Brazil’s Copa America semi-final against Uruguay on Wednesday will throw together two teams with distinct and contrasting styles. While not exactly a case of the irresistible force against the immovable object, Brazil will be hoping the flamboyant passing football that bore fruit in the 4-0 quarter-final win over Mexico, will overcome Uruguay’s defensive discipline.
Both sides have reverted to type after recent experimentation with their line-ups. Brazil seem to have hit their stride after an uncertain start to the tournament that highlighted the omission from the squad of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos.
Uruguay coach Jorge Fossati is being credited with turning his team’s fortunes around – throwing out the attacking game plan that not only failed to inspire the players during the dismal start to their World Cup qualifying campaign, but also earned his predecessor Juan Ramon Carrasco the sack.
Brazilian midfielder Alex is in no doubt that Thursday’s match will be a difficult one for the World Cup holders.
“Uruguay are not going to let us play our open passing game. They’ll mark us hard and clamp us down,” he said.
Fossati confirmed the Brazilian’s outlook stating: “We are going to lock the defence and throw away the key,” promising a repeat of the Uruguayans tenacious, spoiling tactics known as ‘Garra Charua’.
The sides last met in a World Cup qualifier in November, playing out a 3-3 draw.
Uruguay, who may be without influential defender Paolo Montero for the semis, have had a difficult tournament and only made the quarter-finals by virtue of being the best third-placed team in the group stages.
However, coach Fossati doesn’t feel they’ll be overawed by the Brazilians.
“We are getting better, nothing marvelous, but better. Brazil has been playing pretty average until now,’ said Fossati. ” To say this is our toughest game would be to show a lack of respect for Mexico and Argentina.”
Brazil’s Copa started with an uninspiring 1-0 win over an average Chile side. The victory was secured by Luis Fabiano’s goal one minute into second-half stoppage time, the Brazilians having earlier given away a penalty that was missed by Chile’s Sebastian Gonzales at the second attempt.
A hat-trick from Inter’s Adriano helped Brazil to a 4-1 in their next match against Costa Rica, but an inept first half performance was all too reminiscent of the Chilean game and it was that form that they took into their final group game.
Having already made their travel arrangements assuming they would win the group, Brazil were beaten by a Paraguay side who exposed a vulnerability to the counter-attack and to high crosses. Despite dominating possession and being a man up for the last 15 minutes after Paraguay’s Emilio Martinez was sent off, the Brazilians lost 2-1 and finished runner-up in their group.
Uruguay’s opening group match was against Brazil’s quarter-final opponents Mexico – with ten minutes of the game to go they were 2-1 down and a man short from Richard Morales’ dismissal. Only a late header by Paolo Montero allowed Uruguay to avoid their fifth consecutive defeat and take some hope into their next game with Ecuador.
A less than impressive win against the group whipping boys was secured by a late Carlos Bueno goal. Any excitement generated by Jorge Fossati’s first win as team coach was soon extinguished by a bruising 4-2 defeat by Argentina. The only plus points for Uruguay being their qualification for the quarter-finals, and the dogged resistance they showed in playing nearly an hour with ten men after the sending off of defender Joe Bizera.
The quarter-finals were a marked improvement for both Brazil and Uruguay. Carlos Alberto Parreira’s men coasted to a 4-0 win against Mexico, dominating the game after a controversial first-half penalty converted by midfielder Alex. Adriano tormented the Mexican defence, winning the spot-kick, and going on to score twice himself and set up the fourth for Ricardo Oliveira.
“This result was emphatic. We were the stronger team out there and we played the best football,” said Carlos Alberto Parreira, clearly delighted with the manner of the victory.
Uruguay booked their semi-final place with a 3-1 win over Paraguay despite again going down to ten men – this time losing midfielder Gustavo Varela just after the hour mark.
With the score at 1-1 the Uruguayans looked to be in trouble, but two goals from Dario Silva and a gritty defensive display secured the win.
Jorge Fossati was upbeat after the win, stating: “We’re delighted to be among the top four teams in America, this competition will serve us well for the future.”