Saturday, March 2, 2024

Brazil eke out last-minute draw against Paraguay

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CORDOBA: Holders Brazil jeopardised their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals of the Copa America on Saturday after they just pulled out a last-gasp 2-2 draw with Paraguay.

After taking a first-half lead through new face Jadson the five-times world champions trailed 2-1 with barely a minute remaining before Fred saved his side after the favourites had stared defeat in the face.

Paraguay were left to kick themselves after coming so close to an upset victory.

“We had it won and then we go and let them off the hook,” stormed Argentine-born midfielder Nestor Ortigoza.

Brazil coach Mano Menezes recognised fans were not impressed by their team to date.

“The Copa is a tough tournament. But I do understand the anxiety of the fans – we’re looking for solutions,” he insisted.

Menezes sprung a surprise at the outset in dropping Robinho to the bench after his poor showing in the auriverde’s opening goalless draw with Venezuela.

That result, which came despite Menezes selecting an attacking line-up, prompted a rethink and AC Milan star Robinho exited to allow Jadson a chance to prove himself.

The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder started off by getting himself booked but six minutes before the break he fired home a crisp low shot from outside the area to spark jubilation among the yellow-clad hordes at the Mario Kempes stadium.

But a muted Brazilian side who, like winless hosts Argentina, are struggling badly at the South American showcase event, then went to sleep and almost paid a heavy price.

Eleven minutes after the restart Paraguay, desperate to get more points on the board after Ecuador held them in their opening encounter, were level through Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz.

Ten minutes later, and with Brazil, having sent on Elano for Jadson, strangely unwilling to regain their grip on proceedings after the equaliser, it was 2-1 to the Paraguayans with Nelson Haedo Valdez bundling in a deflected effort which looped home.

With just a quarter of the match left, Menezes reacted by withdrawing Chelsea’s Ramires and throwing on Liverpool’s Lucas.

He then also withdrew the disappointing Neymar for Fred in a final throw of the dice with nine minutes remaining and that finally unlocked the door as the reserve striker struck at the death to deny the Paraguayans a famous win. (Agencies)

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