Copa America 2019

Bad pitch but jinx broken

Brazil players including Philippe Coutinho and Alisson celebrating after beating Paraguay in a shoot-out in their Copa America quarter-final on Thursday. Brazil were eliminated by Paraguay in 2011 and 2015.
Brazil players including Philippe Coutinho and Alisson celebrating after beating Paraguay in a shoot-out in their Copa America quarter-final on Thursday. Brazil were eliminated by Paraguay in 2011 and 2015.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Brazil finally beat Paraguay on penalties after much toiling, Tite blasts 'absurd' state of field

PORTO ALEGRE • Brazil coach Tite had feared history would repeat itself - that Paraguay would play for penalties in the hope of replicating their upset shoot-out wins over the Selecao in the past two editions of the Copa America.

True enough, it was again a case of deja vu on Thursday as their opponents held them to a goal-less draw to take their quarter-final tie to a spot-kick lottery. But, this time, the hosts prevailed 4-3 from the spot.

Tite, though, was far from happy with another disjointed display from the favourites, blaming their struggles on the "absurd" pitch.

While the playing conditions at the designated stadiums have come under constant criticism throughout the tournament, the Gremio Arena's particularly bumpy surface means "players need three touches to control the ball".

Pulling no punches, an angry Tite said: "All the players asked me to complain about it. It's absurd at such a high-level match to have a ground that is so hard to pass the ball on. It's inconceivable that any stadium at this level has a pitch in that condition.

"Somebody has to be held accountable because everybody loses when the pitch is in that state.

UNACCEPTABLE

It's inconceivable that any stadium at this level has a pitch in that condition. Somebody has to be held accountable because everybody loses when the pitch is in that state.

TITE, Brazil coach, lamenting the uneven surface on the Gremio Arena field.

"There is room for improvement. But that's also possible when you play passes on a good ground."

However, the home crowd were not buying Tite's excuse his team's failure to click as an attacking force was down to the chopped-up surface, booing them off at half-time for the third time in four matches.

The supporters' frustration was understandable as Brazil were unable to break the deadlock despite enjoying a one-man advantage after defender Fabian Balbuena was been sent off with more than 30 minutes to go.

Goalkeeper Alisson was the hero on the night, stopping defender Gustavo Gomez's effort, as Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus fired home the winning spot kick.

Afterwards, the Liverpool No. 1 hailed the gritty win as just rewards for not just "wanting to play on the counter-attack".

Barcelona midfielder Arthur also felt that Brazil were deserving victors as "we created a lot of chances" and the Paraguay goalkeeper "had to pull off miracles".

Brazil, who are seeking to win the Copa for the first time since 2007, will now hope for a better surface at the Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, where they will take on either Argentina or Venezuela in the semi-finals on Tuesday.

That might be fanciful thinking, though, with Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni, Uruguay forward Luis Suarez and Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez also slamming the conditions.

Argentina skipper Lionel Messi added: "The ball kicks up a lot. The pitches we've played on have been terrible. It's difficult."

The Gremio Arena will host the other semi-final on Wednesday, with the final at the Maracana next Sunday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'Bad pitch but jinx broken'. Print Edition | Subscribe