Brazil does not care about the adages. “Never two without three”, the Paraguayans dreamed, but it is the Seleçao who qualified Thursday in the semifinals of “his” Copa América on penalties in Porto Alegre, having failed in this exercise facing the same opponent in 2011 and 2015.
The nightmare seemed to repeat itself: quarter-final against Paraguay, sterile domination of the Seleçao and fateful penalty shoot-out.
But this time, Brazil wins in the end, after an unsustainable suspense (0-0, 4-3 tab).
The Alisson goalkeeper, European champion with Liverpool, broke the spell by stopping the shot of Paraguayan captain Gustavo Gomez, and Derlis Gonzalez shot next, like the Brazilian Firmino, a failure ultimately inconsequential.
“We have to continue working. We deserve the qualification. We still have two games left to fulfill our goal: to win the Copa América, “said after the match Alisson, hero of the meeting and native of Novo Hamburgo, a small town 30 kilometers from Porto Alegre.
La Seleçao will face Tuesday the winner of the match between Argentina’s Lionel Messi and the surprising team Venezuela, who face Friday at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
The opportunity to exorcise a new demon, after slaying the Paraguayan bête noire on penalties. The semifinal will take place at Mineirao de Belo Horizonte, where Brazil has experienced the worst humiliation of its history in another home-away tournament semi-final, the 7-1 against Germany’s World-2014.
But the men of Tite have already beaten Argentina 3-0 in the same place in October 2016, during the qualifiers of the World Cup-2018, one of the benchmark matches of the coach at the head of the Seleçao.
In the absence of Casemiro, suspended, and his natural replacement Fernandinho, injured, Allan was lined up in the middle, alongside Arthur.
Under the eyes of Neymar, deprived of Copa America because of an ankle injury, Brazil seemed tense by the stakes.
Passes missed, ball out too slow, placement errors … The Seleçao was more like the team borrowed and well muzzled that drew 0-0 against Venezuela in the second match that the armada irresistible that has atomized Peru 5-0 last Saturday.
Well in place, Paraguay did not leave any space for the Brazilian strikers. Only Firmino (3rd, 22nd) and Coutinho (40th) found themselves in the penalty box in the area, but stumbled on goalkeeper Gatito Fernandez.
The Paraguayans did not dare to discover themselves, but caused trouble in the opposing defense at each counterattack.
Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson, European champion with Liverpool, had to come out a monstrous parry on a point blank shot by Derlis Gonzalez (27th).
The best opportunity of a first period chopped and not spectacular, the players not being helped by the deplorable state of the lawn.
Paraguay reduced to 10
After the break, Brazil tried to find depth, with a more direct game to put Firmino in orbit.
Tactics soon paid off: the Liverpool striker, who was well off the back of the defense, was dried at the edge of the box by Balbuena (54).
The stadium exulted when the referee designated the penalty box, before falling apart a few minutes later.
The video assistance to the arbitration (VAR) showed that the foul was actually out of the box: free kick and expulsion of Balbuena, in position of last defender.
Dani Alves was in charge of hitting the free kick, but Gatito Fernandez deflected his shot with the tips of his fingers.
In numerical superiority, Brazil has sieged the Paraguayan surface.
Tite tried it all, bringing in an attacker in place of a midfielder, Willian taking the place of Allan.
Gabriel Jesus missed the unmissable (73rd), Alex Sandro’s head found the gloves of Gatito Fernandez (87th) and Willian touched the post (89th).
The much-feared penalty shoot-out has taken place, but Alisson has restored Brazil’s confidence in the opening round by relaxing on Gustavo Gomez’s strike.
Gabriel Jesus scored the decisive blow. All a symbol: against Peru last Saturday, he missed a penalty late in the game.