Despite topping Group B and cruising to the quarter finals of the Copa America, Brazil had to work hard to beat former winners Chile to book their spot in the semi-finals of the 2021 edition of the premier CONMEBOL competition.
Reduced to ten men soon after scoring early in the second half, the hosts then had to bunker down in a rearguard action for almost a whole half as they held off a toothless Chilean side.
Coach Tite had gone with an attacking formation looking to stamp their authority early, with Everton’s Richarlison, Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus playing behind a free-running Neymar in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Evertonians will be familiar with the workload Richy carries when playing on the left, falling back to defend and cover Lucas Digne at left back before haring down the wing whenever a break is underway. It’s not often that he has to put in that kind of performance when wearing the golden jersey, but Chile controlled possession for most of the first half and subdued Brazil for long periods.
Brazil’s best chances came on the break, with Richarlison called for being marginally offside as he ran onto a ball behind the backline. However, he was not involved in the goal early in the second half, with Casemiro finding substitute Lucas Paqueta (who had just come on for an ineffective Firmino) who then played a volleyed one-two with Neymar before firing home low past Claudio Bravo.
That made it 11 goals for Brazil this tournament, but remarkably they have been scored by ten different players. At that point O Seleção looked like they were cruising to a win when Jesus decided to find a high ball with his foot, and ended up almost taking defender Eugenio Mena’s head off. Referee Patricio Loustao had no hesitation brandishing a straight red card to send off the City man who looked very contrite having realized what he had done.
Gabriel Jesus is given a straight red after this foul pic.twitter.com/EgMJn4mFFI— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 3, 2021
Brazil have never not won a Copa America tournament that they have hosted, and the remaining ten players all dug deep to clear their lines and repel the Chileans who kept knocking on the door. Soon after the hour mark they looked like they had equalized from a freekick dinked into the box, but were rightly called offside.
Richarlison made only rare forays upfield as he stayed back to defend, but effectively shut down Chile’s right wing. When he wasn’t hoofing the ball away he was streaking down the left touchline for the outlet ball but more often than not Neymar chose to keep the ball and run into a blind alley rather than pass to an open teammate.
Blackburn Rovers striker Ben Brereton Diaz - who is eligible to play for both Chile and England but chose the South American nation instead - had come on for Alexis Sanchez at halftime and came closest to tying up the game, his looping header tipped onto the bar by goalkeeper Ederson.
But that was it as Brazil held on, with Richy exiting in the 90th minute for Everton, to record a workmanlike victory. Next up is the semi final where they will take on Peru who they had already beaten comfortably 4-0 in the group stages.
What. A. Game.— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 3, 2021
Relive the quarterfinal battle between Brazil and Chile in our 90' in 90" ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/i9FWLlSGTc
Peru had earlier sealed their berth in the semis after winning a see-saw battle with Paraguay on a penalty shootout in a game that had six goals, two red cards, penalty misses and saves galore.
Leading 2-1 with Paraguay down to ten men, Peru looked comfortable before a series of defensive errors allowed their opponents to make it 2-2. Peru then scored again in the 80th minute to lead, but were also reduced to ten and then allowed Paraguay to again level the game in the 90th minute.
The shootout saw both sides missing two each before the game was settled in Peru’s favour in sudden death .
6 goals ✅— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 2, 2021
2 red cards ✅
Peru vs Paraguay had it all Catch all the action in our 90' in 90" highlights ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Ljku1o400A