Brazil Hosts Paraguay in Thursday Copa America Quarterfinal Play

The soccer championship of South America–better known as the Copa America–is finally in the knockout rounds. Thursday’s game will feature host country Brazil against Paraguay. Two games are set for Friday with Venezuala vs. Argentina and Columbia vs. Chile. On Friday, there will be one quarterfinal fixture as Uruguay takes on Peru.

Paraguay is a decent team but lack offensive punch. They reached the quarterfinals despite going winless in the group stage with two draws and a loss. They now have the dubious distinction of having the worst record of any team to make the Copa America quarterfinals since the first year of the 12 team event back in 1993. First year coach Eduardo Berizzo is trying to change the mindset of this Paraguay side–he wants them to play tenacious defense and use that to facilitate an opportunistic counterattack. Unfortunately, the team has assimilated only the first half–they’ve played reasonably well on defense but haven’t shown much on the counter. They blew a 2-0 lead over Qatar to settle for a 2-2 draw but that had as much to do with focus as bad defending. They played Argentina to a 1-1 draw and lost to a good Columbia team 1-0.

The problem with Brazil as it relates to many analysts and soccer handicappers is that there is a tendency to buy into the team’s ‘mystique’ and let their hype and history influence objective assessment. Even without Neymar, Brazil has plenty of talent but the reality is that they haven’t played particularly well during this event. More specifically, they haven’t stepped up in class well. They looked fine against overmatched Bolivia and Peru wining 3-0 and 5-0 respectively but in their only game against a more competitive side they were held to a scoreless tie by Venezuela. Lest we forget, after the nil-nil result against Venezuela the world soccer press suggested that Brazil coach Tite had one foot out the door. To be sure, the Brazil team is always a maelstrom of chaos just by their nature but it’s not like this team is hitting on all cylinders right now.

Several things are working in Paraguay’s favor here in addition to Brazil’s maddening lack of focus. The game is being played at Porto Alegre where the pitch plays more like a vacant lot than an actual soccer stadium. It’s a mess and the prevailing wisdom is that the poor condition hampers teams with slick offensive playmakers. In other words, it ‘levels the playing field’ (no pun intended) to some degree in terms of the relative offensive talent of these teams. In addition, there is no added time in knockout stages. If they game is tied at the end of regulation it is immediately decided via penalty kicks.

The soccer betting odds for this Copa America quarterfinal shows a 2 goal handicap for Brazil. That makes Paraguay +2 goals just too enticing to pass up. Paraguay may be content just frustrating the Brazilian attack and hoping to take their chances in penalties. For that reason, the ‘Under’ also looks like a good play.


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