Sunday, 17 July 2011

Copa America quarter-finals preview part 2

Paraguay – Brazil (Sunday 8.00pm)

These two meet for the second time in the tournament after a thrilling 2-2 draw in Cordoba eight days ago.

That game continued Paraguay’s run of being the South American side that Brazil have struggled with most in recent years. Indeed La Seleção only avoided defeat thanks to a last minute equaliser from Fred.

The most interesting aspect of that game was the torrid time given to Dani Alves by Marcelo Estigarribia. Alves was subsequently dropped for Brazil’s best performance and only victory in the competition so far against Ecuador and is likely to lose out to Maicon again at right-back. Whether the Inter man can handle Estigarribia’s pace and trickery better than Alves could be the key to the game.

Mano Menezes surprised many by returning to the front four of Ganso, Pato, Neymar and Robinho that had started the opener against Venezuela (a 0-0 draw) for the game against Ecuador. And despite Fred and Jadson grabbing the goals against Paraguay, the aforementioned four are likely to start again this evening.

Paraguay’s only dilemma will be whether to start Nelson Haedo Valdez instead of either Roque Santa Cruz or Lucas Barrios. Valdez has impressed when coming on as a substitute in all three games so far and scored Paraguay’s second goal in the Cordoba encounter. However, with Santa Cruz and Barrios having also scored in the competition it is more likely that coach Garrardo Martino will again use the Hercules striker as an impact player.

Chile – Venezuela (Sunday 11.15pm)

Two of the more impressive sides so far meet in San Juan for the right to qualify for the semi-finals.

Chile have been the most attractive side to watch in the competition, their brand of pass and move attacking football refreshing in a tournament where defences have generally come out on top.

Most of the attention has focused on Barcelona-bound winger Alexis Sanchez and he has been one of the few starts to live up to the hype, scoring against Uruguay and providing a constant source of danger against Mexico and Peru.

However, Chile do remain vulnerable at the back. Their 3-3-1-3 formation and pressing game often leave them exposed on the counter-attack and in Salomón Rondón Venezuela finally have a striker capable of taking chances at the highest level.

Chile are also suffering from injuries and suspensions. Playmaker Mati Fernandez was one of their standout performers in the opening game victory over Mexico but hasn’t been fit to make any other impact on the competition, whilst Jean Beausejour’s sending off against Peru means he will be suspended.

Venezuela are still on a high after a remarkable comeback saw them snatch a 3-3 draw with Paraguay having been 3-1 down with under a minute of the 90 to play.

This has already been a seminal competition in Venezuelan football history. Never before had they qualified for the quarter-finals away from home soil and victory over Ecuador saw them narrow their wins at the Copa America to wins in Miss World to 1:2 (three in the Copa, six on the stage in you’re interested).

After a positive performance in the group stage this will be a good test to see how far both sides have come. If Chile can continue to play attacking aggressive football then they are certainly contenders to lift the trophy for the first time in their history. For Venezuela just a visit to the semi-finals would be a first.

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