RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Defending Copa América champions Brazil defended hard with 10 men to advance to the semifinals with a 1-0 win over Chile on Friday. Substitute Lucas Paquetá scored the only goal of the game just seconds before Gabriel Jesús was sent off at the start of the second half.
Paquetá’s goal to the left corner from Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo in the 46th minute gave Brazil fans some hope that the Selecao would move on to the next stage. But just two minutes later, Jesús was expelled after hitting Chilean Eugenio Mena with a flying kick.
Neymar and Brazil coach Tite said after the match that Jesus did not see Mena and accidentally kicked him while trying to regain possession in midfield.
Brazil worked so hard on defense that Chile made fewer shots on goal after Jesus was sent off than during the time he played; two against three.
“Defending well is a characteristic of ours,” said Brazilian Thiago Silva. “Regardless of what we did today, we conceded few goals. Always up to 10, we create clear opportunities. I am very proud of this team, for their fighting spirit. “
Paquetá entered the field of play after a tense first half with few opportunities for both sides. He replaced Roberto Firmino.
Brazil did not stop threatening Chile with Neymar’s dribbling and quick counterattacks. But Chile was much closer to the tie; had an Eduardo Vargas goal annulled for offside and the English-Chilean Ben Brereton hit the crossbar with a header in the 68th minute.
Neymar, exhausted, said after the game that playing with 10 men was a great test for Brazil. He was not close to scoring like in other Copa América matches, but he was key in maintaining possession.
“In each game we need to do some tests to make ourselves stronger, to show that we can do it in any circumstance,” Neymar said. “We had to be together. It was very difficult to do it. “
Arturo Vidal from Chile said that his team will leave the tournament with some pride.
“We lost against a great team, a favorite that plays at home,” he said. “If we play the way we play today, with a little more time to work, this team will clearly regain its intensity. We hope to qualify for the World Cup. It will be difficult, but we can. “
Peru advanced to the semifinal after beating Paraguay on penalties 4-3 after a 3-3 score in regulation time, in the most exciting Copa América match to date.
Brazil and Peru played the last Copa América final in 2019, with the hosts winning 3-1. Jesús was also expelled in that match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio. Monday’s match will be at the same Nilton Santos Stadium where Brazil beat Chile.
Brazilian coach Tite, who was recently fined by CONMEBOL for criticizing the organization of the tournament, once again criticized the quality of Nilton Santos’ field, despite the small improvements made recently.
“If I was watching from home, I would say this could have been a good game, and look what it is … Ederson had a hard time throwing goal kicks,” Tite said. “Please be responsible. I recognize that people are trying to improve the field, but find a better field so that we can play.”
The Copa América final will be played at the Maracana Stadium on July 10.