Dunga wary of q-final foes Paraguay

Brazil's Roberto Firmino scores past Venezuela goalkeeper Alain Baroja in their 2-1 Copa America win, ensuring that the South American giants qualify for the quarter-finals as Group C winners.
Brazil's Roberto Firmino scores past Venezuela goalkeeper Alain Baroja in their 2-1 Copa America win, ensuring that the South American giants qualify for the quarter-finals as Group C winners.PHOTO: REUTERS

SANTIAGO - Brazil coach Dunga says he is good friends with his Paraguay counterpart Ramon Diaz and has shared a bottle of wine or two with the Argentinian.

However, only one of them will be in the mood to celebrate after their Copa America quarter-final clash on Saturday.

"Ramon is an experienced coach, he's enjoyed success at many different places such as River Plate and Monaco," Dunga said on Sunday, after his side's 2-1 win over Venezuela in their final group game.

"He's special. As a player, he had a special talent and now as a coach, he's doing a very good job. It'll be a finely balanced match. It'll be like a final."

The two sides will meet in the southern Chilean city of Concepcion in a repeat of the 2011 quarter-final, which Paraguay won on penalties after holding Brazil to a goalless draw.

Dunga shrugged off comparisons with that encounter and said he could not change the past.

"We can't go back in time. What happened at the last Copa America happened. We weren't there, we're here now," he said.

Brazil cannot afford to take their opponents lightly, particularly since Paraguay proved themselves by fighting back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Argentina in their group.

Still, Dunga said he was pleased with the way his side played against Venezuela despite the absence of striker Neymar, who has been suspended for the rest of the tournament for his role in a fracas at the end of Brazil's second group game against Colombia.

Dunga fielded Robinho in Neymar's place and, for much of the game, the Brazilians played with a fluidity which they had lacked against Colombia.

Goals in each half from Paris Saint-Germain star Thiago Silva and Bundesliga-based striker Roberto Firmino clinched a win that ensured Brazil qualified for the last eight on top of Group C.

"We always work on the basis that a team cannot be based around just one player," Dunga said. "I think Brazil will play better as the tournament goes on - each time with more confidence."

Yesterday, Brazil said they will not appeal against Neymar's ban, and the captain would leave the team base in Santiago.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2015, with the headline 'Dunga wary of q-final foes Paraguay'. Print Edition | Subscribe