Rio de Janeiro: Many Brazil players didn’t want to take part in the Copa America tournament. Look at them now. The Selecao advanced to the final with a 1-0 win over Peru on Monday. Shortly later, their star said he hoped to see their archrivals on Saturday at the Maracana Stadium. “I want Argentina in the final,” Neymar said after the match at the Nilton Santos Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. “I am cheering for them because I have many friends there. In the final, Brazil will win,” he added, laughing.
Argentina and Colombia will play the other semifinal on Tuesday. Only Lionel Messi’s team can match Brazil’s campaign so far with five wins in six Copa America matches. Neymar made the difference on the bumpy pitch of the Nilton Santos Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The only goal of the match came in the 34th minute after he tricked defender Alexander Callens on the left edge of the box and assisted Lucas Paquetá, who just pushed the ball to the back of the net.
The 23-year-old Paquetá, who started the tournament on the bench, was one of leading players for Brazil. He constantly received the ball in the middle, easing the pressure on Neymar, and also marked with intensity. Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was one of the best of the match despite his team’s elimination. He made two difficult saves from short range in the 18th minute, one by Neymar and the other by Richarlison, which could have allowed Brazil to cruise to victory sooner.
Brazil gave the impression it could score when it wanted against Peru, a team the Selecao had beaten 4-0 in the group stage of the tournament. But the second half was very different, with Gianluca Lapadula forcing goalkeeper Ederson to make a key save in the 49th minute after a cross. Brazil still had opportunities, but continued to waste counter-attacks.
Two years ago Brazil won the title without injured Neymar in a 3-1 win over Peru. Next Saturday’s final, which will be played in front of no fans due to the Covid-19 pandemic, promises to be more challenging. Peru will play on Friday in the third-place playoff against the loser of Tuesday’s semifinal. Coach Ricardo Gareca said he is hopeful after his team’s performances at Copa America.
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