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Brazil vs. Paraguay: Copa America quarter-final preview and TV times

Brazil

Four years on from their elimination at the hands of Paraguay in the 2011 Copa America, Brazil have the opportunity to exact some revenge. But there are some stark similarities between each team in 2015 as they bid to book a place in the semi-finals.

Again, as was the case four years ago, Paraguay have been determined and diligent in their play. While Brazil, on the back of a disappointing performance at the World Cup, are in a period of transition and struggling to showcase the swagger that’s become this fanatical nation’s footballing trademark.

Indeed, it’s been a tough tournament for the Selecao. Neymar’s crazy loss of temper saw him banned for the remainder of the competition and although Brazil were able to grind out a win against Venezuela in their final group game to secure qualification, it remains to be seen how they’ll cope without their influential captain in the long run.

History suggests, think back to how a Neymar-less Brazil played against Germany in that infamous semi-final last summer, not well. And although Paraguay weren’t one of the most fancied teams at this tournament, they acquitted themselves very well in a difficult Group B, emerging undefeated from matches against Argentina and Uruguay.

With the memories of their win over Brazil in 2011 and a subsequent run to the semi-finals still prominent in the minds of a lot of these Paraguay players, they’ll feel as though they’ve got a great chance of dumping the Dunga’s side out of the competition again.

The spirit of four years ago certainly seems to be bristling, but do they have the quality to oust their more illustrious opponents again? Here’s a closer examination of both sides and a look at the crucial factors that will shape this quarter-final.

TV schedule for viewers in the United States:

Brazil vs. Paraguay, 5:30pm ET kickoff time (pre-game starts at 4:30pm ET) — exclusively on beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS en Espańol.

Programming note: In the United States, beIN SPORTS has the exclusive English-language and Spanish-language rights to the tournament. If your cable or satellite provider doesn’t offer beIN SPORTS, or you want to watch the games on your computer, mobile phone, tablet or Roku, sign up for a free trial to fuboTV to watch the games. And if you like what you see, fuboTV is just $6.99 per month. It’s completely legal and features HD-quality streams, but is only available to soccer fans in the United States.

 

Brazil Searching For a Talisman

Brazil 2

A win at this Copa America would have helped heal the wounds that are still raw following Brazil’s 7-1 defeat to Germany 12 months ago. And after coming into this tournament on the back of a glittering domestic campaign with Barcelona, many expected Neymar to be the man that would inspire the Selecao to big things.

But with the captain banned and banished from the squad, there’s a distinct lack of players who seem ready to grasp responsibility for Brazil. Indeed, with Oscar also absent, the role of talisman is certainly up for grabs and if a player can fulfill this role with distinction, they’d be etched immortally into the annals of this nation’s storied history.

So who’s it going to be? As aforementioned, up to now there’s no standout candidate. Philippe Coutinho has impressed in bursts, as has his new Liverpool team-mate Roberto Firmino. In addition, veteran forward Robinho turned on the style against Venezuela, while Willian’s purposeful surges on the right were also prominent.

But given the players available and the principles held by the manager, if Brazil are going to march on, it’s likely to be down to industrial traits rather than intricate ones. If there’s no creative balance, Dunga is a coach who will have no problem setting his team up to graft and battle their way to a place in the final.

Nonetheless, there’s no denying that there needs to be an improvement from Brazil. Performances have been patchy to this point and as was obvious with that brawl after the final whistle against Colombia, they can lose their heads if things don’t go to plan.

Defensively, all looks in order, with Thiago Silva and Miranda gelling as a partnership. In midfield, Elias and Fernandinho are both determined runners, providing an underpinning base for the front four to go and affect the game in dangerous areas. But whether joga bonito comes to the fore without Neymar is a completely different quandary entirely.

 

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Impressive Paraguay Looking to Spring a Surprise

Paraguay

Having only stepped in to take the Albirroja job in December 2014, not much was expected of Ramon Diaz’s Paraguay at this Copa. Their squad is a mish-mash of aging centre-forwards and young players bidding to make an impression and Diaz seemed set to have a free pass to experiment ahead of the qualification stages for the 2018 World Cup.

But to their credit, Paraguay have summoned the spirit of four years ago, when they finished valiant runners-up in Argentina. Their fortitude was on show in earnest from the first game when they rallied from two goals down at half time to draw 2-2 with the Albiceleste. Four points from their next two games paved the way for a quarter-final showdown with Brazil.

On paper, they seem well suited to causing Brazil problems. Diaz has whipped this team into cohesive and determined shape, meaning they’ll be comfortable sitting back against a Brazil XI that has often been one dimensional at this Copa. Up front, the Albirroja have a combination of forwards capable of ruffling up the Selecao’s defense too.

Lucas Barrios is one of those and he’s scored two goals in two starts so far for Paraguay. The Montpellier man seems to save his best displays for the biggest games for the national side and he must play a duel role of offensive foil and ruthless finisher if Paraguay are to progress.

The main creative spark will most likely come from Raul Bobadilla, who can be a pulsating presence out on the right flank for Paraguay. He’s been a little subdued so far, but his devilish deliveries into the box look the most likely source of chances for Barrios, Nelson Valdez or Roque Santa Cruz.

The pressure is off Paraguay too. This Copa was almost a free swing for Diaz and although the Albirroja will approach this game with their patented determination, expect the XI fielded to play with the freedom of a squad that has already exceeded expectations.

 

Key Areas

Brazil Full-Backs: At times, without Neymar and Oscar, Brazil’s attack can look a little ponderous. Willian is a direct, but not hugely creative, while Firmino, Coutinho and Robinho are all intricate talents who roam between the lines. The Selecao need something different if they’re to unlock the this Paraguay back four and it could come from the full-back spots.

Dani Alves and Filipe Luis will patrol the right and left flank, respectively, and the natural inclinations of all those aforementioned players to drift inside should give them space to surge into. It’ll also pose a problem for Paraguay’s wide midfield men, likely to be Bobadilla and Edgar Benitez, who aren’t the most savvy defensively.

Paraguay’s Aerial Prowess: Diaz may not have the most dynamic selection of strikers to chose from, but the likely starting duo of  Valdez and Barrios will both be a massive handful in the air. If the game is tight, Paraguay will also be able to bring on Santa Cruz, another player who is tremendous at attacking balls into the box.

It means that Miranda and Silva should prepare themselves, not necessarily for a barrage of hoofed balls into the area, but for the Paraguay players to swing crosses in early and from a variety of angles, giving their front men a chance of asserting their aerial prowess.

Brazil’s defenders are no soft touch themselves in the air, but if the quality of delivery is good, this is the Albirroja’s best chance of getting on the scoresheet.

 

Verdict: Brazil 1-1 Paraguay (Brazil to win on penalties)

Douglas

Paraguay definitely possess the tools to spring an upset in this game and although plenty of the Brazil squad that were knocked out by this team four years ago are no longer part of the Selecao set-up, Dunga’s players will be acutely aware of the recent history between the two.

Expect an evenly-matched contest in terms of chances created and with neither team possessing a controlling influence in the middle of the park, for possession to change hands freely. Both sides have enough going forward to score, but this one seems destined for a penalty shootout.

This time, it’ll be Brazil who get the better of the spot-kick lottery, setting up an enticing semi-final showdown with eternal rivals Argentina.

 

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball

 

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