Tournament hosts Brazil are out for redemption as they take on Paraguay in the first of this year's Copa America quarter-finals.

Eight-time winners of the competition Brazil have been eliminated at this stage by the same opponents in their last two knockout-round involvements, both times on penalties.

Brazil failed to make it as far as the last eight in the United States three years ago but they had less trouble progressing this time around, sealing top spot in Group A with a resounding 5-0 victory over Peru in their final group game.

Tite's decision to shake up his attack paid off in Sao Paulo as Casemiro and Roberto Firmino put the hosts 2-0 up, and further goals followed from star man Everton, captain Dani Alves and substitute Willian.

And after being jeered by supporters in their first two matches - a disjointed 3-0 win over Bolivia and a goalless draw with Venezuela - Tite admitted favourites Brazil cannot afford to drop their levels following the confidence-boosting victory over Peru.

"It was one of our best games," he said. "It is a game that must be continued.

"We are here to win and we want to play good football. We want to do the best and we are happy about it."

Paraguay finished runners-up in 2011 and reached the semi-finals in 2015, but they have been given far less hope of knocking out Brazil this time around.

Eduardo Berizzo's side are the first team to advance past the group stages of a Copa America with only two points since three points for a win was introduced in 1995, progressing through as one of the best third-place finishers.

But Berizzo felt Paraguay were worthy of a place in the last eight as their performances against Qatar, Argentina and Colombia deserved more.

"Hopefully we can start a totally different Copa America in the next phase," he said after the 1-0 loss to Colombia on Sunday. 

"I hope we are rewarded for our two good matches, or two-and-a-half very good matches."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil - Everton

The Gremio forward was handed a start against Peru after impressing as a sub in Brazil's first two matches and he more than justified his selection with his goal and all-round play, which should be enough for him to retain his place out wide.

Paraguay - Miguel Almiron

Newcastle United's club-record signing assisted goals in Paraguay's first two matches but had far less impact against Colombia last time out, managing just one shot of any note. Far more will be expected on Thursday.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Brazil have lost only two of their 38 home matches against Paraguay in all competitions (26W 10D). Those defeats were in August 2002 (1-0) in an international friendly and in May 1949 (2-1) in Copa America.
- Brazil will play in the Copa America quarter-finals for the 10th time since the introduction of the current format (1993).
- Brazil have kept a clean sheet in all their games at this tournament (2W 1D) - their longest such run in the competition since 1997.
- Paraguay have won only one of their last 20 games in the competition (11D 8L) - 1-0 against Jamaica in 2015.

Paraguay coach Eduardo Berizzo felt his side should have beaten Argentina, who held them to a 1-1 draw at the Copa America after Lionel Messi's equaliser.

Messi's penalty cancelled out Paraguay's opener from Richard Sanchez, but Argentina could not rally for a second goal and have just one point heading into their final Group B game against Qatar.

Berizzo believes the 14-time champions were lucky to even emerge with that return, though, claiming La Albirroja should have won after seeing Franco Armani save a Derlis Gonzalez spot-kick.

Paraguay have never tasted victory against Argentina at a Copa America.

"I would not like to look pretentious, but I think we lost two points," Berizzo told reporters.

"We had the best chances, we did not get much against us, and the development of the game, even when Argentina had more possession, was right, it was solid. They lacked a threat against us.

"It makes me think that, if we converted that penalty or scored on the counter-attack, we would have deserved the victory."

Berizzo was particularly enthused by the work Paraguay did to shackle Messi.

"We closed the avenues to Messi's position, we did not let him run and neutralised him," he said. "We worked well to surround him and stopped his team-mates' passes, so there were not many dangerous situations.

"Given the quality of the opponent, this was the best match since I became coach, not only for surrounding Messi but for the personality of our play, taking ownership, believing in the plan.

"We hada great display until the end against Argentina, who demand a high defensive effort."

Argentina are bottom of the group due to their opening loss to Colombia, who are already through and play Berizzo's Paraguay next.

Lionel Messi must be stopped by a collective effort from Paraguay in Wednesday's crunch Copa America clash, according to their head coach Eduardo Berizzo.

Both teams endured disappointing starts to the continental showpiece, with Paraguay letting a two-goal lead slip in their 2-2 draw against Qatar, while Argentina were abject in a 2-0 loss to Colombia.

As his quest for major honours with his country trudges on, Argentina will again look to Messi for inspiration and former Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao boss Berizzo concedes there is no easy solution when it comes to tackling the Barcelona superstar.

"To annul a player like Messi is not an individual task, it is a collective task," he told reporters ahead of taking on his native country.

"When you try to neutralise him, he opens the way [for others]. So the question is not centred only on him, but on the possibilities that are generated from him for other players."

Paraguay's late collapse against Qatar stung Berizzo and he wants to see a response from his players – particularly in terms of game management when they are in possession.

"We have talked about what happened and what we have to improve," he added.

"That is control of the ball and [making sure] that the process of the match does not escape us depending on the result.

"We have to sustain the plan from beginning to end."

Eduardo Berizzo believes the Copa America should be exclusive to nations from the Americas after guests Qatar secured a draw against Paraguay on Sunday.

Asian Cup champions Qatar – invited to participate in this year's tournament along with Japan – overturned a two-goal deficit to earn a shock 2-2 draw against Berizzo's Paraguay in their Copa opener.

CONMEBOL has a history of inviting nations to compete, and Asian nation Australia are set to take part in the 2020 edition in Colombia and Argentina.

Reflecting on Paraguay's Group B draw in Rio de Janeiro, head coach Berizzo told reporters: "I think it would make sense to play a Copa America with teams from all the Americas.

"Are you asking me about invited nations, right? About Qatar and Japan? I think we should imagine a whole Copa America, with Central America and North America playing all the same tournament.

"I never saw Europe inviting any South American team to compete.

"Don't take it wrong, maybe it sounds a little acidic today, just after playing against our rival [Qatar]. But I firmly believe Copa America should be played by all the American teams in one tournament – CONCACAF and CONMEBOL together."

Paraguay looked to be on track for a winning start thanks to Oscar Cardozo's fourth-minute penalty before Derlis Gonzalez added an unstoppable second.

Qatar, however, fought back in the second half via Almoez Ali and Juan Rodrigo Rojas – who headed a Boualem Khoukhi effort into his own goal.

"This result disappoints us all, we all want to win, from the fan to the coach," Berizzo said. "We need to mind our rival, our reality, a lot of things that explains a lot about this situation.

"This is a new cycle for the team, there is no way I didn't know Copa America was coming to this date, so I cannot make any excuse of it if we cannot play well, when we play well I will tell you we did it.

"Today we had a hard time finding the ball, especially in the middle of the field, and especially after being 2-0 up. If we would have this done, we should get another result."

Qatar came from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Paraguay in their Copa America debut, Rodrigo Rojas heading a Boualem Khoukhi effort into his own goal for a bizarre late equaliser.

Paraguay looked set to claim all three Group B points in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday after taking a fourth-minute lead thanks to Oscar Cardozo's penalty, with Derlis Gonzalez scoring an unstoppable second.

But invited guests Qatar, who won their maiden Asian Cup earlier this year, showed character to fight back and star man Almoez Ali got them back in the game with a curler from outside the box.

And when Khoukhi's shot squeezed through Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez, the backtracking Rojas could only nod the ball in before getting tangled in the net and seemingly damaging his shoulder.

Qatar made a chaotic start in their Copa debut, almost conceding in the first minute before Pedro Miguel gave away a penalty for blocking a Bruno Valdez header with his arm.

Paraguay striker Cardozo had not played at the Copa since 2007 but he stepped up to smash the resulting spot-kick straight down the middle to open the scoring.

Qatar should have levelled in the 16th minute but, arriving unmarked at the back post, Hassan Al Haydos somehow failed to convert a low left-wing cross from Abdelkarim Hassan.

Almoez Ali was denied by Roberto Fernandez on the stroke of half-time, with Paraguay seeing a second goal for Cardozo disallowed by VAR within five minutes of the restart.

Paraguay would not be denied in the 56th minute, however, as half-time substitute Gonzalez unleashed a 25-yard rocket that curled away from the desperate dive of goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.

Scoring nine goals at the Asian Cup marked Ali out as a man to watch and he unleashed a terrific hit from 20 yards to make it 2-1 and spark hope of a comeback.

And when Rojas lacked composure in front of his own goal with 13 minutes to play, Qatar had earned a priceless Copa point to justify their inclusion.

Paraguay will hope last week's friendly win over Guatemala is the catalyst for a successful Copa America after what has been a challenging two years.

Eduardo Berizzo's side had failed to win in seven games before Sunday's routine victory – a run that stretched back to October 2017.

They face Asian Cup champions Qatar in their opening fixture and given that Argentina and Colombia are the other sides in Group B, Berizzo knows anything other than three points will make their chances of progression to the knock-out stages extremely difficult.

Along with Japan, Qatar have been invited to the tournament by CONMEBOL to bring the number of teams to 12.

Felix Sanchez's side surprised many when they went all the way in the Asian Cup at the start of the year, ultimately defeating Japan in the final to lift the trophy for the first time in their history.

Sanchez sees the Copa America as the perfect opportunity for his players to test themselves against quality opposition as they prepare to host the World Cup in 2022.

"Clearly the goal is to have a good national team in the World Cup," he explained. "The important thing is that the players will gain experience at the Copa America.

"They are accustomed to being strong and competitive. They are successful too, but our plan is to give the players the maximum opportunities to prepare for the World Cup in 2022."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Paraguay – Miguel Almiron

The Newcastle United man made his first appearance in more than seven weeks against Guatemala after recovering from a hamstring injury. If he can stay fit, he will be expected to be the supply line for the likes of Oscar Cardozo and Derlis Gonzalez in attack.

Qatar – Almoez Ali 

The 22-year-old enjoyed a spectacular Asian Cup, with his nine goals more than twice as many as any other player scored in the tournament. Another successful campaign in Brazil could see some big clubs show an interest in the Al-Duhail forward.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Paraguay and Qatar have met three times in all competitions, with one win for each side and one draw.
- Paraguay have won only one of their last eight meetings with Asian countries (drawn three, lost four), losing each of the last three.
- Copa America 2019 will mark Paraguay's 21st consecutive appearance in this tournament (37th in total), the longest ongoing run of all sides. They last failed to appear in 1957, when they withdrew.
- Qatar will be competing in the Copa America for the very first time, becoming the 19th different participant in the competition’s history – ninth outside of CONMEBOL and second outside of the Americas (Mexico, Costa Rica, USA, Honduras, Panama, Japan, Jamaica, Haiti and the 10 CONMEBOL nations complete the list of participants).
- Paraguay made it at least to the semi-finals in two of the last three Copa America editions (runners-up 2011, semi-finals 2015), despite winning only one of the 15 games played in those three campaigns (1-0 v Jamaica, in 2015).

Sevilla coach Joaquin Caparros confirmed he has been diagnosed with chronic leukaemia but will continue in his role.

Rumours began to circulate earlier in the week that Caparros was suffering from an illness and he confirmed his situation after Sevilla's 2-0 win at Real Valladolid on Sunday.

Caparros returned for his third spell as Sevilla coach last month to replace Pablo Machin, having previously been sporting director.

The 63-year-old does not plan to leave his position due to his condition, assuring supporters the illness is under control.

Speaking to in his post-match news conference, Caparros said: "Everyone knows I have Sevilla in my blood, but there has been a problem with my white and red blood cells and I have been told that I have chronic leukaemia.

"It doesn't impede me from doing my job. I have caught it early and can live a normal life day to day. I am not receiving any treatment, so everyone should remain calm.

"I want to enjoy the opportunity the president and the board have given me, enjoy coaching in every sense. I'm more determined than ever.

"What I do want to say is that I won't talk about the subject any more, but I want to make sure everyone remains calm."

This is the second time in just over a year that a Sevilla coach has been diagnosed with leukaemia, as Eduardo Berizzo found out he had the illness while in charge of the club shortly before being fired in 2017. He made a full recovery.

Sunday's victory was Caparros' 65th LaLiga win as Sevilla coach, more than any other manager has enjoyed at the club, while it moved them back up to fifth and just a point behind Getafe in the final Champions League place.

Their next match will be at home to bitter rivals Real Betis on Saturday.

Athletic Bilbao have sacked Eduardo Berizzo after presiding over just a single win in his 14 LaLiga games at the helm.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.