Paqueta to remain in Brazil's Copa America squad despite FA charges

By Sports Desk May 30, 2024

The Brazilian Football Association (CBF) confirmed Lucas Paqueta will remain in Brazil’s Copa America squad despite being charged over alleged breaches of betting rules by the English Football Association (FA).

Last August, it was reported the FA had opened an investigation into suspicious betting activity surrounding Paqueta, who said he was cooperating with the FA’s probe in March.

The West Ham midfielder is accused of intentionally seeking to receive a card in four different Premier League fixtures, three in the 2022-23 season and one on the opening matchday of 2023-24, with the charges brought against him last Thursday.

Paqueta, who has until June 3 to respond to the charges, addressed the situation on social media saying, "I deny the charges in their entirety and will fight with every breath to clear my name."

Now, the CBF has confirmed that Paqueta will be staying in the national squad for the upcoming tournament following discussions between the two football associations.

"Given the facts reported by the English Federation, the CBF, supported by the joint opinion from the Legal and Governance and Compliance Directorates and the Integrity Unit, has decided to maintain the player's call-up," the CBF said in a statement signed by president Ednaldo Rodrigues.

"Based on the information provided by the FA, it is categorically concluded that the player, Lucas Paqueta, despite the behaviour for which he was accused authorising preventive removal [from the squad] ... has not been penalised to date by the prosecuting body authorised to sanction him.

"It is right to say that the player is free to perform his professional job until the present moment, the source of his livelihood and that of his family, in a full and unrestricted manner, whether for his club or his country's national team."

Selecao are nine-time winners of the Copa America and will kick off their campaign against Costa Rica in Group D on June 24.

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    Antonio Carlos Zago's side did not heed an early warning when goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra was forced to rush out and clear in front of Balogun.

    Bolivia were caught napping just minutes later as Timothy Weah worked a short corner with Pulisic, who coasted inside before curling into the top-right corner from an acute angle on the left-hand side of the area.

    Weah – son of legendary forward George – was denied from point-blank range as the USA almost doubled their lead immediately.

    Yet Berhalter's host nation would soon add to their advantage in Arlington.

    Pulisic was afforded the freedom of midfield yet again, dropping into space before offloading for Balogun to cannon a left-footed drive into the bottom-right corner.

    That smart 44th-minute finish marked Balogun's first-ever goal at this tournament and the Monaco striker found the back of the net for a second time after the interval, only for his celebrations to be cut short.

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    Viscarra was equal to Pulisic's effort before the hour as the forward attempt to recreate his early heroics, while substitute Ricardo Pepi prodded wide from Antonee Robinson's pinpoint left-wing delivery.

    Pepi was denied by fine Viscarra reflexes late on as the USA coasted to an opening victory before their next meeting with Panama on Thursday, a day before Bolivia face Uruguay.

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    Victory also marked the USA's first Copa triumph over Bolivia in just their second attempt, avenging for a 1-0 defeat way back in 1995 when Marco Etcheverry scored the winner.

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    Bolivia have now lost their last four international outings by a concerning margin of 9-1, having suffered defeats against Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and the USA.

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    Endrick is confident he can help Brazil claim a 10th Copa America title as he prepares for his first international tournament with the Selecao Canarinho. 

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    For Costa Rica Gustavo Alfaro, he has experience at the Copa America having guided Ecuador to the quarter-finals of the previous tournament in 2021.

    The 61-year-old also took them to the following year's World Cup, where they opened with a 2-0 win against hosts Qatar before drawing 1-1 with the Netherlands, but failed to reach the knockouts after losing 2-1 to Senegal in their final group game.

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    Costa Rica have won four of their previous six international fixtures, losing only once over that stretch (3-1 to Argentina). They have also not conceded in any of their last three competitive fixtures, winning 15 of their previous 16 encounters when scoring the opening goal.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Brazil - Vinicius Junior 

    Vinicius Junior played a starring role in Real Madrid's LaLiga and Champions League successes in 2023-24, and claiming a first international honour with his nation would surely put the 23-year-old in pole position to scoop the Ballon d'Or. 

    The Los Blancos star had 35 goal involvements (24 goals and 11 assists) in 39 appearances in all competitions for the Spanish side, his second-best campaign since his move to Madrid in 2021-22 (22 goals and 20 assists). 

     

    Costa Rica - Manfred Ugalde

    Having failed to score for his new side, Spartak Moscow, after his move from FC Twente in January, Ugalde rediscovered his goal-scoring touch at the opportune moment heading into the tournament. 

    The 22-year-old striker grabbed a goal and three assists in Costa Rica's CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers against Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis, and will be hoping to continue that form in Inglewood against Brazil. 

    MATCH PREDICTION: BRAZIL WIN

    Brazil and Costa Rica have faced each other twice in the Copa America, with both victories for the Brazilian team in 1997 (5-0) at the Estadio Ramon Tahuichi Aguilera and in 2004 (4-1) with Adriano scoring a hat-trick for Carlos Alberto Parreira's side. 

    The Selecao Canarinho have won 10 of their 11 meetings against their opponents, with their last defeat coming in the Panamerican Championship in March 1960 (3-0), with Brazil backed to continue their nine-game unbeaten run. 

    Costa Rica will look to continue their impressive record against CONMEBOL teams at the Copa America, having lost one of their last four matches against them (W2 D1).

    Gustavo Alfaro's side will seek to string together victories for the first time against CONMEBOL opponents in the competition, having defeated Colombia 3-2 in the 2016 edition.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Brazil - 71%

    Costa Rica - 16.1%

    Draw - 12.9%

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