The CONMEBOL Copa America favourites Brazil faced Venezuela in their second match of the tournament. Going into the game they were aware that a victory would see them through to the knockout stages with a game to spare. Alas, for the second game running, Brazil endured yet another goalless first half as they were once again very poor creatively. Following the introductions of Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho and Everton, Brazil performed far better in the second half, however, Seleção continued to struggle to break down the stubborn Venezuelan defence as Brazil were held to a goalless draw.
City goalkeeper Ederson once again remained on the bench as Alisson had yet another very quiet night in goal thanks to the Brazilian defence performing well and Venezuela being very poor in possession.
Following Brazil’s poor start to the game, City slicker Gabriel Jesus was brought on following half-time in place of Everton’s Richarlison, who was barely noticeable and offered little in the Brazilian attack. Jesus was lively throughout the second half and looked to be the player most likely to break the deadlock. Jesus even had the ball in the back of the net at one point, however the goal was disallowed following the intervention of VAR due to Firmino being in an offside position prior to playing the ball to Jesus. The City star once again played well following his introduction from the bench and the Brazilian should expect to start Brazil’s final group game against Peru.
Fernandinho, who was impressive against Bolivia, was dropped in favour of Barcelona’s Arthur. The young Brazilian made 52 of 55 accurate passes during the first half, however, the majority of which were sideways or backwards; a trend that continued into the second half. Fernandinho was introduced to the game after 57 minutes in place of Casemiro and alike Gabriel Jesus, the City midfielder had a positive impact on the game.
‘Dinho often picked up the ball up from defence prior to playing it forward with purpose, something that both Arthur and Casemiro were ineffective at achieving. Seleção were much better going forward once Fernandinho was introduced to the game, as the ball was played forward much quicker and more accurately. In the final minute of stoppage time, ‘Dinho came close to scoring an emphatic 99th-minute winner from a last-gasp Brazilian corner but disappointingly, his header was just inches wide.
Following a very disappointing draw with Venezuela, Brazil failed to capitalise on their dominance in possession, as once again Seleção struggled to break down a much lesser opponent. Following the match, it is clear that Brazil coach Tite desperately needs to alter the Brazilian starting XI if they wish to succeed on home soil, and considering how poor Richarlison and Neres performed throughout the game, Tite will seriously consider starting with Jesus, Everton and Fernandinho ahead of the poorly performing Richarlison, Neres and Casemiro.
Argentina’s second game of the tournament was against Paraguay and head coach Lionel Scaloni made five changes to the starting XI following the 2-0 defeat to Colombia in their opening group game. City’s all-time top scorer Sergio Aguero was dropped in favour of Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, and despite a poor performance against Columbia, Otamendi retained his place in the side.
Argentina started the match poorly and were incredibly fortunate to draw the game 1-1 as opposed to losing the game, especially considering how they could only find the back of the net thanks to a Lionel Messi penalty, and that Paraguay missed a penalty of their own shortly after. Argentina’s tactics throughout the game could be easily be described as “Sunday-league”, of course referring to how Argentina’s game plan was to seemingly go out of their own way to give the ball to their best player Lionel Messi, even when other attacking players were in more advantageous positions.
Nicolas Otamendi started the match and did well to physically compete with Paraguay’s powerful striker Frederico Santander throughout the game, however, Otamendi was poor in possession throughout the first half often misplacing simple passes and conceding possession. The City defender also conceded a penalty in the 61st minute following a very clumsy challenge, but fortunately for Otamendi and Argentina, however, the penalty was saved by River Plate’s Franco Armani.
La Albiceleste went into half-time a goal down and Sergio Aguero was subsequently introduced to the game in place of Watford’s Roberto Pereyra who was barely noticeable during his time on the pitch. Following the substitution, Aguero linked up well with Lionel Messi in the second half, and their link-up play led to Argentina being awarded a penalty for a Paraguayan handball. Messi then converted the penalty to bring Argentina level. Aguero was lively throughout the second half and the 31-year-old looked to be the most likely scorer of an Argentina winner. However, the Paraguayans defended well and were able to see off each Argentine attack.
In their final group games of the tournament, City’s Argentinian blues Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi will expect to start against Qatar in a must-win game. In order to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament, Argentina will need to defeat Qatar whilst hoping that already-confirmed group winners Colombia don’t lose to Paraguay. Colombia are likely to rest many of their key players with the quarter-finals in mind, however, Argentina scraping through the group remains a possibility.
Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho should expect to start considering their good form as Brazil face Peru in their final group game and a draw should be enough to see Brazil secure top spot. However, a defeat coupled with a Venezuelan victory over Bolivia will see them drop to third place. Having already amassed four points, this should still see them through to knockout stages.
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