Friday, July 19, 2024

Uruguay Brazil 0-0 (4-2 pen.): Talking points as La Celeste reach Copa semifinals

Veselin Trajkovic in Editorial 7 Jul 2024

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After a goalless stalemate, Uruguay beat Brazil on penalties in the Copa America semifinals, knocking the Selecao out to set up a battle with Colombia for a spot in the final. They played the closing stages of the game with 10 men, after defender Nahitan Nandez received a red card in the 74th minute.

The teams

Both teams were arranged in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Back in the dugout after a one-match suspension, Uruguay head coach Marcelo Bielsa chose the back line of Nandez, Ronald Araujo, Mathias Olivera and Matias Vina as the defensive line in front of goalkeeper Sergio Rochet. Manuel Ugarte and Federico Valverde paired up in the middle of the park, while the trio of Facundo Pellistri, Nicolas de la Cruz and Maximiliano Araujo supported Darwin Nunez in attack.

For Brazil, coach Dorival Junior paired Marquinhos with Eder Militao in the heart of defence, flanked by Danilo and Guilherme Arana. Joao Gomes and Bruno Guimaraes were in midfield, and in the absence of the suspended Vinicius Junior, striker Endrick had Rodrygo on the left wing, Raphinha on the right, and Lucas Paqueta as the central attacking midfielder, in support.

The game

Loaded with South American passion and enriched further by club-level rivalries between the players of the two teams, the match was very dynamic and full of tension from the start, making the work of referee Dario Herrera from Argentina very difficult. The first real chance of the match fell for Nunez in the 18th minute, and Uruguay were extremely unlucky not to take the lead as the Liverpool striker reacted well to a scramble in Brazil’s box to head goalwards, but one of his opponents showed extreme composure to divert the shot wide of the post.

Ten minutes later, it was Brazil’s turn to cause problems for Uruguay, as they pressured Vina into a mistake and the Celeste left-back inadvertantly put the ball on a platter for Endrick inside the box, but as the new Real Madrid forward squared it for the incoming Raphinha, the pass was intercepted and the box cleared by Nandez.

With half an hour gone, Ronald Araujo blocked a cross coming from Brazil’s left flank and remained on the ground, clutching his hamstring. The problem turned out serious enough to force Bielsa into the first change, and Jose Maria Gimenez made his way onto the pitch to replace the injured Barcelona defender.

Just four minutes later, Nunez had another great chance as Nandez delivered a perfect cross to find him unmarked at six yards, but his header went over the bar when he really should’ve scored. Brazil responded straight from the ensuing goal-kick, with Raphinha taming the ball nicely and shooting past Gimenez, but Rochet made a fine save.

In the opening minutes of the second half, Uruguay players took a few hopeful shots from range and Brazil threatened once or twice due to mistakes in Uruguay’s defence, but the nets remained still. And then came minute 72, when Nandez made a late tackle on Rodrygo from behind and initially got a yellow card. However, the VAR review revealed that it was a horrible challenge which could’ve broken Rodrygo’s ankle, and after two minutes’ deliberation and an on-screen review, the referee upgraded the punishment from yellow to red.

Brazil expectedly showed much more attacking intent in the closing stages, but apart from one decent attempt from Endrick, they never really got close.

The game thus went into penalties. Valverde, as well as substitutes Rodrigo Bentacur and Giorgian de Arrascaeta, all scored for Uruguay in the first three rounds, while Eder Militao saw his shot saved by Rochet, Andreas Pereira scored, and Douglas Luiz hit the post for Brazil. Alisson briefly restored his team’s hope by saving from Gimenez and Gabriel Martinelli scored to make it 3-2, but Ugarte then became hero for his nation as he stepped up and beat Alisson to win the shootout.

The aftermath

Though Brazil saw more of the ball in this game (60%), Uruguay have arguably shown more desire and quality throughout the tournament so far, and it’s fair to say that their place in the semifinals is deserved. Their next opponent is Colombia, who thrashed Panama 5-0 in their quarterfinal clash, and the winner will take on either Argentina or Canada in the final.

As for Brazil, considering the frequency in which they produce world-class talents, and the fact that a lot of their current crop still have their best years ahead of them, it stands to reason to expect them to bounce back quickly and represent genuine contenders for the 2026 World Cup.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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