Star goalkeeper Alisson urged Brazil to quickly turn their attention to the Copa America semi-finals following a "deserved" victory over Paraguay on penalties in Porto Alegre.

Brazil squeezed into the final four with a 4-3 shoot-out triumph after failing to make their chances count during a goalless 90 minutes.

Liverpool's Alisson kept out the opening spot-kick from Gustavo Gomez and later watched as Derlis Gonzalez put his attempt the wrong side of the post.

The host nation will face rivals Argentina in a blockbuster semi-final tie if Lionel Messi's men overcome Venezuela on Friday.

"My team-mates did their part, which was the most important part," Alisson said after the match.

"We were very confident. The team deserved to win today. The result was a draw, but only one team wanted to play.

"Now we have to keep working, because one step is done and we have another ahead to our achieve our main objective, which is to be champions."

Roberto Firmino's failure to convert in the shoot-out enabled fellow forward Gabriel Jesus to grab a share of the headlines with the winner, the Manchester City man making amends for his miss from the spot against Peru during the group stage.

"I was confident. I hit it my own way and managed to score," Jesus said.

"In the previous game I got upset because I did not hit it my way. I think it was a little anxiety.

"I live to play football, to score goals and in the moment the anxiety disturbed me. Today, I hit it my way, calm, cold.

"I saw the goalkeeper moving to the left and just chipped it the other side."

Tite slammed the state of the pitch at the Arena do Gremio after Brazil scraped past Paraguay to reach the Copa America semi-finals on Thursday.

The tournament hosts were held to a 0-0 draw in the quarter-final in Porto Alegre, but edged through 4-3 on penalties to set up a meeting with either Argentina or Venezuela.

But Tite – whose team squandered numerous chances after Fabian Balbuena was sent off for Paraguay – was unhappy with the state of the surface, labelling the situation "absurd".

"It is absurd, at a high level, to have a field so difficult to play," he told a news conference.

"The guy has to give three touches to play. It's absurd."

Brazil were unable to make the most of their chances in the final half-hour after Balbuena was sent off for denying Roberto Firmino an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

But a save from Alisson to deny Gustavo Gomez and Derlis Gonzalez miss in the shoot-out set up Brazil, with Gabriel Jesus tucking away the winning penalty after Firmino also failed to convert.

Tite knows what could await his team in the last four, especially if Argentina can overcome Venezuela on Friday.

"Very large individual technical quality. As a challenge for all teams, they have to adapt when they have the best in the world," he said.

"Messi is unquestionable."

Brazil scraped into the Copa America semi-finals with a thrilling penalty shoot-out win over Paraguay on Thursday.

Frustrated for long periods in Porto Alegre, the hosts were forced to penalties after a 0-0 draw at the Arena do Gremio.

Paraguay managed to see out the final half-hour with 10 men after Fabian Balbuena was sent off for denying Roberto Firmino an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

But Brazil proved too good in the shoot-out, Alisson making one save and Gabriel Jesus converting the winner in a 4-3 success.

Brazil created a fine early chance, Firmino's low shot from just inside the area comfortably saved by Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez.

There were shots at both ends in the opening exchanges, but most came from range before Paraguay almost took the lead.

Derlis Gonzalez was found at the back post and his powerful strike from an angle was well saved by Brazil shot-stopper Alisson.

A Philippe Coutinho effort from an angle was comfortably saved five minutes before half-time and there were some boos for the host nation at the break.

They continued to enjoy the better of the play to begin the second half and thought they had a penalty in the 54th minute.

Firmino was brought down by Balbuena and a penalty was awarded, only for a VAR review to see the defender sent off and a free-kick paid just outside the area.

Dani Alves fired the free-kick inches wide from 20 yards, while Arthur forced Fernandez into a save in the 70th minute.

Brazil somehow squandered two opportunities just four minutes later, Coutinho mistiming a header from Everton's cross before Jesus volleyed wide from close range.

The chances continued to come for Brazil as Paraguay sat deep and they almost struck from a set-piece, but Fernandez did brilliantly to save an Alex Sandro header from Coutinho's free-kick.

Paraguay continued to hold on but only just, Willian's curling strike from 20 yards beating Fernandez but bouncing off the post.

Everton and Coutinho had shots deflected off target deep into additional time as the 10 men of Paraguay managed to get to spot-kicks.

Alisson saved Gustavo Gomez's penalty to give Brazil the early advantage and while Firmino failed to convert, Gonzalez dragged his penalty wide before Jesus sent the hosts through.

 

What does it mean? Brazil survive but only just

Tite's men had their chances but failed to convert, Paraguay seemingly getting what they wanted by reaching penalties. However, Brazil were too good and remain on track for a first Copa America title since 2007.

Alisson, Jesus step up at key moment

Alisson enjoyed a sensational season with Liverpool and his fine save from Gomez was the ideal start to the shoot-out for Brazil. Willian, Marquinhos and Coutinho also scored from the spot before Jesus' sealer.

Paraguay continue to trouble Brazil

Paraguay were unbeaten in their past four Copa America games against Brazil and they gave the South American giants a huge scare. Well organised and prepared to play on the counter-attack, they almost caused a huge upset.

What's next?

Brazil will face either Argentina or Venezuela in a semi-final in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, while Paraguay are left to reflect on their defeat.

Brazil forward Richarlison has been diagnosed with mumps and will miss Thursday's Copa America quarter-final against Paraguay.

The Everton star started the hosts' first two group matches before sitting out the big win over Peru, and he will again be absent in the last eight.

Richarlison is being kept in isolation due to the contagious nature of the illness, with Brazil stating he needs "full rest and medication" in order to recover.

The rest of the Selecao squad will be vaccinated following the match with Paraguay in Porto Alegre.

Brazil were already missing Casemiro through suspension and Fernandinho due to injury, with Tite having confirmed Allan will start in midfield.

"Confirming Allan before the game is to give him confidence," Tite told his pre-match news conference. "It is for him to know that the coach has no doubt.

"If it was another player, like Dani Alves, for example, or Thiago Silva, it would be different. But in Allan's case, he's going to play."

Miguel Almiron is flattered by reported interest from Real Madrid but insists his focus remains on the Copa America and a return to Newcastle United.

The 25-year-old midfielder is a key part of the Paraguay team that will play hosts Brazil in the Copa quarter-finals on Thursday, having assisted two goals in three group stage matches.

According to reports in his homeland, Almiron's fine individual display in a 1-1 draw against Argentina caught the eye of Madrid, who are rebuilding under Zinedine Zidane.

Almiron joined Newcastle from Atlanta United in January and is preparing for a first full season in the Premier League, but he acknowledged pride in links to Madrid.

"I know nothing of it," he told reporters. "Of course, for me, it is an honour that a team of this size has an interest in my football, but, as I said, I do not know anything.

"And now I'm only focused on the national team at this Copa America and Newcastle."

Almiron is the biggest name in the Paraguay squad following his reported £21million switch to Newcastle, though he believes team spirit has been key to their success.

"I feel good in front of the group, but I do not feel like a leader," he said. "I believe that, in Paraguay, we are all leaders on the field.

"We get along really well and that's important because we do not depend on a player. Our squad stands out for this, because we depend on everyone.

"I feel very good in the group. I see everyone very excited and united, and this is very good for us."

Tite confirmed Allan would replace Casemiro in midfield for Brazil's Copa America quarter-final against Paraguay.

Casemiro is suspended after picking up a second yellow card in the group stage during his side's 5-0 thrashing of Peru on Saturday.

Fernandinho was another option for Tite, but the Manchester City midfielder is still battling a knee injury and the coach said Allan would start in Porto Alegre on Thursday.

"Fernandinho is out of the game. Allan will play," Tite told a news conference.

"If we win, if we qualify, maybe he [Fernandinho] will be ready for the next game. Fernandinho would play in his normal and natural condition. He wasn't in his condition."

Paraguay are unbeaten in their past four games against Brazil at the Copa America, with the two most recent meetings seeing them advance via penalties in quarter-finals.

Tite warned his team, who collected seven points from three games in Group A, they would need to stay focused.

"Mental characteristics have to be strong because they are decisive games," he said.

"Very high concentration level, prepare for different situations."

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.

Colombia drew on their reserves to defeat Paraguay 1-0 and make it three wins from three in the Copa America group stage.

Carlos Queiroz's side earned all three points at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, despite the coach making 10 changes to the team that beat Qatar last time out.

Gustavo Cuellar's first-half strike, which went in off the right foot of Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez, made the difference.

Colombia had a goal disallowed in the second half as well, when substitute James Rodriguez flicked a clever pass with the outside out of his boot to Luis Diaz, who controlled and lashed a shot past Fernandez from 10 yards. After a long wait, a VAR review showed the ball had brushed Diaz's right arm and the goal was ruled out.

Paraguay, who have two points, now face a nervy wait to find out if they have done enough to progress out of Group C with one of the two best third-placed records.

James Rodriguez has targeted victory over Paraguay in Colombia's final Group B outing to maintain his side's momentum heading into the Copa America knockout stages.

The 2001 champions are already assured of a place in the quarter-finals after following up a 2-0 win over Argentina in their opening match with a 1-0 success against Qatar.

Duvan Zapata settled a scrappy encounter against the Asian champions with a late header to leave Colombia with six points from six ahead of their meeting with Paraguay, who are four points adrift in second place after back-to-back draws.

Boss Carlos Queiroz has the chance to rotate his side at Arena Fonte Nova - with goalkeeper David Ospina a confirmed absentee - knowing that Los Cafeteros cannot be caught no matter what happens when Qatar and Argentina face off in the other Group B match on Sunday.

But James admits there is still a long way to go as Colombia target a fifth consecutive win ahead of a quarter-final tie against either Chile, Uruguay or Japan.

"We're on the right track but we're still a long way from achieving all we really want," said James, who is heading back to Real Madrid after a two-year loan spell with Bayern Munich.

Paraguay feel hard done by on the back of their draw with Argentina, as Derlis Gonzalez was denied by Franco Armani from the penalty spot with the scores locked at 1-1.

"I would not like to look pretentious, but I think we lost two points," boss Eduardo Berizzo told reporters after the match.

La Albirroja are now winless in nine Copa America games and have won only one of their last 19 such outings - a run they will likely have to end if they are to join their opponents in the last eight.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Colombia - James Rodriguez

The star of the 2014 World Cup created seven chances against Qatar - the most for a Colombian player in a single game in the last four editions of the competition - including an impressive cross for Zapata's 86th-minute winner.

Paraguay - Miguel Almiron

Newcastle United's club-record signing set up Richard Sanchez's opener against Argentina, adding to his assist for Gonzalez against Qatar. He has created six chances in this year's tournament - twice as many as any other Paraguay player.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- Colombia have won five of their last six games against Paraguay in all competitions, but they lost the most recent clash - 2-1 at home in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
- Colombia and Paraguay have met on 10 occasions in the history of the Copa America - Los Cafeteros have won four and La Albirroja five (D1).
- Colombia have kept a clean sheet in only one of their nine neutral venue games against Paraguay (W2 D2 L5).
- Colombia attempted 13 more shots than Qatar in their last game (20-7) - the biggest difference in favour of Los Cafeteros in a Copa America fixture since the first matchday of the 2011 edition, against Costa Rica (27-5).

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 said Argentina were "convinced" they would beat Qatar in their final group game at the Copa America.

Lionel Scaloni's side are facing a group-stage exit after being held to a 1-1 draw by Paraguay in Group B on Wednesday.

Messi scored a second-half penalty to cancel out Richard Sanchez's goal in Belo Horizonte, while Argentina needed Franco Armani to save a Derlis Gonzalez spot-kick to preserve their first point of the tournament.

Even a win over Qatar on Sunday may not be enough for Argentina, but Messi said there was plenty of confidence in his team.

"I see the team convinced that we will win the next match," he told reporters.

Messi added: "We have to keep looking for the team and improve."

Argentina struggled throughout the first half and fell behind to Sanchez's 37th-minute goal, before Messi equalised after a penalty was awarded following a VAR review for handball.

Armani stepped up for Argentina in the 63rd minute, though, diving to his left to push away a Gonzalez penalty.

Messi felt his side earned their point, saying: "The first few minutes we managed the ball well.

"After the goal, we messed up a bit. In the second half, we went with everything and we got the draw."

Argentina are bottom of the group on one point, behind Colombia (six), Paraguay two) and Qatar (one).

Newcastle United poked fun at Lionel Messi after Miguel Almiron helped Paraguay earn a 1-1 draw with Argentina at the Copa America on Wednesday.

Almiron set up Richard Sanchez's opener with a brilliant run, but Messi's second-half penalty saw the spoils shared in the Group B clash in Belo Horizonte.

Derlis Gonzalez had a chance from the penalty spot for Paraguay, but his effort was saved by Franco Armani in the 63rd minute.

Still, Newcastle took the chance to poke fun at Messi while hailing Almiron, who joined the Premier League club from Atlanta United in January.

"A football genius and Lionel Messi," they wrote alongside a photo of Almiron and the Argentina great.

Almiron joined Newcastle for a reported club-record £21million in January, making 10 Premier League appearances to finish the season.

Lionel Scaloni admitted Argentina were "lucky" to still be alive in the Copa America after a 1-1 draw with Paraguay on Wednesday.

Lionel Messi's second-half penalty cancelled out Richard Sanchez's goal in the Group B clash in Belo Horizonte.

But Argentina also needed goalkeeper Franco Armani, who saved a spot-kick from Derlis Gonzalez to earn his side their first point of the tournament.

Scaloni, whose team are facing a group-stage exit and need a win over Qatar on Sunday, said Argentina were fortunate.

"The solution is that we have to win. We are lucky to be alive," he told a news conference.

"We have to look more like the second half, but be more balanced and thus be able to manage the game."

The introduction of Sergio Aguero at half-time led to a more dangerous Argentina as the forward played alongside Messi and Lautaro Martinez.

But an unhappy Martinez was substituted in the 67th minute with what was later described as a glute injury.

"I don't know if it was the best version [before Martinez came off], but without a doubt it was the most dangerous," Scaloni said.

"Sergio entered very well."

Argentina remain bottom of the group on one point, behind Colombia (six), Paraguay (two) and Qatar (one) ahead of Sunday's games.

Lionel Messi scored a second-half penalty but Argentina were left facing a Copa America group-stage exit after a 1-1 draw with Paraguay on Wednesday.

Messi converted a 57th-minute spot-kick after Argentina had fallen behind to a Richard Sanchez goal in Belo Horizonte.

Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani was needed to keep his side level shortly after the hour-mark, though, saving a Derlis Gonzalez penalty.

The draw saw Argentina earn their first point in Group B, but they remain bottom behind Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar.

While Argentina enjoyed the better start, the game lacked any rhythm in the opening 20 minutes after numerous fouls and stoppages.

It was Paraguay who created the best chance of the opening half-hour, Gonzalez's strike deflected just wide after a counter-attack.

Messi had an opportunity for Argentina in the 34th minute, but the Barcelona star's free-kick from 30 yards lacked the power to trouble Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez.

Paraguay would break the deadlock before half-time through Sanchez's first international goal.

Newcastle United midfielder Miguel Almiron set up the goal with a brilliant run down the left, before crossing for Sanchez to finish into the bottom corner from inside the area.

Lautaro Martinez hit the crossbar for Argentina six minutes into the second half after good work from half-time substitute Sergio Aguero, but it was that moment that led to the equaliser.

Argentina were awarded a penalty after a VAR review, with replays showing Martinez's strike hit the arm of Ivan Piris.

Messi stepped up, putting the penalty into the bottom corner for his 68th international goal.

However, Paraguay were awarded a spot-kick of their own after a poor challenge by Nicolas Otamendi on Gonzalez, but Armani dived low to his left to push away the penalty in the 63rd minute.

Martinez headed over soon after for Argentina and both teams struggled to create chances late on as they shared the spoils.

 

What does it mean? Argentina's fate out of their own hands

Lionel Scaloni's men needed a win against Paraguay to get back on track, but will now be left relying on other results going their way. They will look to beat Qatar in their final group game and that may not be enough to finish in the top two, although they could also be one of the two best third-placed teams.

Argentina retain unbeaten record

It was only a draw, but Argentina retained their record of never losing to Paraguay at the Copa America. That run is now up to 25 games, including 19 wins and six draws.

Aguero, Di Maria benching continues confusion

Scaloni opted for four changes to his starting XI from the team beaten by Colombia, including dropping Aguero and Angel Di Maria to the bench. Both were introduced in the second half and the former caused some problems, but it indicated some uncertainty from Scaloni regarding his best XI.

What's next?

Argentina face Qatar in Porto Alegre on Sunday, while Paraguay meet Colombia in Salvador.

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."

Page 1 of 2
© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.