Paraguay upset 2007 Copa America holders Brazil on penalties to storm into a semifinal tie against continental powerhouse Argentina on Tuesday.
BY STEVE NJUGUNA
Brazil was stunned by Paraguay in the Copa America quarter finals in a penalty shootout for the second consecutive time in a repeat of what happened in the 2011 edition of the tournament. The game was the second game the Brazilians had played without their inspirational captain Neymar Junior who is currently serving a four game ban after physically assaulting Colombian players Jeison Murillo and Pablo Armero in a group game last week.
The game started on a positive note as the Brazilians pushed forward in a bid to seize the early advantage. They got off to a dream start after Robinho scored in the 14th minute. However, Paraguay gradually grew into the stride of the game as the likes of former Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz and Eintracht Frankfurt forward Haedo Valdez tormented the Brazilian defense.
Fans who expected the Brazilians to refer to their ‘Jogo Bonito’ which is their beautiful style of play were surprised when the Brazilians played a defensively rigid game as they relied heavily on counter attacks. Paraguay continued piling on the pressure piling pressure on Brazilian goalkeeper Jefferson and forcing him into some good saves.
Finally they got their breakthrough as Brazil defender Thiago Silva was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area in the 71st minute. The resultant penalty was converted by FC Basel star Derlis Gonzalez to send the crowd into a frenzy. Paraguay pressed forward in a bid for the winning goal but eventually the full 90 minutes of normal play ended and the teams had to be separated by a penalty shootout.
Brazil started off the shootout on a positive note as Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho converted the first penalty. Osvaldo Martinez restored parity for Paraguay. Ribeiro missed Brazil’s second kick and the Paraguayans capitalized by Victor Caceres and Raul Bobadilla cemented their position despite Brazilian captain Miranda’s successful penalty. Douglas Costa then doomed his Brazil side with a horribly taken penalty and even though Roque Santa Cruz missed Paraguay’s fourth penalty, second half penalty hero Derlis Gonzalez emphatically converted the winning penalty for the Paraguayans. The night however ended on a sad note as Derlis Gonzalez’s uncle died of a heart attack after seeing his nephew score the winning goal.