Copa America 2021 first semifinal: Brazil-Peru
Peru 3-3 Paraguay
Despite eccentric officiating the seesaw battle of a Copa America 2021 quarterfinal reached a Paraguay 3-3 Peru result in Estadio Olimpico, in Goiania, Brazil, and then, went directly into a penalty shootout in which the teams missed a combined five penalties to allow Peru to progress 4-3.
The scoring started early with Paraguayan captain, Gustavo Gomez poking through from close range after a brilliant Pedro Gallese save had spilled in front of goal at the 11th minute. But the unfortunate Gomez would then surrender an own-goal at the 21st minute to level the scoring.
Gianluca Lapadula put the Peruvians ahead at the 40th and then contrived with his teammates to goad Gomez into his second yellow card in under six minutes to get him sent off. Gomez had been arguing with Uruguayan ref, Esteban Ostojich, incessantly and one could lip read the ref’s admonitions to “keep your cool.” But Gomez could not help himself and when the questionable second yellow card offense took place—a foul first called for Lapadula’s infraction but then sanctioned against Gomez for his reaction to both Lapadula and Ostojich—the ref seemed relieved to be rid of the Paraguayan. One eccentric officiating moment.
The sides went in at half-time with Peru 2-1 ahead, but in the 54th minute, Paraguay drew even via a Junior Alonso score. The match continued with its first-half intensity and ended with 32 called fouls and four yellow cards. Then at the 80th minute, Peru pulled ahead via Joshimar Yotun’s goal only to see Andre Carrillo given a red card. With the sides even on players once again, the Paraguayan’s wasted no time taking advantage of the situation and drew even again at the 90th via Gabriel Avalos.
As the teams figured out who would take their penalties, Ostojich could be heard telling the captains not to celebrate after the final, potentially defining penalty, as that penalty needed to be certified by VAR before the result would become official. Another interesting officiating moment.
The match then went directly into penalties and Peru emerged victorious to meet the winner of the Chile-Brazil match.
Brazil 1-0 Chile
Chile, with Alexis Sanchez back in action after recuperating from a foot injury, showcased the physicality and technical skill that have gone hand in hand with the grit and intensity which has characterized their golden generation of superstars. After 25 called fouls and four red cards, it was two plays that conditioned the contest.
At halftime, Brazilian coach, Tite, brought in substitute Lucas Paqueta, and 59 seconds later he had scored what would turn out to be the game’s only goal, Brazil 1-0 Chile at the 46th minute.
But two minutes later, the second play took place. Gabriel Jesus went for a high ball with his right boot and slammed his cleats onto the face of Chile’s Eugenio Mena who had contested the ball with his head. The ref gave an immediate red card and though it was obviously both a foul and a Jesus mistake—and the Brazilian remained on the pitch long enough to ensure Mena knew there was no ill intent—the match was changed at the 48th minute. The officiating was not great, but at least it was even-handed and this call was correct.
Though it was soon obvious that Mena was ok, and that the awful-looking collision had been mercifully less than disastrous, the rest of the match deteriorated for long spells into altercations and attempts to get others kicked out of the match.
Chile played some of its best football from there on in, though, and had several chances but Brazil’s defense was up to the task of keeping them at bay, and Neymar and Richarlison played heroic roles maintaining solo possessions whenever the Chilean’s lost the ball. It was a testament to the level-headed officiating that things did not get out of hand as the tackles were ferocious at times and the play-acting incessant.
In the end, it was a defensive win, a grind, the type one rarely associates with Brazil, but their defense held as their offense had previously soared and their +9 goal differential and four wins and a draw seemed to cement their undeterred progression, one way or another.
For Chile, it may well have been their last hurrah, their golden generation is aging, and this coming World Cup, Qatar 2022, may well be their official swan song. But for those of us who have watched them perform, and, led by Alexis Sanchez, win two Copa Americas (2015, 2016) against Lionel Messi’s Argentina, they will be a team to remember.