Porto Alegre (Brazil): Gabriel Jesus scored the winning spot-kick in a tense penalty shootout as Brazil exorcised their demons to beat Paraguay on Friday and reach the Copa America semifinals.
Twice before in 2011 and 2015 Paraguay had beaten Brazil at this same stage on penalties at the South American extravaganza.
Willian came closest to scoring in normal time for Brazil when he hit the post as Paraguay held out for a 0-0 draw for more than 40 minutes following the dismissal of Fabian Balbuena for a professional foul on Roberto Firmino.
Brazilian media had been almost in a state of paranoia before the match recalling the painful memories from Argentina in 2011 and Chile four years later when Paraguay produced stubborn defensive displays before snatching victory in the spotkick.
But it wasn’t to be this time as Brazil goalkeeper Alisson saved Gustavo Gomez’s opening spotkick at the Gremio Arena in Porto Alegre.
Although Firmino dragged his effort wide, Derlis Gonzalez also fired past the post allowing Jesus, who missed a penalty in Brazil’s last match, to be the match-winner.
Brazil started brightly and produced a beautiful passing move in the fourth minute as local favourite Everton drove in off the left wing and found Dani Alves on the edge of the area, with the full-back slipping the ball on to Firmino, whose weak shot was straight at goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez.
But the game quickly settled into the expected pattern, with Brazil dominating possession.
Brazil lacked a cutting edge and even when Philippe Coutinho seemingly played in Firmino behind the defence, the Liverpool forward was easily muscled off the ball.
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.
Brazil were booed off at half-time, for the third time in four matches.
In the end Tite brought on attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta for full-back Alves and it almost worked but Willian’s shot hit the post sending the match into penalty shootout....