Copa favourites Brazil fail to fire again

Brazil failed once again to live up their favourites label at the Copa America on Saturday, securing a 2-2 draw with Paraguay after they stood 90 seconds from defeat.

Updated: July 10, 2011 10:09 IST
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Buenos Aires: Brazil failed once again to live up their favourites label at the Copa America on Saturday, securing a 2-2 draw with Paraguay after they stood 90 seconds from defeat.

Substitute striker Fred rescued a point, but unless the auriverde can beat Ecuador in their final Group B match, the holders will have to sweat on whether they have done enough to reach the quarter-finals.

On current form, they barely deserve to advance.

Then again, in a tournament which is proving a punishing experience for Latin America's big teams, neither do their traditional rivals Argentina or Uruguay.

The trio have won 36 out of 42 past editions of the tournament between them but this year they are not having their own way.

Six matches played and zero wins is the story so far for the auriverde, the albiceleste and the celeste.

While the big guns struggle to impress, new names are emerging, not least Venezuela, who stand proudly atop Brazil's group after first holding the samba stars to a goalless draw in La Plata, then Saturday edging aside Ecuador with a superlative strike from Cesar Gonzalez at Salta.

With Peru, whose last title came in 1975, and Chile, who have never won the event, setting the pace in their group ahead of World Cup semi-finalists the Uruguayans and Colombia keeping Argentina in their place, the established order is rocking if not yet crumbling.

Had Fred not appeared when he did for the Brazilians the holders would now be bottom of their group rather than looking forward to taking out their mounting frustrations on Ecuador.

Brazil coach Mano Menezes put a brave face on the Paraguay outcome, insisting that "they didn't do enough to beat us and it would have been cruel if they had done so."

But he admitted: "There was a lot of pressure on to win - we made some mistakes and almost did lose. Now we go into our third match (which will be) better than our second - which was better than our first."

Dropping Robinho seemed a smart move when new face Jadson scored a fine opener, but he failed to appear after the break when Elano was given a chance and the Brazilians do not appear to have settled on a system on the basis of their opening two matches.

Paraguay's veteran opening scorer Roque Santa Cruz - Nelson Haedo Valdez bundled home their second - was furious after Fred's late intervention denied the 'guarani' a famous win.

"We made mistakes which a great team simply must not do. We dropped key points," the Blackburn man said after netting his 25th goal for his country to go level with Saturnino Cardozo.

Paraguayan coach Gerardo Martino agreed the win should have been closed out.

"From a footballing point of view I am satisfied, but it hurts (to concede the late goal.) We should really have won both our games," he insisted.

With the Venezuelans to come the Paraguayans know they will have their work cut out to gain the win they need to ensure further progress.

Venezuelan defender Oswaldo Viscarrondo, outstanding in both games to date, insisted the team have no intention of throwing it all away now.

"We prepared well and that can be seen from the performances we have turned in.

"This Copa is very finely balanced. I just hope we continue in this vein as we want to reach the quarters," he said.

"Paraguay are a side we respect but we have been gaining respect too these past few years" - to say nothing of over the past week.

Sunday sees Colombia try to secure their quarters place with a win over Bolivia. A point should suffice for the cafeteros and that would mean Argentina having to beat Costa Rica to win Group A.

A draw in that game would mean the hosts having to sweat on bagging a spot in the quarters as one of the two best third-placed finishers.

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