Brazil survive penalty shootout to beat Paraguay

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Gabriel Jesus struck the decisive spot-kick as Brazil advanced to the Copa America semifinals on Thursday by defeating Paraguay 4-3 on penalties.

Gustavo Gomez had his penalty attempt saved and Derlis Gonzalez sent his effort wide in a dramatic climax at Arena do Gremio in Porto Alegre.

Roberto Firmino was the only Brazil player to miss from the spot while Philippe Coutinho, Marquinhos and Willian joined Jesus in converting their attempts after the scores were locked at 0-0 after the allotted 90 minutes.

The result ended a wretched run of results in this tournament for Brazil against Paraguay, who eliminated the Selecao on penalties in the quarterfinals of the 2011 and 2015 editions.

The victory was nothing less than the hosts deserved after they dominated for long periods, particularly after Fabian Balbuena was sent off just before the hour mark.

Paraguay had goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez to thank for keeping them in the contest as he made a series of fines saves to deny Brazil in the final 30 minutes.

The five-time world champions made just one change to the team that beat Peru 5-0 last Saturday, with Napoli midfielder Allan replacing the suspended Casemiro.

Everton forward Richarlison, who started the first two matches but was an unused substitute against Peru, was ruled out of the match due to illness.

Meanwhile, Peru manager Eduardo Berizzo brought in West Ham United's Balbuena to form part of a five-man defence in a bid to quell Brazil's attacking threat. Midfielder Celso Ortiz and winger Hernan Perez were also brought in for Matias Rojas and Rodrigo Rojas.

Newcastle United's Miguel Almiron was deployed as a false nine with Oscar Cardozo relegated to the bench.

As expected, Paraguay were content to concede possession for long periods in an effort to hit Brazil on the counterattack.

The hosts had 67% of the ball in the first half but only three shots on target compared to Paraguay's one.

Firmino was presented with a chance to put the hosts ahead in the opening minutes but his tame 20-yard effort was comfortably saved by Fernandez.

Paraguay's best opportunity of the opening period came when Perez whipped a diagonal cross to Gonzalez at the far post before seeing his shot tipped behind by Alisson.

Brazil started the second half in a more lively mood, using quicker triangular passes in an effort to unlock Paraguay's defence.

Arthur sent a rasping 25-year effort over the bar and Dani Alves threaded a pass to Firmino, who was knocked down by Balbuena just outside the penalty box with only the goalkeeper ahead of him.

The game was delayed for more than five minutes as Chilean referee Roberto Tobar consulted the video assistant referee before showing the defender a straight red card.

Gremio forward Everton showed why he is reportedly attracting the interest of several European clubs by menacing the right side of Paraguay's defence. The 23-year-old brought the crowd to their feet in the 74th minute by beating his marker and firing a perfect cross to Gabriel Jesus, who nodded wide from the edge of the six-yard box.

Brazil continued to press but luck appeared to be against them. Coutinho sent an inviting cross to Alex Sandro, whose header was brilliantly saved by Fernandez and Willian's left-footed shot from distance cannoned off the inside of the post.

Fernandez tipped another Everton effort over the bar and Coutinho skewed a shot wide before, mercifully for Paraguay, the referee blew his whistle and forced the match into a penalty shootout. 

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