Brazil v Paraguay: Tricky tie awaits Copa America hosts

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THE COPA AMERICA quarter-finals get underway on Thursday night and James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts as hosts Brazil prepare to face Paraguay in Porto Alegre.

Brazil v Paraguay | Friday 28th June 2019, 01:30 | Premier Sports

Fresh off the back of a 5-0 win over Peru in their final group game, Copa America 2019 hosts and tournament favourites Brazil look to secure progression into the semi-finals when they face Paraguay in Porto Alegre; a Paraguay side that made it out of their group despite failing to win any one of their three matches.

Paraguay therefore hold the worst record for a team to make it into the Copa America knockout stages since Mexico in 1993. Interestingly, they would make it all the way to the final on that occasion.

As expected, even if Brazil did not win emphatically last time out, we have extremely thin odds on them getting another – 2/11 is the best price you’ll get on Thiago Silva, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and co getting the job done inside 90 minutes. There is plenty of 22/1 floating about on the Paraguayans doing the same if you fancy the underdogs to cause the shock of the competition so far.

Can Paraguay keep this close?

I guess the question is if we can really stake a case for Paraguay. As mentioned, they failed to win any of their group games, including when throwing away a 2-0 lead to draw with Qatar in their opener.

However, a draw to Argentina is never a bad outcome, but a 1-0 loss to a heavily understrength Colombia perhaps reflects where they are at this moment in time. They went into that game as favourites, and fell to a 1-0 loss. Were they unlucky? Well, not really. They were outshot 12-10 and 5-2 for efforts on target.

Considering that was a game they were favourites and knew a win would definitely send them through, and versus weakened opponents that were already through, that was poor. That being said, Paraguay have not necessarily been a good opponent for Brazil in more recent times.

Yes, Brazil were 3-0 winners the last time they met in March 2017, but it is just one win in the last five meetings, and only three in eleven for the Brazilians. This includes at the 2011 and 2015 Copa Americas, with both going to extra time and Paraguay getting the job done. It is worth remembering that there is no extra time from now on in the Copa America, and it’ll be settled on penalties if it is level after 90.

Selecao firm favourites

Whilst the case for Paraguay is certainly thin on the ground, there is plenty in favour of Brazil making it to the last four. This game is all about Brazil at the end of the day.

If they turn up with the right mentality and adopt a high tempo then this could and should be a comfortable night for them. Fall below those standards and that is where Paraguay look to play spoilers even further. They’d be more than happy to take things to spot kicks.

Brazil entered the Peru game having been made to suffer in the first half versus Bolivia, before winning 3-0, and then over 90 minutes in a disappointing draw to Venezuela. Did things just click for them against Peru? A 5-0 victory would suggest so. However, I do think it is worth pointing out that Peru more than contributed to their own downfall.

Brazil were 3-0 ahead after half an hour, and Peru gifted them a couple of goals to say the least. Still, give the Brazilians credit considering they hadn’t played anything like that in the opening two group clashes.

Potentially tricky tie in store?

There are a few factors here however that will make matters a little tough for Brazil. One is that Real Madrid anchor Casemiro is missing through suspension. His importance is highlighted by the fact Brazil has never lost a game when he has played. Fernandinho would be his likely replacement, but he is struggling through injury and is not a certain starter.

Something of a leveller will also be the pitch at Arena do Grêmio, which is not in the best of condition. This should be Brazil attack versus Paraguay defence for long spells, so this might be a tricky night for Brazil, especially if they cannot score early.

I can’t be massively confident on Brail when taking those facts into stock and I think Paraguay perhaps deserve some credit for being hard to beat. Eduardo Berizzo has adopted a high-pressing style since entering the Paraguay job, and whilst there were times that did not necessarily pay off or look effective, the pitch issues will present, well, an issue to Brazil.

Paraguay don’t tend to suffer too many heavy losses either, the last time they lost by more than a two-goal margin was a friendly to France in June 2017. Since then, they’ve only lost by 2+ goals on two occasions. Brazil may have won 5-0 last time out and 7-0 versus Honduras before the Copa America, but those were quite rare occurrences under Tite for them to win so convincingly.

Only four in their last 18 has seen them win by two goals or more. I’m more than happy to take Paraguay +2 on the Asian Handicap at 97/100 (Bet365). The only way we’d lose is it Brazil won by 3+ goals. A 2+ goals margin of win for Brazil sees our stake refunded, and it is an outright win if Paraguay win, draw and Brazil win by a one-goal margin.

Value BetBuilder

My final play is taking into account how this game is likely to be played out. I’ve touched upon it already how this should really be a Brazilian attack looking to breakdown a rather stubborn Paraguayan outfit.

Brazil should enjoy lots of position and venture into the final third on a regular basis. Brazil have the highest average possession stat in the tournament so far with 64.9%, but it is worth taking into account the opposition they faced, too. They average 19.3 shots per-game as well, which is also the most of any side so far.

Paraguay have produced the joint-third highest amount of fouls on average, with only Japan and Chile making more. Paraguay may have only six bookings to their name, which is low in comparison to a few other sides, but three of those came versus Argentina; another side who see lots of possession and Paraguay were more than happy to sit back against.

Roberto Tobar Vargas is officiating this game, and he dished out seven yellows in the Argentina v Colombia game he oversaw. He refs in the Chilean Primera Division and dishes out cards on a regular basis. Rather than go on total cards overall, I think Paraguay will be the ones doing the fouling.

To combine this notion with another for a bet-builder, I’m looking to get Brazil on side in relation to corners. Eight versus Bolivia, nine against Venezuela and seven in the Peru match – this is the corner count for Brazil so far. With a big amount of what Brazil do focusing on the wide areas, especially with Paraguay likely to be compact in their defensive third, then I can see Brazil having some joy in these areas and forcing the issue.

Therefore, my second selection is Brazil Over 5.5 Corners and Paraguay Over 2.5 Cards at 5/4 (Unibet) using their bet-builder function.

Best Bets

Brazil v Paraguay – Paraguay +2 Asian Handicap (97/100 Bet365)

Brazil v Paraguay – Brazil Over 5.5 Corners and Paraguay Over 2.5 Cards (5/4 Unibet)

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