Brazil will be looking to stretch their unbeaten run over Ecuador to 11 games when they wrap up their Copa America Group B campaign on Sunday. 

Tite's men have started the tournament in fine form, beating Colombia, Peru and Venezuela to ensure their place in the last eight was secured long before the group's final game. 

They have scored nine goals in those three games and conceded just once. 

Given their place in the knockout stage is already secured, Tite could well shuffle his pack.

Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino, in particular, will be hoping for a first start of the tournament after coming off the bench to score the equaliser against Colombia last time out, while Real Madrid man Vinicius Junior will be hoping to improve on his paltry five minutes of action so far. 

Ecuador, meanwhile, need a win to guarantee their place in the last eight, although they will progress regardless of the result if Venezuela lose to Peru on Sunday. 

They followed up their opening 1-0 defeat to Colombia with consecutive 2-2 draws against Venezuela and Peru. 

That has left them level with Venezuela on two points, though they have a superior goal difference to Jose Peseiro's side.

They have unsurprisingly struggled against Brazil historically, with their last win against the Selecao coming in the South American World Cup qualifiers in 2006.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Neymar

He did not get on the scoresheet against Colombia, but Neymar was heavily involved in the action. 

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar had five shots – a game high – and played two key passes, which was only bettered by Fred from either side. 

He did blot his copybook, however, by losing possession a whopping 40 times – 22 more times than any other player on the pitch, evidence that he was rather wasteful. Something for the 29-year-old to improve on against Ecuador.

Ecuador –​ Ayrton Preciado

Preciado scored his second goal of the campaign in the 2-2 draw with Peru last time out. 

The Santos Laguna winger was a real handful in that clash, taking more touches (90) and playing more key passes (three) than any other player on the pitch.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Tite has won his last 10 games with Brazil in all competitions, his best run since he took over the job. 
- After winning four consecutive games in all competitions, Ecuador are winless in their last five (D2 L3), including two consecutive 2-2 draws against Colombia and Peru in the current Copa America.
- Brazil are the team with the most shots on target per game in the Copa America (6.7). They have also scored the most goals in the competition (nine in three games).
- Ecuador have put in the most crosses per game in the Copa America (29.3), with a 27.3 per cent success rate. They have the third best percentage of successful crosses in the competition after Paraguay and Colombia.

Paraguay booked their spot in the Copa America quarter-finals after comfortably accounting for a lacklustre Chile 2-0 on Thursday.

Goals from Braian Samudio and Miguel Almiron saw Paraguay upstage two-time champions Chile in their penultimate Group A fixture in Brasilia en route to the knockout round.

Samudio's maiden international goal gave Paraguay a 33rd-minute lead at Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, before Almiron converted a penalty 13 minutes into the second half.

Chile were aiming to maintain their unbeaten start under head coach Martin Lasarte having won three and drawn three of the six matches since his appointment, while trying to put some pressure on Group A leaders Argentina.

But Chile struggled from the outset, recording just one tame shot on target throughout against Paraguay, with Eduardo Vargas and Ben Brereton bystanders in a forgettable outing.

Paraguay looked the more likely to score and forward Samudio broke the deadlock just past the half-hour mark – the 25-year-old rising highest to beat two defenders as his thumping header from Almiron's corner beat Claudio Bravo.

Carlos Gonzalez went close to doubling Paraguay's lead four minutes before half-time, however, his header in an unmarked situation went wide of the post in a big let-off for Bravo and Chile.

Paraguay did not have to wait long for their second goal after Chile veteran Gary Medel was penalised for a foul on Gonzalez in the 55th minute, with Newcastle United's Almiron stepping up to score the spot-kick.

Arturo Vidal led passionate appeals for a Chile penalty amid calls for a handball against Paraguay with 14 minutes remaining, but their protests fell on deaf ears, even after a VAR review.

That was the closest Chile came to scoring, with La Roja offering next to nothing in attack on a frustrating evening.

The gloss was taken off Paraguay's victory after substitute Antonio Bareiro left the field crying uncontrollably on a stretcher following what appeared to be a serious knee injury.

Edinson Cavani was on target as Uruguay booked their spot in the knockout stages of the Copa America with a 2-0 victory over Bolivia at Arena Pantanal.

After losing their opening match to Argentina, Oscar Tabarez's men drew 1-1 with Chile on matchday two to breathe a bit of life into their campaign, and a first Group A win was enough to seal a place in the last eight. 

They largely struggled in the first half against Cesar Farias' side, yet went in at the break 1-0 up courtesy of an unlucky own goal by Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe. 

La Celeste dominated the second period and scored a deserved second 11 minutes from time through Cavani, who had earlier missed a host of glorious chances.

Bolivia held their own in the opening stages, with Uruguay reduced to little more than half-chances inside the first 20 minutes.

Cavani had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock midway through the first half, but the Manchester United forward was thwarted by Lampe after struggling to get the ball out of his feet.

Uruguay went ahead five minutes before the interval in fortuitous circumstances, Luis Suarez's low cross diverted into his own net by Lampe after Jairo Quinteros' attempted clearance had crashed against him.

Cavani fired straight at Lampe shortly after the interval when it looked easier to score, while at the other end Fernando Muslera tipped over a powerful strike from Ramiro Vaca. 

Lampe twice denied Suarez before the hour mark – the first seeing him keep out the Atletico Madrid striker's audacious 40-yard half-volley – before the Bolivia keeper pawed over a fierce drive from Rodrigo Bentancur. 

Substitute Facundo Torres missed a glaring opportunity at the back post, but the 21-year-old made amends with a fine low cross which was clinically dispatched by Cavani from 12 yards to wrap up all three points.

Uruguay really should have scored a third deep into stoppage time, yet Maxi Gomez inexplicably skewered wide with the goal at his mercy.

Barcelona sent birthday greetings to Lionel Messi as the club captain turned 34 on Thursday – at a time when his future remains unresolved.

The man who holds a near clean sweep of individual club records has yet to sign a new contract, with his deal due to expire at the end of June.

There was customary warmth towards Messi in the social media posts by Barcelona, who showcased a reel of his 10 best goals, and now they must hope he has more birthdays to come while serving at Camp Nou.

Messi, whose career has been a one-club odyssey, is currently on Copa America duty in Brazil with the Argentina national team.

He is Barcelona's record goalscorer and has made more appearances for the club than any other player, also winning an unsurpassed six Ballon d'Or trophies while with the Catalan giants.

Messi sensationally sought to leave Barcelona last year, looking to exercise a clause in his contract that he believed allowed him to depart at the end of the season.

The club disputed his right to go and, faced with the prospect of a legal battle to try to free himself from his deal, Messi rowed back on that intention, committing to another term with the Blaugrana.

He finished as top scorer in LaLiga with 30 goals – seven more than any other player – and helped Barcelona win the Copa del Rey under new boss Ronald Koeman.

Those goals came at a rate of one every 100.77 minutes, with Messi surpassing his expected goals (xG) total of 23.79 comfortably.

However, Barcelona had started the season dreadfully and, despite picking up form in the new year, another dip came in the closing weeks of the campaign as a promising title challenge collapsed.

That allowed Atletico Madrid to capture the LaLiga trophy, with Real Madrid runners-up and Barcelona third.

The financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis has hit Barcelona hard and the contract offer tabled to Messi is reportedly not at the same level as his soon-to-expire deal.

The election of Joan Laporta as club president appears to have been taken as a positive step forward by Messi, who was scathing at times in his criticism of the previous regime, headed up by Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Barcelona have signed the likes of Eric Garcia, Memphis Depay and Messi's great friend Sergio Aguero to reinforce their side for next season.

Clearly, the club are building in the anticipation Messi will commit, rather than be tempted by the likes of past suitors Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

"He wants to stay," said Laporta recently, speaking at the presentation of a TV3 documentary about Messi.

"I do not contemplate a no. But it isn't easy. We'll do what we can."

A quick glance on Twitter and the trending topics in Colombia and Brazil would give you a rough idea of what transpired in Rio de Janeiro.

Pitana, Ospina, Colombia, Brazil and Copa America were among the trending names and words via social media after controversy marred the Selecao's 2-1 victory on Wednesday.

Reigning Copa America champions Brazil completed a stunning comeback in the 100th minute thanks to Casemiro's last-gasp header, but Colombia were still seething from an incident in the 78th minute.

Roberto Firmino's equaliser with 12 minutes of regulation time remaining came after the ball deflected off referee Nestor Pitana in the build-up – the official allowing play to continue rather than call for a drop-ball, leading to lengthy protests from goalkeeper David Ospina and Colombia.

The goal stood, even after a VAR review.

But amid the Copa chaos, Brazil head coach Tite added to his growing legacy.

While Brazil had their run of six consecutive clean sheets ended, a streak dating back to October 2020, the Selecao extended their winning streak to 10 consecutive games.

Casemiro's goal – officially timed at 99:22, the latest recorded 90th-minute goal in a Copa fixture since Arturo Vidal scored for Chile against Bolivia in 2016 at 99:48, sealed top spot in Group B with one game remaining while preserving a 100 per cent record at this year's tournament on home soil.

It saw Tite surpass his own record with Brazil.

With wins over Colombia, Peru (twice), Venezuela (twice), Paraguay, Ecuador, Uruguay, Bolivia and South Korea, Tite exceeded his previous winning streak of nine straight games (in 2016) at the helm of the Selecao.

Tite was influential on the sidelines as Brazil bounced back from Luis Diaz's stunning and acrobatic 10th-minute opener.

He introduced Renan Lodi and Firmino – the pair were involved for Brazil's second-half equaliser against Colombia.

At the end of the encounter, Tite passed Sebastiao Lazaroni as the second coach with the most Copa America matches without defeats – eight to seven.

Legendary former coach Mario Zagallo – who won two World Cups as a player and one while in charge of Brazil, holds the record, having not tasted defeated in 12 appearances at the CONMEBOL tournament.

Since being appointed in 2016, Tite has overseen 43 wins, 10 draws and four defeats.

Controversy or not, the Tite train rolls on in pursuit of back-to-back Copa crowns.

Brazil head coach Tite slammed the "inadmissible" pitch at Estadio Nilton Santos in Rio de Janeiro, despite Wednesday's controversial 2-1 Copa America win over Colombia.

Tite's Brazil were forced to come from behind for their 10th consecutive win, needing a last-gasp Casemiro header 10 minutes into stoppage time to secure a dramatic victory midweek.

Luis Diaz's stunning and acrobatic volley had given Colombia a 10th-minute lead and defending champions Brazil struggled to create any chances until the second half, with substitute Roberto Firmino equalising with 12 minutes of regulation remaining.

Colombia were left seething when Firmino's 78th-minute equaliser came after the ball deflected off referee Nestor Pitana in the build-up – the official allowing play to continue rather than call for a drop-ball, leading to lengthy protests from Colombia.

Casemiro's 100th-minute goal – officially timed at 99:22, the latest recorded 90th-minute goal at the Copa America since 2016, then sealed top spot for in-form Brazil in Group B.

Brazil head coach Tite took aim at the playing surface, claiming it "spoiled the whole spectacle" and made it hard for his side to play.

"We have to understand the game within a context," Tite said at his news conference. "It was a field that I won't call horrible, but very bad for playing football, it spoils the whole spectacle.

"Whoever wants to create cannot. It is inadmissible for athletes from two high-level teams, who play in Europe with such a great quality of turf and a better, bigger spectacle, to come and play on a field under these conditions.

"The ball is torn. The fluency of the play is all impaired. If I take all the players from Brazil and ask them to comment on it, they will say almost the same thing I am saying.

"If we want a great show, we have to provide the conditions. It was very damaged. It's one of the aspects that I want to make clear."

Tite, whose Brazil had their run of six consecutive clean sheets ended, added: "This game is not the characteristic of the traditional Brazil against Colombia game. All the other games were competitive, but they had more play.

"We played pressured. And playing pressured is difficult, soon you want to get rhythm and you can't."

Tite was forthright on the playing surface, although he refused to be drawn on his side's controversial leveller, which occurred after the ball deflected off referee Nestor Pitana, who opted to allow play to continue.

Colombia's players protested the decision with Pitana for several minutes, after a goal was awarded despite a VAR check.

"I regret what I'm going to say, but Pitana has to take care," Tite said. "He has to take care."

Defending champions Brazil secured top spot in Group B in dramatic fashion, claiming a last-gasp 2-1 win over Colombia as controversy marred the Copa America showdown.

Colombia were left seething when Brazil substitute Roberto Firmino's 78th-minute equaliser came after the ball deflected off referee Nestor Pitana in the build-up – the official allowing play to continue rather than call for a drop-ball, leading to lengthy protests from Colombia.

Brazil compounded Colombia's frustrations after Casemiro struck in the 10th minute of stoppage time as the Selecao extended their winning streak to 10 games on Wednesday.

Colombia had been holding on to a 1-0 lead after Luis Diaz's spectacular 10th-minute volley, ending Brazil's six-game run without conceding a goal.

Reinaldo Rueda's Colombia took the lead in stunning fashion, when Juan Cuadrado whipped in a cross from the right flank, finding an unmarked Diaz – who fired home a sensational bicycle volley at the back post in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil, who went into the game having scored more goals (seven) and had more shots on target per game (eight) than any other team at this year's Copa America, struggled to create chances in the first 45 minutes.

Neymar had his first sniff on goal in the 55th minute from a direct ball he volleyed tamely on target, while he shot wide from outside the box shortly after.

In the 66th minute, half-time substitute Firmino produced a clever pass for Neymar to round goalkeeper David Ospina, only to hit the post off-balance from an angle.

Brazil found an equaliser with 12 minutes remaining, although it was controversial after the ball hit the referee in the lead-up, with play allowed to continue, rather than a drop-ball.

Tite's Selecao immediately pushed the ball wide to substitute Renan Lodi, whose cross was glanced in by Firmino, with Ospina unable to prevent it from creeping under him.

With virtually the last kick of the game, an unmarked Casemiro headed in Neymar's corner at the near post, sparking mass celebrations.

Peru rallied from two goals down to salvage a 2-2 draw with Ecuador at the Copa America on Wednesday.

Ecuador were in control of the Group B contest against Peru on Wednesday – leading 2-0 at half-time in Goiania.

A Renato Tapia own goal had handed Ecuador a 1-0 lead after 23 minutes and Eduar Preciado doubled the advantage in the third minute of first-half stoppage time.

Peru – runners-up in 2019 – had entered the fixture knowing victory would see them through to the quarter-finals of CONMEBOL's showpiece tournament.

Former Milan forward Gianluca Lapadula inspired Peru's comeback with a stunning five-minute performance in the second half.

Lapadula scored his first international goal in the 49th minute to give hope to Peru – the only side to have progressed from all group stages in the Copa America since 1997.

The Italy-born Benevento forward then turned provider, teeing up Andre Carrillo for the equaliser five minutes later as Peru escaped with a point.

The result left Peru third in Group B on four points from three games, level with Colombia and two points behind defending champions Brazil, while Ecuador sit fourth with two points from their three fixtures.

Uruguay face Bolivia in the Copa America on Thursday and need Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez to start producing in attack.

After losing their opening match to Argentina, Oscar Tabarez's men drew 1-1 with Chile on matchday two to breathe a bit of life into their campaign.

The goal was their first since November 2020, yet it came via Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal, who turned into his own net under pressure from Suarez.

Uruguay's problems in attack are clear: they have the lowest shooting accuracy at the Copa America (20 per cent), and the worst shot conversion rate (five per cent).

That is in spite of the fact they boast a strike partnership in Suarez and Cavani who have plundered 114 international goals between them. They have only managed a combined seven shots at these finals, six of which came against Chile.

Uruguay do, at least, have a strong recent record against Bolivia, who have lost to Paraguay and Chile at this tournament and only won one of their past 12 meetings with La Celeste – a qualifier for the 2014 World Cup.

Indeed, Bolivia are on a 10-game winless run in Copa America matches played in Brazil and have not beaten Uruguay at a neutral venue since 1949.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bolivia – Roberto Fernandez

Fernandez belied his inexperience with a strong performance against Chile, making six clearances and four interceptions at left-back, with only two team-mates having more than his 67 touches of the ball.

He could find himself in with a tough battle against Federico Valverde down the Uruguay right.

Uruguay – Facundo Torres

Torres attempted three shots and created two chances against Chile, as many as Cavani managed, despite the 21-year-old only coming on for the final 30 minutes.

This could be a good opportunity for Tabarez to hand the Penarol forward a chance to impress from the start.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Uruguay have lost only one of their past 12 games against Bolivia in all competitions (W8 D3), 1-0 in La Paz in World Cup 2014 qualifying. 
- Uruguay have won 11 of their 13 games against Bolivia at neutral venues (D1 L1). The only win for Bolivia was in 1949, 3-2 in Rio de Janeiro in the Copa America.
- Bolivia have lost their past five games and have failed to win in their previous 10 Copa America matches played in Brazil (D2 L8). They have won only four games in the competition in this country, all of them at the 1949 edition.
- Bolivia have the lowest possession average (31.2 per cent) but the highest forward passes percentage (39.4 per cent of their 597 total passes) at the tournament.
- Uruguay have the lowest shooting accuracy at the Copa America 2021: only the 20 per cent (4/20) of their shots have been on target. They have the lowest shot conversion rate, too (five per cent).

Chile will aim to maintain their unbeaten start under head coach Martin Lasarte and put some pressure on Copa America Group A leaders Argentina when they face Paraguay on Thursday.

La Roja have won three and drawn three of their six matches since experienced coach Lasarte replaced Reinaldo Rueda in February.

That includes 1-1 draws against Argentina and Uruguay, either side of a 1-0 win against Bolivia, to leave them second in their Copa America group with one game to go.

Chile are assured of a place in the knockout stages, but Lasarte is eager to avoid going through in fourth place, which would mean a quarter-final tie with favourites Brazil.

"We do not want to qualify in last place. Avoiding Brazil is key as they are the most powerful side in the tournament," he said.

"The draw against Uruguay, who have a lot of great players, was not bad. I'd have liked a win, but to draw was good."

Paraguay still have work to do if they are to progress out of the group, having followed up a 3-1 win over Bolivia in their first game with a 1-0 loss to Argentina last time out.

Papu Gomez scored the only goal of the game after 10 minutes for Argentina and Paraguay could not find a leveller, despite having more of the ball.

Los Guaranies will now be looking to overcome Chile in order to stay in the hunt for a top-four spot that would see them advance.

Head coach Eduardo Berizzo said: "We played a solid game defensively against Argentina and we have to continue with that.

"The attitude has been very good from the team and the players have given everything. We weren't rewarded for our efforts in the last game but we will try again."


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chile – Claudio Bravo

The Real Betis goalkeeper is the oldest player taking part in the Copa America at 38 years, but he is showing that age is just a number.

He has made the most saves among keepers to have played at least two games with 11 in total across three appearances (3.7 per game on average).


Paraguay – Alejandro Romero Gamarra

Gamarra has only played twice so far in this year's Copa America, yet he has created more chances than any other player in the competition (12) prior to Wednesday's games.

The prolific Al-Taawoun attacker was also on target in his side's victory over Bolivia to make it four goals in eight senior caps for Paraguay.


KEY OPTA FACTS

– Paraguay are unbeaten in their last four games against Chile on neutral soil (W2  D2).

– Chile have not conceded more than one goal in any of their six games under head coach Lasarte.

– Paraguay have the highest possession in this year's Copa America (66.8 per cent) and have created 16.5 chances per game, more than any other side.

Peru beat Ecuador in a World Cup qualifier this month and a repeat of that victory on Wednesday will see them through to the quarter-finals of the Copa America.

Goals from Luis Advincula and Christian Cueva in Quito on June 8 gave Peru a first win in the battle to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar next year.

The Blanquirroja responded to a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Brazil in their Copa America opener by beating Colombia 2-1 in Goiania on Sunday.

Ricardo Gareca's side moved up to third in Group B courtesy of a Yerry Mina own goal and with four teams qualifying for the last eight, they are on the verge of advancing.

Peru, beaten in the 2019 final by Brazil, will have to improve at the back, having failed to keep a clean sheet in 11 matches but will be on a high after ending a run of 10 games without getting the better of Colombia.

Ecuador are bottom of the group with one point after Ronald Hernandez's stoppage-time goal salvaged a 2-2 draw for Venezuela on Sunday.

La Tri boss Gustavo Alfaro is well aware of the threat Peru pose ahead of the clash at Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico Teixeira.

He said: "We must not forget that they have come from being finalists of the last Copa America. Apart from the fact that they had a bad start to the qualifying rounds, they are in a process of recovery. They have a very good and capable coach in Ricardo Gareca.

"I have full confidence in who we are, in the capacities that they have from the middle of the field forward, in how they dominate situations, in everything they have done in knockout games."


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ecuador – Gonzalo Plata

Plata was only introduced as a substitute midway through the second half against Venezuela but surely did enough to earn a start.

The winger put La Tri in front for a second time and hit the target with three of his four shots in a lively cameo, also providing two key passes.

 

Peru – Alexander Callens

A lack of clean sheets has been an issue for Peru, but Callens played a big hand in the win over Colombia at the heart of their defence.

His seven clearances were over twice as many as any other player as Peru picked up three precious points.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Ecuador have failed to win in their previous five games against Peru in World Cup qualification and Copa America (D1 L4) fixtures. Previously, they were 11 games unbeaten against Los Incas in these competitions (W7 D4).

- Three of the four Ecuador wins under Gustavo Alfaro were at home: their only win away from home with him as a manager was against Bolivia, in World Cup qualification.

- Peru are the only side to have progressed from all group stages in the Copa America since 1997. Argentina are the other team that have never been eliminated in the first round in that time, though they did not appear in Copa America 2001.

- Thanks to his goal against Venezuela, Ecuador's Plata became the first player born in the 21st century to score in Copa America.

- Two Peruvians rank in the top four players with the most recoveries per game in this Copa America (at least two appearances): Renato Tapia (10.5), Yoshimar Yotun (9, alongside Ecuador's Pervis Estupinan), surpassed only by Junior Alonso (11).

Brazil can secure top spot in Copa America Group B with victory over Colombia on Wednesday.

The two sides go into the glamour clash of the group on the back of hugely contrasting results against Peru.

Neymar and Co. ensured the Selecao swept aside Los Incas 4-0 in their last game, but Colombia were stunned as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat to the same opposition.

As a result, Brazil will finish top of Group B should they win against Colombia and Peru fail to beat Ecuador.

That will secure a quarter-final with the fourth-placed side in Group A, but it may not mean a routine last-eight clash, as Uruguay occupy that spot as it stands.

A win will secure Colombia's place in the quarters, though a draw could be enough if Ecuador lose to Peru in the earlier game.

The omens are not good for Colombia heading into the match in Rio de Janeiro. They are winless in their last four meetings with Selecao, Colombia's last victory coming in the 2015 Copa America.

 

Brazil are the top scorers in the tournament, having netted seven goals in their opening two games, but they may look to show greater ruthlessness in front of goal against Colombia.

Their 35 shots have carried an expected goals (xG) value of 8.6 and, with this game likely to be a better barometer of where they stand ahead of the knockout stages, Brazil will be eager to do a better job of taking their chances and send a message to their rivals for the trophy.

Should Colombia seal progression, it will be the fifth successive Copa America in which they have reached the last eight.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil - Richarlison

The Everton striker may have earned a place in the starting XI with his performance in the thumping of Peru.

Richarlison came on at the start of the second half for Gabriel Barbosa and had four shots, with three on target, scored Brazil's fourth and created two chances.

 

Colombia - Edwin Cardona

Though Colombia slumped to a surprise defeat, it was another impressive performance for Cardona against Peru.

He created a match-high three chances, taking his tally for the tournament to seven, and produced two good crosses in a game Colombia lost despite having an xG of 1.5 to Peru's 0.94.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Brazil have lost only of their last 19 games against Colombia in all competitions (W11 D7). Their only defeat against them in that run was in Copa America 2015 (1-0).

- Brazil are unbeaten at home since their defeat to the Netherlands in third-place play-off at the 2014 World Cup. Since then, they have played 25 games (W22 D3) and only failed to score in two games.

- Colombia boss Reinaldo Rueda is looking for his first win against Brazil: he has managed two games against them, one as Ecuador manager and another in his previous spell with Colombia (D1 L1). His draw was for Colombia on Brazilian soil in qualification for the 2006 World Cup.

- Brazil have scored more goals (7) and had more shots on target per game (8) than any other team in Copa America 2021, and only Paraguay (16.5) have created more chances per game than the Brazilians (12.5) in the competition. Brazil have score one goal every 26 minutes on average.

- Colombia have made their shots, on average, closer to the target than any other side (13.7 metres): 82.5 per cent of their shots were from inside the box, the highest percentage in Copa America 2021.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni voiced concerns about the physical condition of his players while highlighting the importance of Lionel Messi after La Albiceleste booked their spot in the Copa America quarter-finals.

Papu Gomez was the hero for Argentina, with his 10th-minute goal sealing a 1-0 win over Paraguay on Monday and a spot in the last eight of the showpiece CONMEBOL tournament.

There was no rest for superstar captain Messi, who equalled Javier Mascherano's record for most Argentina appearances with his 147th cap, despite Scaloni's men backing up from Friday's success against Uruguay.

Messi has not missed a minute of Argentina's three Group A games so far, amassing 74 touches against Paraguay while winning 75 per cent of a team-high 16 duels.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner had the most shots (three) and shots on target (two) among his team-mates as Argentina extended their unbeaten streak to 16 matches, dating back to 2019.

"The reality is that Messi has been playing every game and it is very difficult not to count on him, even though he is tired he continues to make the difference," said Scaloni, who introduced the likes of Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero into the starting XI.

"Today we made several changes and despite that we were able to take all three points."

Without a major title since the 1993 Copa America, Argentina snapped a four-game winless drought against Paraguay in Brasilia.

Argentina ended the contest with a total of eight shots (five from outside the box) – their second lowest figure during the Scaloni era, tied with the match against Ecuador in October 2020 and one more than they registered against Paraguay at the 2019 Copa America.

Paraguay controlled possession across the 90 minutes – 56.9 to 43.1 per cent, the first time in the last nine meetings with Argentina they had more ball possession.

"What worries me is the physical condition of the players because we came from playing three days ago and today the conditions were not the best, so we had to rotate players," Scaloni told reporters.

"The first half we played very well and in the second, due to the merit of Paraguay and their good physical condition, as a result of many days off, they had more control of the game. The team showed a good image in the first half, but there are always things to keep improving."

"The beauty of all this is the process," Lionel Scaloni said post-game.

Sixteen games unbeaten and through to the Copa America quarter-finals for the 14th consecutive CONMEBOL tournament.

Papu Gomez's delightful 10th-minute effort over onrushing Antony Silva extended Argentina's undefeated streak, while snapping a four-match winless drought against Paraguay on Monday.

Add seven clean sheets during an unbeaten run, dating back to the 2019 Copa America semi-finals, and it sounds wonderful for La Albiceleste in pursuit of a first major title since 1993.

This is not your usual Argentina, despite boasting a record six-time Ballon d'Or winner – Lionel Messi, who equalled Javier Mascherano's appearance record with his 147th cap – hellbent on claiming an elusive international trophy.

Aside from Gomez's delicate finish, there was not much to write home about. After a promising opening half, Argentina faded. A growing theme under head coach Scaloni.

Argentina ended the Group A contest with a total of eight shots (five from outside the box) – their second lowest figure during the Scaloni era, tied with the match against Ecuador in October 2020 and one more than they registered against Paraguay at the 2019 Copa America.

Paraguay controlled possession across the 90 minutes – 56.9 to 43.1 per cent, the first time in the last nine meetings with Argentina they had more ball possession. Fortunately for Scaloni's side, La Albirroja did not manage a shot on target.

At a time when Argentina was reeling following another early and unsuccessful World Cup campaign, ousted in the round of 16 at Russia 2018, Scaloni stepped into a hot seat so few were willing to take on.

The seven-time Argentina international provided stability when superstar captain Messi initially retired. Scaloni oversaw a run to the 2019 Copa America semi-finals – La Albiceleste settled for third.

Fast forward to this year and even amid a lengthy undefeated streak, there are growing questions over Scaloni, the style of football and Argentina's ability to put an end to 28 years of anguish.

While the football might not be so easy on the eye, it's the results that matter at the moment as Argentina build towards dethroning South American rivals Brazil on their own turf.

Argentina qualified for the Copa America quarter-finals after ending their drought against Paraguay with a 1-0 victory.

Not since the 2015 Copa had Argentina tasted a win over Paraguay – a run of four consecutive matches – but La Albiceleste snapped that winless streak thanks to Papu Gomez on Monday.

Gomez scored the winner in the 10th minute, scooping an effort over onrushing Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva, for his second goal from just his sixth international appearance.

As Lionel Messi equalled the record for most Argentina appearances, Lionel Scaloni's men extended their winning streak to 16 games in Brasilia.

Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero were named in the starting XI for the first time during this year's Copa, and the veteran Argentina pair were heavily involved early.

Aguero had a great chance to put Argentina ahead in the seventh minute after some woeful defending saw the ball fall to his feet inside the six-yard box, however, the Barcelona recruit's reactive effort went just over the crossbar.

Argentina did break the deadlock three minutes later via Gomez, who beat the offside trap and finished delicately over Silva after Di Maria cut a ball perfectly to the Sevilla star.

Paraguay ended the half with more possession – 55.2 per cent to 44.8 per cent – as Argentina dropped off after scoring the opening goal.

Argentina did find the back of the net for a second time on the stroke of half-time, wheeling away in celebration after Gomez's cross was inadvertently put into his own net by Paraguay defender Junior Alonso but it was ruled offside.

There was a promising spell of sustained pressure from Paraguay, who had not lost to Argentina in six years, to start the second half.

Paraguay continued to dictate proceedings without creating anything meaningful as Argentina booked their spot in the knockout phase in pursuit of a first major title since winning the 1993 Copa America.

 

What does it mean? Argentina roll on

Argentina are a tough team to beat at the moment. Not since the 2019 Copa America have La Albiceleste tasted defeat – a run of 16 consecutive matches without a loss. They have kept seven clean sheets during that run.

Messi milestone

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner celebrated another milestone on Monday, equalling Javier Mascherano for the most senior Argentina appearances – 147. Messi is already the country's all-time leading scorer (73).

Toothless Paraguay

Paraguay enjoyed more possession and a better passing accuracy, but it did not translate to anything meaningful up front. Eduardo Berizzo's side ended the contest without a shot on target.

What's next?

Argentina will conclude their Group A campaign against winless Bolivia in Cuiaba on Monday, while Paraguay meet Uruguay on the same day.

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