Jesus Lifts Brazil Into Copa America Semi-final

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Gabriel Jesus scored the winning spot-kick in a tense penalty shoot-out against Paraguay on Thursday, as Brazil qualified for the Copa America semi-finals.

Paraguay had beaten Brazil twice before in 2011 and 2015 at the same stage on penalties in the competition.

Chelsea winger, Willian, came closest to scoring in regulation time for his country, when he struck the post as Paraguay held on for a 0-0 result for more than 40 minutes.

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Fabian Balbuena was sent off for Paraguay, for a professional foul on Roberto Firmino.

Brazilian media had publicised the team’s painful defeats to their opponents on the two occasions before the game.

But goalkeeper Alisson rose to the challenge to save Gustavo Gomez’s opening spot-kick at the Gremio Arena in Porto Alegre.

Although Firmino missed his kick, Paraguay’s Derlis Gonzalez also fired his own kick wide, before Jesus, who missed a penalty in Brazil’s last match, slotted home the match-winner.

The tournament hosts will face either perennial rivals, Argentina, or Venezuela in Tuesday’s semi-final in Belo Horizonte.

Brazil started the game brightly, and produced a beautiful passing move in the fourth minute, with local favorite, Everton, driving in from the left wing and found Dani Alves on the edge of the area. The full-back slipped the ball on to Firmino, whose weak shot went straight at goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez.

But the game quickly settled, with Brazil dominating possession and stringing passes, while a determined Paraguay side held their own and looked to counter the hosts.

The best chance of the first quarter fell to Paraguay, as Hernan Perez found Gonzalez unmarked at back post, but Alisson saved his near post shot.

Three Paraguayan players were booked before half-time for rough tackles.

It wasn’t until five minutes from half time that Coutinho got in behind the defence on the left and fired in a shot from an angle, however, Fernandez saved comfortably.

As expected, Brazil were booed off at half-time for the third time in four matches.

Tite wasted no time in making a change, swapping left-back Felipe Luis for Alex Sandro.

Quick interplay sets up Firmino and Coutinho just outside the box, but the Barcelona forward’s finish was easily saved again.

Brazil changed tactic and were driving more with purpose at Paraguay’s defence, however, they failed to take their chances.

The pressure almost paid dividends on 54 minutes, when Firmino won a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, overturned from the original decision of a penalty by VAR. The culprit, Balbuena, was then shown a red card for a professional foul.

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The resulting Dani Alves’s low free-kick was deflected wide.

With Paraguay unable to pose any threat, Tite withdrew his defensive midfielder, Allan, and brought on Willian, with Jesus pushed into the middle alongside Firmino.

Almost immediately, Jesus missed a gilt-edged chance from eight yards out before Firmino headed a Marquinhos cross wide.

Tite went for broke, bringing on attacking midfielder, Lucas Paqueta, for Alves. The move almost worked, but Willian saw his low left foot shot crash back off the post, sending the match into a tense penalty shoot-out.

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