Brazil 4-1 Paraguay takeaways: Vinicius Jr at the double, Paqueta's penalty redemption


This was the night that Brazil arrived at the 2024 Copa America.

Four goals — including two from Vinicius Junior — and Lucas Paqueta stepping up to convert a penalty after horribly skewing a first-half attempt from 12 yards wide capped a successful night in Las Vegas for Brazil.

Paraguay pulled one back through Omar Alderete just after half time and had Adrian Cubas sent off late on.

Jack Lang and Thom Harris digest the key talking points…


Did Vinicius Jr make his mark on the tournament?

Oh yes. Minute one. Real Madrid star Vinicius Jr receives the ball on the left flank, looks up, and runs. “Yep”, 30,000 spectators seemed to gleam at once, “he’s in the mood.”

On his day, there are few footballing experiences like it — and this was undoubtedly his brightest day wearing the heavy shirt of Brazil. By the third minute, he had already careered into the penalty area three times, each time at full pelt, without a flicker of hesitation on his mind.

By half time, Vinicius Jr had attempted 13 take-ons, each seemingly more ludicrous than the last. Nutmegs, shimmys, and blast after blast of pure pace; he lifted a fizzling Las Vegas crowd almost by himself.

The pinnacle of the dribbling clinic came moments before his opening goal, as he produced an audacious rainbow flick before passing the ball through Damian Bobadilla’s legs. The play resets, and he darts inside to latch onto a magical Paqueta pass, before sliding under the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

The tricks became so relentless that he sparked a brawl just before half-time, before his second goal arrived in comical circumstances, deflecting home a poor goalkeeper clearance after tearing into the penalty area to close him down.

This was arguable the night Vinicius reignited his international career.

Thom Harris


Paqueta’s penalty redemption

There was an interesting on-pitch debate when Brazil were awarded their second penalty of the night, just after the hour mark. The first man to grab the ball was Rodrygo, who casually walked over to the penalty spot. He was then joined by Vinicius Jr, Lucas Paqueta — both of whom looked interested in taking it — and Eder Militao.

Vinicius was on a hat-trick, of course, and would have been entirely justified in putting his foot down. Instead, they jointly decided to give Paqueta the chance to make amends for his earlier miss. There were a few groans from the crowd but Vinicius told them to calm down, while Bruno Guimaraes planted two good-luck kisses on Paqueta’s head.

The penalty, in the end, was a good one and restored Brazil’s three-goal lead. It cannot have done any harm to team spirit, either.

Jack Lang


Did Paraguay play into Brazil’s hands?

Paraguay have never been considered powerhouses in South American football but they have long been known for being… well, a nightmare to play against. Their game is typically based on physicality, grit and not-so-occasional detours into the dark arts. It’s not always pretty — OK, it’s hardly ever pretty — but it has frustrated the continent’s big teams on many occasions over the years.

Going into this game, Brazil were fearing the worst. Journalists wondered whether Paraguay might take a leaf from Costa Rica’s book and play a back five. Either way, the expectation was that the Albirroja would sit deep and try to grind out a result.

Brazil


Tensions bubbled over in first-half added time (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

In the event, it didn’t really happen like that. Daniel Garnero named a relatively daring starting XI, with the clever Bobadilla coming into the side. Julio Enciso and Miguel Almiron spent the first half swapping positions behind striker Alex Arce. They went at Brazil with the ball, committing men forward with every attack.

It worked a treat… for Brazil. There were a couple of minor scares, but Paraguay’s tactics made the pitch bigger for the Selecao, leaving huge spaces for Vinicius Jr and Savio — who was also on the scoresheet — to attack. They duly made hay and Brazil eased themselves into a lead that they never looked likely to surrender. Paraguay, meanwhile, will be wondering whether they should have stuck more closely to their historic DNA.

Jack Lang


Joao Gomes, Brazil’s midfield highwayman?

On the eve of the match, Brazil coach Dorival Junior was asked whether playing two defensive-minded midfielders — Bruno Guimaraes and Joao Gomes — against opponents like Costa Rica and Paraguay was overkill. The implication was clear: many feel that Gomes should make way for a more progressive passer in order to give Brazil a little more quality going forward.

Dorival made it clear that selecting both is a hill he is willing to die on. “It was playing those two that allowed us to recover the ball and start attacking again when we were already in the final third,” he said.

Brazil


Gomes shields the ball (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

The debate will rage on, but there was some vindication at the Allegiant Stadium. Whatever you make of the balance of the side, Gomes is simply a first-class ball-stealer, a genuine highwayman of the midfield. Time and time again he emerged with possession after a physical challenge, often against more than one opponent. Usually it was seconds after Paraguay had won the ball back, too.

“No playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter-pressing situation,” Jurgen Klopp once said. Brazil have not been huge exponents of that tactic in recent years — you try any kind of pressing with Neymar in the team — but Gomes is a pretty useful one-man solution.

Jack Lang

 


What do Brazil need to do to reach the quarter-finals?

If Brazil beat Colombia in their final game they will advance to the knockout phase as Group D winners.

If Brazil and Colombia draw, Brazil will go through as group runners-up.

They will also advance with a defeat if Costa Rica fail to beat Paraguay in the other game

If they lose and Costa Rica beat Paraguay while also overturning the goal differential, Brazil would be out.

The goal differential currently stands at six with Brazil on +3 and Costa Rica on -3.


What’s next for each team?

Brazil vs. Colombia — Tuesday, July 2, 9:00 p.m. ET (Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA)

Costa Rica vs. Paraguay — Tuesday, July 2, 9:00 p.m. ET (Q2 Stadium, Austin, TX)


Required reading

(Top photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)



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