Brazil hopes to keep its perfect World Cup qualifying record intact when they visit Paraguay just days before the Copa America begins. Tite’s side are in first place with a 5-0-0 record and just two goals conceded, fresh off of beating red-hot Ecuador. Paraguay are currently in fourth place in qualifying despite just one win in five games, but they are one of four national teams that have yet to lose.
A goalless stalemate with Uruguay did not exactly set the world alight, but Paraguay have at least managed to navigate their first five games in qualifying without defeat – beating Venezuela while drawing their other four games – including a 1-1 stalemate with Argentina.
Another 13 games will take place before qualification for Qatar 2022 is wrapped up, but as things stand, Paraguay occupy the fourth and final automatic qualification spot on seven points, although Uruguay and Colombia are only behind their adversaries on goal difference.
Berizzo has now overseen an eight-game unbeaten run across all competitions for Paraguay, but failures to convert draws into wins could ultimately prove to be their downfall, with their two home games in qualifying so far both ending 2-2 against Peru and Bolivia.
There is also the small matter of the Copa America to take into account for Paraguay later this month, but in a bid to somehow extend their unbeaten World Cup Qualifying run to six matches against Brazil, Berizzo will not let a hint of complacency creep in from his dogged outfit.
Having been frustrated in the first half of what was often a bad-tempered affair against Ecuador, Brazil ultimately made the breakthrough in the 65th minute of the tie, as Everton forward Richarlison latched onto Neymar’s pass and lashed home an effort which was too difficult for Alexander Dominguez to keep out.
Following a lengthy VAR review and re-taken penalty, Brazil ultimately ran out 2-0 winners on the night as Neymar tucked home his spot kick at the second attempt, although his initial tame effort was comfortably saved by Dominguez before the referee ordered a second attempt following encroachment.
It was far from a vintage performance from Tite’s side on the night, but they got the job done to maintain their 100% start to proceedings in World Cup qualifying, with Brazil sat at the top of the pile following five wins from their opening five matches.
Defending their Copa America crown will certainly come into their thinking before June’s tournament kicks off – although that tournament remains mired in hosting controversy – but Tite’s side cannot switch off for a second as they endeavour to secure a straightforward passage to Qatar 2022, and they will remain atop the rankings no matter what happens this week.
Tite has now witnessed his side string together a six-game winning streak across all competitions, and incredibly, Brazil have not lost away from home since October 2015, but they needed a penalty shootout to overcome Paraguay in the 2019 Copa America quarter-finals.
Paraguay are well-stocked and there are no fresh injury concerns to report from their goalless stalemate with Uruguay, meaning that Berizzo could very well opt for an unchanged team once again.
Only Bolivia’s Marcelo Moreno (five) has struck more goals than Paraguay’s Angel Romero (four) in qualifying so far, and the latter should be supported by Miguel Almiron and Oscar Romero once again.
Brazil’s veteran defenders Dani Alves and Thiago Silva had to cede their places in the squad due to injuries, but Douglas Luiz is available to play following a suspension.
The Aston Villa man could therefore challenge Fred for a spot in Tite’s midfield three, while Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus could battle it out for a place in the attack after Gabriel Barbosa’s dissatisfactory performance against Ecuador.
Richarlison and Neymar should keep their places out wide after netting crucial goals in the win over Ecuador, while Fabinho may be restricted to a substitute outing once again.
Paraguay possible starting lineup:
Silva; Rojas, Gomez, Balbuena, Alderete; Gimenez, Lucena, Villasanti; O. Rome
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