Sunday, June 26

Copa América: Brazil survives against Chile | America’s Soccer Cup 2021

Lucas Paquetá and Neymar celebrate the winning goal.
Lucas Paquetá and Neymar celebrate the winning goal.CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

Far from its golden past, the present of Brazil has a pact with its history: it wins. The Canarinha del Tite, the defending champion, reached the semifinal of the Copa América after beating Chile (1-0) at the Nilton Santos Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. In a rocky match, Brazil avoided rhetoric with the ball and was practical. It worked out well, yes; but he suffered. With or without the ball, Brazil has a hard time when Neymar is disconnected. Uncomfortable against the Red, the PSG striker had a spark: enough for Paquetá to score 1-0. The goal did not empower Brazil, on the contrary. The red one to Gabriel Jesus emboldened a fierce and rebellious Chile, unable to overcome Ederson, already out of the tournament.

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Chile wanted the ball and Brazil, without question, gave it to them. Nothing unrelated to the pragmatic Tite’s plan. The four forwards that the Brazilian coach lined up, guarded by two hunting flyers like Casemiro and Fred, were not looking to corner the Red near Claudio Bravo, but to attack the spaces when he recovered the leather in his field. Nobody was surprised in Rio de Janeiro. The Canarinha he does not need the ball to hurt, much less when the field of play does not allow it. “Where will the next match for the national team be?” Neymar asked ironically on his Instagram account. The post included two photos: a makeshift dirt court and the legendary Wembley Stadium. Although it was not the first time that the PSG forward complained about the state of the fields in the Copa América, his attitude contrasted with that of Thiago Silva in the previous match against Chile: “It’s bad for both teams.”

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The ball gave Chile peace of mind, not depth. In fact, in the first half, the Red only scared Ederson once, after a defensive oversight by Brazil in which Vargas, alone, managed to stretch the Manchester City goalkeeper. Not even the return of Alexis Sánchez – injured, he did not play the group stage – changed the face of Chile’s attack (only three goals in the Cup, the second-lowest scoring team in the tournament). Brazil, on the other hand, with little scares a lot. The problem for the CanarinhaHowever, it is when Neymar is off. In the only match of the Copa América in which the 10th was absent, when they were already classified for the quarterfinals, Brazil drew against weak Ecuador (1-1). The statistics are unquestionable: in the last 12 matches to the Canarinha only the triumph against the tricolor escaped him.

Neymar, along with Firmino, was not comfortable in the center of the attack, while Richarlison and Gabriel Jesus divided the edges. Tite read it. And, after passing through the changing rooms, the coach took the Liverpool forward and instead sent Paquetá to the field. The change had an immediate effect. In a beach soccer action, always with the ball in the air, Neymar and Paquetá met in the area for the Lyon midfielder to send the leather to the net.

Brazil, far from finding peace, complicated itself. Actually, the mess was generated by Gabriel Jesus. The City striker, in a reckless attempt to find the ball, nearly punched Mena in the face. Red, of course. Nobody said mu. Tite sharpened his strategy: four defenders, four midfielders and that Neymar manage as best he can in attack. Neymar did what he could, of course. But he was already playing far from Bravo. The prominence, then, was no longer in the boots of 10, but in the hands of Ederson. The City goalkeeper did not miss. Far and close to its history, Brazil will meet Peru for a place in the Maracana final.

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