either Venezuela or Argentina in the semifinals on July 2. Despite the difficult nature of their win over Paraguay, the Brazilians remain the favorites to win Copa America, with FanDuel Sportsbook listing them at -125 to lift the trophy. Uruguay (+400), Argentina (+550), and Colombia (+550) are also considered top contenders for the title.