Fred ruins Paraguay’s upset bid
Substitute striker Fred scored in the 89th minute as defending champion Brazil salvaged a 2-2 draw with Paraguay in the Copa America on Saturday.
Brazil seemed headed for defeat until Fred found the net from inside the area to equalize at Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes. The loss would have left the Brazilians in serious danger of failing to advance from the group stage of the South American championship.
The result keeps Brazil and Argentina, the region’s powerhouses touted to meet in the final, winless after playing two matches each. None are certain to advance to the next stage in the 12-team competition.
Fred scored after a perfect one-touch pass by playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso, striking a low shot into the right corner of Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar.
”It was a good result,” Fred said. ”It showed us how difficult it is to play against these other teams.”
A member of Brazil’s 2006 World Cup team, Fred entered Saturday’s match to replace young sensation Neymar, who for the second match in a row was ineffective.
Jadson gave Brazil the lead with a low shot from the top of the area in the 38th, but Paraguay came back with goals by Roque Santa Cruz in the 54th and by Nelson Haedo Valdez in the 66th after mistakes by the Brazilian defense.
”We are very upset,” said Paraguay’s Nestor Ortigoza. ”We started well. Didn’t let (Brazil) play.”
The result leaves Paraguay and Brazil with two points each after two Group B matches. Venezuela and Ecuador, with a point each, played late Saturday.
”It was important to show that we can come back,” substitute midfielder Elano said. ”But we need to improve and keep our calm.”
Brazil had been controlling possession when Jadson opened the scoring. He received the ball near midfield and had time to set up his right-footed low shot that found Villar’s right corner.
Jadson was a surprise starter after coach Mano Menezes change Brazil’s lineup after the disappointing 0-0 draw with Venezuela in the team’s opener. The midfielder replaced striker Robinho, who was not effective as a playmaker in the first match.
Paraguay equalized when Brazil’s defense was caught off guard in the 54th. Marcelo Estigarribia made a run on the left side and found Santa Cruz free from markers inside the area. He just one-touched the ball past Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
It was Santa Cruz’s 25th goal for Paraguay, tying Jose Cardozo’s team record.
Santa Cruz also gave the pass for Paraguay’s go-ahead goal by substitute striker Valdez, who entered the match in the 56th. After a mistake by defender Daniel Alves, Santa Cruz stole the ball and gave it to Valdez near the penalty spot. His shot was initially blocked but the ball bounced in off him.
”We made two mistakes and that’s how Paraguay got their two goals,” midfielder Lucas Leiva said. ”We hope to get better in the next match.”
Brazil will play Ecuador in its final group play, while Paraguay will face Venezuela.
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Daniel Alves, Lucio, Thiago Silva, Andre Santos, Lucas Leiva, Ramires (Lucas 71), Paulo Henrique Ganso, Jadson (Elano, 46), Alexandre Pato, Neymar (Fred, 81).
Paraguay: Justo Villar, Dario Veron, Paulo Da Silva, Antolin Alcaraz, Aureliano Torres, Enrique Vera, Cristian Riveros (Victor Caceres, 67), Nestor Ortigoza, Marcelo Estigarribia (Osvaldo Martinez, 78), Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Barrios (Nelson Haedo Valdez, 56).
Referee: Wilmar Roldan, Colombia.