Sul-Americano Sub-20: Brazil vs. Chile and Paraguay

Brazil vs. Chile

After a valuable win – but a decidedly underwhelming performance – in their opening game against the hosts Ecuador Brazil came into the match on Friday night looking for an improvement in the flow and creativity of their game.

There were two changes to the starting line-up from the previous encounter, both in defence and both owing to injury. Braga centre-back Lucas Cunha – who had come on for Léo Santos at half time against Ecuador – was included from the start this time, as was the young Juventus left-back Rogério, who took to the field in place of Corinthians’ Guilherme Arana.

Brazil again struggled to find momentum early in the game and the first scare came after four minutes when Chile’s number 10 Jeisson Vargas shot powerfully from a 35-yard free-kick. Caique, Brazil’s 6’6” goalkeeper, saved relatively comfortably but it was a warning for the junior Seleção.

Nine minutes later Richarlison provided Brazil’s first moment of danger, and another reminder of his talent, with a Ronaldinho-esque spin near the Chilean by-line but nothing came of the resulting cross.

Brazil could not find a way to unlock the Chilean defence in another disjointed – and frankly tedious – first-half performance, and were restricted to a couple of long-range attempts. Owing to the sparse crowd one could clearly hear the shouts emanating from the Brazilian technical area on the television; Rogério Micale was urging his players to try and work the ball into front-man Felipe Vizeu, but it was to no avail.

The defining moment of the game came after 35 minutes when Vargas lunged wildly in on Lucas Paqeutá in a challenge that could well have broken the Flamengo player’s leg. Chile’s main creative outlet was rightly shown a red card by the referee.

From then on it was one-way traffic as Brazil tried to break down the tenacious Chilean defence. Moments before the interval David Neres diverted a wayward Caio Henrique effort towards the goal but could only find the outside of Chilean keeper Collao’s right-hand post.

In the second half Brazil continued to press for a goal but were unable to find a breakthrough. Collao was forced into a good save when Lucas Paquetá shot from 20 yards, however, the fact that Brazil were forced into shots from 20 yards against a 10-man Chile tells its own story.

By far the best opportunity of the game came around on the hour mark when David Neres sparked into life. He cut in from the left, carrying the ball past four red-shirted defenders before getting his shot away. Collao’s save fell quickly to Vizeu who managed to divert it goalwards only for Chile’s number one to spring from the floor to deny Brazil once more. It was a highly impressive display of athletic goalkeeping from the 19-year old Universidad de Chile player.

La Roja’s only chance of the second period arrived when a long free-kick was aimed towards striker Richard Paredes. He got to the ball before Lyanco but was only able to head weakly into Caique’s waiting arms.

In the latter stages Micale introduced Léo Jabá, Giovanny and Liverpool’s Allan to try to give Brazil some impetus but none of the three made any notable impact.

It was another poor performance from the young Brazilians and they would have expected more, especially playing against 10 men for an hour. Chile defended well and Collao was excellent but Brazil really struggled to find Felipe Vizeu in anything resembling a dangerous position. The passing from midfield was once more the obvious problem and needed to be sharpened up for Sunday’s game with a good Paraguay side.

Brazil vs. Paraguay

As in Rogério Micale’s Olympic campaign Brazil came into the third game in the tournament on the back of two turgid displays in their first two outings. Against Paraguay they had to improve, and improve they certainly did.

Micale rung the changes after the disappointment against Chile with Gabriel and Robson coming in at centre-back, Guilherme Arana re-entering the fray at left back, Matheus Sávio replacing Lucas Paquetá in the number 10 role and Léo Jabá staring on the left in place of David Neres. It is necessary to rotate in the Sul-Americano Sub-20 owing to the number of games played in a short period but this appeared to be more a case of players being dropped rather than rotated.

From the early exchanges the alterations appeared to have the desired effect. Brazil came out of the blocks quickly and, had this been a 100m race, they would have had a clear lead after the first ten. This brightness could not be translated into goals but the ball was being moved forward with more pace and intent than against Ecuador or Chile. The Seleção also looked to close down the opposition far quicker when out of possession.

After 11 minutes Richarlison, Brazil’s stand-out performer up until this point, was put through by Sávio down the left. From a tight angle his shot beat the keeper at his near post but rebounded off the upright and was lumped clear by a Paraguayan defender.

The next chance came from another direct and powerful piece of play from Richarlison. The Fluminense forward burst into the box from the left-hand side and lofted a cross towards the back post. Léo Jabá arrived at the perfect moment only to see his close-range finish expertly turned around the post by Arzamendia in the Paraguay net.

A Caique mistake moments later almost let in Sebatian Ferreira to put Paraguay into the lead against the run of play but the big ‘keeper managed to extend a leg to divert his shot wide.

Eight minutes before the interval Brazil took the lead their play deserved but the manner in which the goal came would have left a slightly bitter taste in Paraguayan mouths. Matheus Sávio took a free-kick from 25 yards aiming to the goalie’s left; Arzamenida anticipated it and moved across his goal but the ball deflected horribly off the wall and looped up over his head and into the opposite corner.

After the break the pressure continued and men in yellow created another opportunity through Léo Jabá before the ever-lively Richarlison netted the second. It was perhaps the most un-Brazilian goal you will ever see. Caique lumped the ball up towards Vizeu who climbed above the Paraguay centre-backs to nod it into the path of Richarlison who slotted it past the onrushing Arzamenida with his first touch. If any of Tony Pulis’s scouts were watching then Vizeu can expect a call soon.

Two minutes after the goal Paraguay shot themselves in the proverbial foot. Villalba went in high on Robson with his studs showing and was shown the red card. Brazil’s opposition, for the third game in a row, were reduced to ten men.

This gave Brazil a chance to really press home their advantage and it appeared as if they would when Felipe Vizeu scored his second goal of the tournament to make it 3-0. A delightful exchange of passes between Léo Jabá and Matheus Sávio put the former in the position to lay on the easiest of chances for Vizeu. The Flamengo striker did not disappoint and slotted the ball into the gaping net.

From there it should have been a stroll in the park for Brazil but they conspired to make it a nervous finish for themselves. Douglas Luiz stupidly gave away a penalty that was converted by Jesus Medina with ten minutes left on the clock before a beautiful strike from the same player made it 3-2 in the dying moments. Medina received the ball on the corner of the Brazilian 18-yard box before cutting inside Guilherme Arana and stroking it into the top-corner.

Brazil, however, managed to hold out for the three points, which will be enough to see them through to the final stage – a round robin group of six – from which the top four will qualify for the U20 World Cup in Korea in May.

Until the wobble in the closing stages of the game this was by far Brazil’s most convincing performance of the tournament thus far. The Sul-Americano Sub-20 is a marathon rather than a sprint so the improvement gives one hope that Brazil will come good just at the right time.

Once more Richarlison was the outstanding player for the Seleção and it appears as if he is determined to make a name for himself on the stage that so many South-American players have used to propel themselves to greatness in the past.

 

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