Argentina have ended their 28-year wait to lift the Copa America after Angel Di Maria's first-half goal clinched a 1-0 victory over Brazil in Saturday's final at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana.

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Di Maria, who was promoted to the starting line-up for the final, coolly lobbed over Brazil goalkeeper Ederson for the 22nd-minute winner.

Argentina had been Copa runners-up at four of the past seven tournaments, losing to rivals Brazil in 2004 and 2007, but finally claimed the country's 15th continental crown.

The triumph also marks Lionel Messi's maiden piece of major silverware with Argentina, with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner dominant throughout the tournament, finishing with most goals (four) and most assists (five).

In a physical encounter, Brazil superstar Neymar received plenty of attention while Messi was unable to exude his normal influence for La Albiceleste.

Brazil started the better but could only manage scuffed efforts on goal from Everton and Richarlison before Argentina struck against the run of play.

The outstanding Rodrigo De Paul's hopeful ball forward eluded Selecao left-back Renan Lodi, allowing Di Maria in behind and he calmly poked over the onrushing Ederson.

Di Maria was a constant threat in the first half, with a left-foot effort blocked by Marquinhos before Messi flashed wide.

With the half-time injection of Roberto Firmino, Brazil pressed and thought they had equalised in the 52nd minute when Richarlison hit the back of the net but was offside in the lead-up.

The Everton forward tested Argentina keeper Emiliano Martinez at his near post shortly after, with the Aston Villa man saving smartly.

Brazil substitute Gabriel Barbosa had a late volley brilliantly thwarted by Martinez, before an exhausted Messi spurned a golden opportunity to seal the win from De Paul's throughball.

Lionel Messi will lead out Argentina in Saturday's Copa America final aware it could be the last opportunity he has to win silverware with La Albiceleste – and ending that hoodoo against Brazil would be the sweetest prize of all.

Messi holds the records for most caps and goals for Argentina, and his career at club level with Barcelona has ensured his legacy will be intrinsically linked to the sport for the rest of time.

But there remains a niggling frustration with respect to his time with Argentina, given he is yet to win a major international tournament with them. It is arguably the final piece of the puzzle and the one thing that separates him from the others in the 'greatest of all-time' debate.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele, Diego Maradona – they all enjoyed success on the international stage, and while it would be unfair to suggest Messi's legacy will not match up to theirs without honours with Argentina, it is a fact that would be continuously used to downplay his claim regardless of winning everything at Barca.

 

It is not that Messi has not come close – this will be his fifth major senior final with Argentina, and he's lost the previous four, but will Argentina be considered among the favourites at the World Cup next year? Probably not.

It may be now or never, and standing in the way is his former Barca team-mate Neymar, who will be playing his first major final for Brazil.

The Paris Saint-Germain star has been typically enthralling to watch in the tournament, though Brazil will be hoping his form in front of goal improves. It has not done them much damage thus far given they are in the final, but his one non-penalty goal comes from an xG (expected goals) value of 5.1 – it's two from 5.9 with penalties included.

 

No one else in the tournament has been as wasteful as Neymar, whose eight Opta-defined 'big chances' missed is also the most of anyone at Copa America 2021.

But Messi will know more than most that Neymar rises to the biggest occasions, and few are bigger than a Superclasico in a Copa America final.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Lucas Paqueta

While Paqueta's club career may not have taken off in Europe as he would have liked following his initial move to Milan, it is fair to say this tournament has represented something of a 'coming of age' tale for him on the international stage. With two goals, he heads into the final tied with Neymar as the Selecao's leading goalscorer, while he's also been a creative threat. Granted, he may not have any assists yet, but his 1.56 xA (expected assists) is bettered only by Messi (2.93) and Neymar (2.34). He has been let down by poor finishing, but at least the chances are flowing.

 

Argentina – Lautaro Martinez

Along with Messi (four, including one penalty), Martinez (three) is the only player to have scored more than twice at this year's tournament. Although he is slightly underperforming his 3.3 xG and has missed five 'big chances', the Inter striker has been consistently dangerous, with his 0.88 xG per 90 minutes second only to Neymar (1.03) among players to have played at least 180 minutes. 

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Brazil will be playing their seventh final in the last 11 editions of the Copa America, winning on their most recent five appearances in the showpiece game (1997, 1999, 2004, 2007 and 2019). Their last defeat in a Copa America final was in 1995, losing the title to Uruguay in a penalty shoot-out.

- Brazil have not lost a knockout match at the Copa America (W7 D6) since 2001, when they suffered a 2-0 loss against Honduras. Their eliminations since then came via penalty shoot-outs (2011 and 2015) or in the group stage (2016).

- Brazil have reached the final in all editions of the Copa America played on Brazilian soil (six, including 2021). They won each of the previous five.

- Argentina will be playing their sixth final in the Copa America since 1993. It will be the third time in this period that they have played for the title against Brazil, failing to win against them in the past two deciders between the teams.

- Messi has scored five times against Brazil, making them his joint second-favourite opponent after Ecuador (six goals).

Neymar will be putting his friendship with former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi aside as he chases his first Copa America title with Brazil in Saturday's final.

Brazil takes on Argentina in the Copa America 2021 decider at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, with both players pursuing their first-ever continental crowns.

Messi's Argentina have not won the Copa since 1993, while injury meant Neymar was not part of the Brazil squad which triumphed in 2019.

The pair have a close friendship from Neymar's four years in Barcelona, while they have both dominated this Copa.

Messi leads the Copa with four goals and five assists, while Neymar has contributed two goals and three assists for hosts Brazil.

"Messi is, as I've always said, the best player I've ever seen play and he's a great friend," Neymar said. "But now we're in a final, we're rivals. I want to win and I really want to win this title, which would be my first Copa America.

"Messi has been looking for his first title with the national team for many years, and every time we we [Brazil] are not present at the tournament, I cheered for him.

"That's what I've been cheering for in the 2014 World Cup final, when he faced Germany.

"Now Brazil is in the dispute, so our friendship is on the line [laughs]. The respect between us in still great but only one can win."

He added: "When you're friends with someone, it's hard to forget the friendship you have... but for example when you play video games with a friend, you want to beat him anyway. It'll be the same thing on Saturday."

Neymar also hit out on Instagram about Brazilian fans who have turned on the national team and opted to support rivals Argentina.

"I'm Brazilian with a lot of pride, with a lot of love. My dream was always to be in the Brazilian national team and hear the fans singing," he wrote. "I've never supported or will support against anything Brazil is competing for, whatever the sport or modelling contest."

Brazil is chasing its 10th Copa title, while Argentina is looking to end its 28-year wait to add to its 14 continental crowns.

Argentina have won five games in a row, including their semi-final victory over Colombia, and are unbeaten across their past 19 games.

Brazil are undefeated in their past 13 games and have only conceded two goals at Copa America 2021.

Brazil superstar Neymar said he wants to face Lionel Messi's Argentina in the Copa America final after the defending champions edged Peru.

Neymar provided the assist for Lucas Paqueta's 35th-minute winner as Brazil saw off 2019 runners-up Peru 1-0 in Monday's semi-final.

Brazil will meet the winner of the Argentina-Colombia semi in Saturday's decider at the iconic Maracana and Neymar is eyeing a blockbuster showdown with La Albiceleste.

South American rivals Brazil and Argentina have not met in a Copa final since 2007, when the Selecao won 3-0.

"I want Argentina, I'm rooting for Argentina," Neymar – a former Barcelona team-mate of Messi – said post-match in Rio de Janeiro.

"I have friends there, then in the final it will be Brazil [laughs]."

 

Neymar was impressive throughout at Estadio Nilton Santos, attempting a team-high four shots to go with two key passes and the decisive assist.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward was also fouled three times. No player has been fouled more often than Neymar (25) during this year's CONMEBOL tournament.

Meanwhile, head coach Tite made history by equalling Mario Zagallo as the Brazil head coach with the longest unbeaten run in Copa America history (12), winning nine games and drawing three fixtures.

The 60-year-old has the fifth-best winning percentage among coaches with at least 10 games in Copa America history – 75 per cent.

Since his appointment in 2016, Brazil have kept 42 clean sheets in 60 games under head coach Tite across all competitions (70 per cent).

After the game, however, Neymar took aim at Chilean referee Roberto Tobar, saying: "The referee cannot do what he did. It's a lack of respect for all the players, the way he talks, the way he looks, what he says on the field to the players. 

"From the very first minute I went to talk to him, and he was very arrogant. Everyone is saying that, I think it's not normal for both teams to complain. 

"Not the way he whistled the match. He can make mistakes, that's part of it, but the arrogance he had in that match... For me, he can't be a referee in a Copa America semi-final."

Just like the quarter-final, Paqueta scored the winning goal for Brazil – who are now eyeing their 10th Copa crown.

Paqueta has scored in back-to-back appearances for Brazil in all competitions for the first time in his career.

"Paqueta is a great player," Neymar said. "Has been growing with each game, with each game he plays for the national team. He had a great season for his club and has shown that he can be a very important player for us in the national team.  I'm happy with his participation, with the game he played. It's always good to meet great players in the national team."

It is hard to think that before the start of this year's Copa America, some were calling for Tite's sacking.

Those calls stemmed on the uncertainty of the Selecao's participation after CONMEBOL controversially relocated the event from Argentina to Brazil.

The Brazil squad were united against hosting the Copa on home soil amid the coronavirus pandemic. The defending champions eventually committed to representing their country and now they stand on the cusp of another title with Tite at the helm.

On an historic night for Tite, Brazil moved through to a second consecutive Copa final at the expense of 2019 runners-up Peru 1-0 on Monday.

Tite made history by equalling Mario Zagallo as the Brazil head coach with the longest unbeaten run in Copa America history (12), winning nine games and drawing three fixtures.

 

The 60-year-old has the fifth-best winning percentage among coaches with at least 10 games in Copa America history – 75 per cent.

Only Flavio Costa (79 per cent, 19 games), Zagallo (83 per cent, 12 games), Guillermo Stabile (84 per cent, 44 games) and Pedro Cea (90 per cent, 10 games) have a better percentage.

Lucas Paqueta scored the decisive goal 10 minutes before half-time as Brazil extended their undefeated streak to 13 matches across all competitions, a run including 10 clean sheets and dating back to November 2019.

Since his appointment in 2016, Brazil have kept 42 clean sheets in 60 games under head coach Tite across all competitions (70 per cent).

During his tenure, Brazil have 45 wins, 11 draws and just four defeats.

This Brazil team have style and substance – trademark flair and free-flowing football but with defensive stability and the ability to close out games.

As Brazil – who have won the last five Copa finals they have played, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007 and 2019 - await rivals Argentina or Colombia in Saturday's decider, Tite continues to reach new heights.

Defending champions Brazil booked their spot in another Copa America final after seeing off Peru 1-0 on Monday.

In a repeat of the 2019 Copa decider, Lucas Paqueta settled the semi-final contest with his 35th-minute goal in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil will face either Argentina or Colombia in the decider after Tite made history by equalling Mario Zagallo as the Selecao head coach with the longest unbeaten run in Copa America history (12).

Tite's Brazil started on the front foot as Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was kept busy at Estadio Nilton Santos.

The first big chance of the game fell to Brazil in the eighth minute as Paqueta slid a wonderful pass to Richarlison, who rounded Gallese and cut the ball to Neymar but the latter was unable to direct his shot on target.

Gallese survived a nervy moment five minutes later after spilling Casemiro's long-range free-kick before managing to save it at the second attempt.

The heroics of Gallese continued to keep Brazil at bay, with the Peru shot-stopper somehow denying Neymar from close range as he then got up quickly to stop Richarlison's follow-up effort.

As Brazil found more and more space, the Selecao finally beat Gallese and broke Peru's stubborn resistance 10 minutes prior to half-time.

Richarlison released Neymar and he wriggled away from three players before looking up and cutting the ball to Paqueta, who made no mistake.

Brazil goalkeeper Ederson had been a bystander until he was called into action for the first time four minutes into the second half, keeping out Gianluca Lapadula after the Peru forward cut inside and fired a shot across goal.

Unlike the first half, Brazil were made to work by Peru and La Blanquirroja again tested Ederson just past the hour mark as Raziel Garcia tried his luck from distance with a tricky attempt.

There were shouts for a Brazil penalty with 19 minutes remaining when Richarlison went down under a challenge following a superb pass from Neymar, but the protests were waved away by the referee.

Peru had a great chance to level the match nine minutes from the end after Ederson completely missed his attempt to punch a free-kick away, but Alexander Callens' header sailed wide of the post.

What does it mean? Brazil advance on historic night for Tite

Eyeing a 10th Copa title, Brazil reached a second consecutive final as Tite made history following a 12th match without defeat in the CONMEBOL showpiece, matching Zagallo.

Brazil have now gone 13 games unbeaten in all competitions, keeping a clean sheet in 10 of those.

Paqueta stars again

After a bright start to life at Milan, things turned sour for Paqueta at San Siro. However, a switch to Ligue 1's Lyon has proven to be the tonic for the 23-year-old. Paqueta has scored in back-to-back appearances for Brazil in all competitions for the first time in his career.

Peru fail to take chances

Peru were the better team in the second half, having struggled to make an impact in the opening 45 minutes. Against a formidable opponent now specialists in closing out matches, Peru needed to capitalise on their opportunities but Ricardo Gareca's men – in a spirited showing without some important players – were unable to get past Ederson.

What's next?

Next up for Brazil is Saturday's final as they await the winner of the Argentina-Colombia semi. Peru will turn their attention to September's World Cup qualifiers.

Brazil head coach Tite and the Selecao are eyeing the Copa America final as they prepare to face Peru in a rematch of the 2019 decider.

Tite's defending champions Brazil and Peru will go head-to-head in Monday's semi-final in Rio de Janeiro.

The Selecao have now gone 12 games in all competitions without defeat, keeping a clean sheet in nine of those after defeating Chile 1-0 in the quarter-finals, while Tite is yet to lose a match in this competition while in charge.

Should Brazil reach back-to-back Copa finals, Tite will equal Mario Zagallo as the Selecao coach with the longest unbeaten run in the tournament's history (12 games).

"The two teams have a tradition of clashes in the Copa America and two years ago we met in the final, but we also met in the group stage and in the play-offs," Tite told reporters.

"But the antecedents cannot make us predict a prediction because the situations, the different moments, teams and realities, it is also a play-off game. Our goal is to reach the final and Peru's is the same."

 

Nine-time champions Brazil will host Peru for 20th time in competitive games (W15 D2 L2). One of those defeats was in the 1975 Copa America, the last time the Selecao lost a game at home in the competition (3-1).

Tite's men are the top-scoring team in this year's finals (11), eight of their goals coming in the second half and five in the last 15 minutes, each more than any other team in the competition.

Since his appointment in 2016, Brazil have kept 41 clean sheets in 59 games under Tite across all competitions (69.5 per cent).

"Football is a game with many variables, perhaps it is the collective sport with more variables that you cannot control," Tite said. "When a team plays defence in the first half, it tends to get more tired and in the second half leaves more space.

"In one sector of the field you may have a player who defends more than in the other, but if the playing field is good it may be that you take advantage of one sector more than another.

"So, there are many variables, the players have to maintain a pattern and understand that those variables that one cannot control are typical of football, unlike basketball, volleyball, and that effectiveness depends on performance."

Brazil head coach Tite will attempt an historic result on Monday as his side face Peru in the Copa America semi-finals.

The defending champions battled into the last four after beating Chile 1-0 despite playing almost all of the second half with 10 men following Gabriel Jesus' red card for an awful high challenge.

They have now gone 12 games in all competitions without defeat, keeping a clean sheet in nine of those, while Tite is yet to lose a match in this competition while in charge of the Selecao.

Should they reach the final this time around, the 60-year-old will equal Mario Zagallo as the Brazil coach with the longest unbeaten run in Copa America history (12 games).

Standing in the hosts' way are a Peru side who came through a thrilling quarter-final against Paraguay, which ended 3-3 after extra time and with each side down to 10 men.

In the end, Miguel Trauco's sudden-death penalty secured Peru's place in the semi-finals for the fourth time in five tournaments.

Head coach Ricardo Gareca has only managed to beat Brazil twice in 10 attempts, with their previous meeting in the 2021 group stage ending in a 4-0 win for the five-time world champions.

Brazil have also not lost a Copa America match on home soil since 1975 – but that 3-1 defeat came at the hands of Peru in the semi-final first leg of their triumphant campaign.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Lucas Paqueta

Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta needed less than a minute on the pitch as a half-time substitute before scoring what proved to be the winner against Chile.

With Jesus suspended and Roberto Firmino not wholly convincing at these finals, Paqueta may well have a key role to play here.

Peru – Yoshimar Yotun

With a goal, an assist and a converted spot-kick in the shoot-out, few Peru players did as much to drag them into the final four as Yoshimar Yotun.

The Cruz Azul midfielder is a versatile asset at the heart of the side and could be equally important in disrupting Brazil's rhythm and getting Peru up the pitch when possible.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Brazil will host Peru for 20th time in competitive games (W15 D2 L2). One of those defeats was in the 1975 Copa America, the last time Brazil lost a game at home in the competition (3-1).
- Tite has never lost a game in the Copa America (W8 D3). If Brazil reach the final, Tite will equal Mario Zagallo as the Selecao boss with the longest unbeaten run in the competition's history (P12 W10 D2).
- Ricardo Gareca will face Brazil for the 10th time (W2 L7), and the sixth in this competition (W1 L4). Peru are unbeaten in their past 12 Copa America games when Brazil were not their opponents (W6 D6).
- Brazil are the top-scoring team in this year's finals (11), eight of their goals coming in the second half and five in the last 15 minutes, each more than any other team in the competition.
- Peru are the team with the fewest shots on target among the semi-finalists (18), but they are second for shot conversion rate (16.3 per cent).

When Brazil spring to mind, you don't normally associate defensive stability and clean sheets with the Selecao.

Brazil's flair and free-flowing football have made them the most feared and entertaining nation in world football.

But Tite's Selecao are built differently.

Playing with 10 men from the 48th minute, defending champions Brazil overcame their numerical disadvantage and Chile 1-0 in the Copa America quarter-finals on Friday.

Lucas Paqueta came off the bench at half-time and settled the contest a minute into the second half in Rio de Janeiro, where Gabriel Jesus saw red for a shocking high boot to the face of Chile's Eugenio Mena.

There was a Chile onslaught as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser and while Ben Brereton hit the crossbar, Brazil stood firm to extend their unbeaten streak while setting up a showdown with 2019 runners-up Peru.

In a run dating back to November 2019, Brazil have gone 12 matches without a defeat, including nine clean sheets in the process.

 

"It's a football game, you can't have a smile all the time. Anyone who played knows, you even discuss with friends, discuss plays," said Neymar, who has attempted the second-most dribbles (21) behind Lionel Messi (22) this tournament, while he has been fouled the most (21). 

"Chile are a great team, it was a great test, but the important thing is that we got the victory and advanced to the semi-finals."

Brazil have now won their last five games against two-time champions Chile at the Copa, scoring 12 goals and only conceding once.

Since his appointment in 2016, Brazil have kept 41 clean sheets in 59 games under head coach Tite across all competitions (69.5 per cent).

It further highlights the defensive strength of the Selecao with Tite at the helm.

Against Chile, Casemiro made a game-high four tackles in midfield, defender Marquinhos tallied four clearances, and Richarlison intercepted the ball on five occasions while the star forward gained possession eight times along with full-back Renan Lodi.

When it comes to Tite and Brazil, it is a team effort. Attacking and defending together across the pitch.

As Brazil eye a 10th Copa title, Tite's side have style and substance.

Defending champions Brazil kept their hopes of back-to-back titles alive after overcoming a numerical disadvantage and Chile 1-0 en route to the Copa America semi-finals.

Brazil substitute Lucas Paqueta scored in the 46th minute and it proved to be the winning goal on Friday, despite Gabriel Jesus' remarkable red card in Rio de Janeiro.

Jesus was sent off for a high boot to the face of Chile's Eugenio Mena two minutes after Paqueta's strike, but Tite's Brazil withstood an onslaught from La Roja to set up a final-four showdown with 2019 runners-up Peru.

Brazil had entered the clash having won their previous for Copa clashes with Chile – scoring 11 goals and conceding just once across the streak, while the team's 10-game winning streak was snapped following a draw against Ecuador in the final group-stage match.

Chile also welcomed back star forward Alexis Sanchez for his first appearance at this year's CONMEBOL showpiece following a calf injury.

Roberto Firmino came within a whisker of opening the scoring in the 22nd minute, but the outstretched Brazil forward was unable to get on the end of Neymar's perfect delivery at the back post.

Eduardo Vargas – alone up front – twisted and turned to fire a shot off from an angle, but Brazil goalkeeper Ederson got down low to make a fine save minutes later.

Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was forced into action approaching half-time, tipping Jesus' powerful shot over the crossbar after Neymar's pass bobbled into the forward's path.

Paqueta came off the bench and broke the deadlock within a minute of the second half starting – firing a ball past Bravo following a neat flick from Neymar.

Brazil celebrated wildly but their mood quickly changed when Jesus saw red for a shocking karate kick to the face of Mena just moments later.

Chile put the ball in the back of the net via Vargas in the 62nd minute, however, it was immediately ruled out for offside.

A great driving run form Neymar almost resulted in a second goal for Brazil after 67 minutes, but Bravo made himself big to thwart the Paris Saint-Germain man.

Minutes later, a looping header from cult figure Ben Brereton then dropped onto the crossbar as the substitute nearly restored parity for Chile, who continued to push players forward.

Brazil have recent history on their side as they take on Chile on Friday, with a place in the Copa America semi-finals up for grabs.

The tournament hosts – and defending champions – won their opening three fixtures before a second-string team drew 1-1 with Ecuador last time out.

Their place at the top of Group B pitted them against Chile, who finished fourth in Group A.

Champions in 2015 and 2016, Chile won only one game in the group stage, beating Bolivia 1-0. They recorded two draws either side of that victory before a disappointing 2-0 reverse to Paraguay.

Tite's team have won their previous four Copa America clashes with Chile, and what would appear an easier passage to the final awaits them should they extend that run in Rio de Janeiro.

Peru, thrashed by Brazil 4-0 in the group stage, or Paraguay will be the semi-final opponents for the winner of Friday's encounter, and though Brazil will be confident, Chile's single group-stage loss was their only defeat in their past seven games.

"The objectives set were for performance and results in the first stage," Tite told a news conference on Thursday.

"We got three wins and a draw; we used all the players. We are prepared for what is coming with confidence. The objectives were fulfilled.

"In those decisive games, we have to be very strong in four factors: the tactical, technical, physical and emotional parts. If we are, we are much closer to victory."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Richarlison

No other Brazil player has had more touches in the opposition box at the Copa America than Richarlison (26). Indeed, only Uruguay's Luis Suarez (27) has managed more.

Chile – Arturo Vidal

Inter's Vidal had a game-high 113 touches in Chile's defeat to Paraguay, though he had just one attempt and failed to create a chance. Against a star-studded Brazil team, Martin Lasarte will need the combative midfielder at his battling best.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Brazil's draw with Ecuador snapped a 10-match winning streak, which stretched back to a friendly defeat to Argentina in November 2019.
- Across Brazil's four straight wins over Chile in the Copa America, they have scored 11 goals, conceding just once in return.
- In fact, Brazil have been able to keep a clean sheet against La Roja in three of the past four games in the Copa America.
- The last time Chile were able to score more than one goal against Brazil in the competition was in the 1993 edition, in a 3-2 victory.
- No other team has scored more headed goals at this year's tournament than Brazil (three).

Brazil head coach Tite insisted "perfection does not exist" after the Selecao's 10-game winning streak was snapped following a 1-1 draw with Ecuador at the Copa America.

Neymar was rested for Brazil's final Group B fixture as the defending champions played out a disappointing stalemate against Ecuador at the Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico on Sunday.

Eder Militao's first international goal gave Brazil – who made 10 changes to the starting line-up – a 37th-minute lead before Angel Mena secured a point for Ecuador eight minutes into the second half.

Tite had been looking to extend Brazil's winning streak in pursuit of the country's all-time record – 14 under legendary boss Mario Zagallo – but his team were forced to share the spoils in their final group fixture.

"Saying that you cannot err is not human, perfection does not exist, what we have to do is minimise the margin of error for a team," Tite said post-match.

"When we talk about defensive solidity and also when we talk about game generation, we have to find the balance point without being too defensive or offensive.

"During matches there are different ways to play, dominance is when you have the ball and you try to attack, control when you stand further back, you do not have the ball and the opponent does not generate danger.

"So to play these difficult games we have to find the balance between dominance and control."

It was the first time Brazil had scored at least one goal at the CONMEBOL showpiece tournament and did not win since the 2015 edition.

Brazil, meanwhile, are the only team to score more than one header at this year's Copa America – Militao's goal was the nation's third consecutive headed goal.

Tite's Brazil will face either 15-time Copa champions Uruguay or two-time winners Chile in the quarter-finals.

"I can't choose, they both have tradition, quality, individual technique and weight of the jerseys, great technicians, outstanding players," Tite replied when asked who he would prefer to face in the last eight.

"The three of us are the last Copa America champions and with Uruguay we are a historic South American classic, I can't choose."

Neymar, a mask hanging from his left ear, took a bite from a bar and gestured this way and that. This was a game the world's most expensive player was happy to sit out, his unique talents probably better saved for another occasion.

Such as that which awaits Brazil on Friday, back at the Estadio Olimpico Nilton Santos in Rio de Janeiro, when Uruguay or Chile will be the opposition for Tite's team.

This Sunday showdown with Ecuador was one for La Tri to savour and the Selecao to get out of the way, perhaps learn a thing or two but ideally come through unscathed and with a thing or two for the head coach to mull over before the knockout stage begins.

So Ecuador made the most of their opportunity to face Brazil at just about their most meek, the 1-1 draw sending Gustavo Alfaro's team through to the Copa America quarter-finals and a likely clash with Argentina next.

Whoever Ecuador do come up against next, they will be back here at the Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico in Goiania, where after holding the five-time World Cup winners to a deserved draw they had every reason to celebrate.

Ecuador are through to the Copa last eight for just the second time in the 21st century, and they were full value for their point as they finished above Venezuela and brought Brazil's 10-game winning streak – a record for Tite at the helm of the national team – to an end.

But what of Brazil? Tite made a raft of changes to ensure his hand will be as strong as possible for when the stiff competition begins, and it was hard to pick a promoted player who did his hopes of starting that quarter-final any good.

Certainly not Roberto Firmino, who started behind Gabriel Barbosa and played just 17 passes and had a mere 25 touches before being substituted midway through the second half. The Liverpool forward did not have a single goal attempt, and strikeforce spearhead Barbosa had only one, an early prod at a clever lobbed pass from Lucas Paqueta.

It fell to defender Eder Militao to show the Brazil attackers the route to goal, his neat header in the 37th minute opening the scoring.

Militao, Paqueta and Douglas Luiz danced away in a presumably rehearsed celebration, and you wondered if that was the kickstart this flat Brazil performance needed, the cue for a raising of their game.

'Vibra el continente' read the pitchside boards – 'Rock the continent'.

Brazil were rocking in a shy way here though, enjoying 71.1 per cent of first-half possession but not looking in the mood for a kill.

Angelo Preciado saw a thumping shot deflect just over the bar early in the second half as Ecuador chased an equaliser, and Enner Valencia also went close with a low strike before Angel Mena lashed past Alisson to level up in the 53rd minute.

Mena became the second substitute to score for Ecuador at this year's Copa, after Gonzalo Plata. Only Brazil (four) have benefited from more goals via a substitute this tournament.

A clever headed pass by Valencia set up the chance for the equaliser as Brazil's defence nodded off, and Ecuador went on to dominate the half, even swinging the possession dial around in their favour. They had 50.8 per cent of the ball in the second 45 minutes, five goals attempts to Brazil's two. Sebas Mendez was a titan in midfield, albeit against semi-interested opposition, winning possession a game-high 10 times and finding his man with 48 of his 50 passes over the 90 minutes.

 

Valencia was denied by a brave defensive header from Militao, who got to Preciado's dangerous cross just ahead of the former West Ham striker, and Ecuador then wanted a penalty when the ball struck Everton on the arm.

Mena almost scored a stunning second for Ecuador when his free-kick from close to the right touchline was whipped in with audacious curl and dip, forcing Alisson to tip over his crossbar.

Richarlison and Vinicius Junior came on as Tite looked to spark Brazil to life, but there was to be no ignition. It was the first time the reigning Copa America champions had scored at least one goal at the CONMEBOL showpiece and did not win since the 2015 edition.

Brazil are unbeaten against Ecuador in their last 11 games now, and this result probably matters very little, given the wins over Colombia, Peru and Venezuela that preceded it.

Moreover, the theory that you are only as good as your last game hardly applies when you rest the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Thiago Silva, Casemiro and Fred.

Yet Neymar, as he took another gnaw at his touchline snack, might have wondered when a Brazil team had ever looked so passive as this side did after the interval.

Brazil finished their Copa America Group B campaign with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Ecuador on Sunday. 

With their place in the knockout stages already secured before the clash at the Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico, Tite opted to make 10 changes to the side that beat Colombia three days ago, with only captain Marquinhos keeping his place.

Eder Militao put the Selecao ahead shortly before half-time, but Ecuador improved after the break and deservedly sealed a point through Angel Mena.

Brazil will play the fourth-placed team in Group A in the quarter-finals on Friday, while Ecuador will play the winner of that group a day later. 

The much-changed Brazil starting XI struggled in the early stages, only testing Ecuador goalkeeper Hernan Galindez through Gabriel Barbosa inside the opening 20 minutes. 

Lucas Paqueta steered an effort wide from the edge of the penalty shortly after the midway point of the first half as Brazil started to exert more pressure on their opponents.

Their improvement was rewarded eight minutes before the interval when Militao headed home his first Brazil goal from Everton's free-kick. 

Ecuador drew level in the 53rd minute, though, substitute Mena firing past Alisson from 10 yards after latching onto Enner Valencia's headed pass. 

Substitute Vinicius Junior missed a glorious opportunity to restore Brazil's lead in the 66th minute, skewing wide at the back post from Paqueta's cross. 

The holders rarely looked like finding a winner in the closing stages as Brazil's run of 10 consecutive wins came to an end with a whimper.


What does it mean? Brazil's second string disappoints 

Victories over Peru, Colombia and Venezuela afforded Tite the opportunity to dip into his squad for this final group game and those fringe players did not exactly cover themselves in glory. 

It is unlikely many of those players will feature in the last-eight clash, with the likes of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison refreshed and ready to reclaim their spots. 

Militao a rare bright spot

Militao was one of the few Brazil players who could hold his head high at full-time. In addition to opening his international account, the Real Madrid man made the most successful passes in the match (69), while no Brazil player made more clearances (five).

Firmino fails to shine

Roberto Firmino summed up Brazil's woes, the Liverpool striker failing to take a single shot during his 63 minutes on the pitch. A place back on the bench beckons for the 29-year-old for the quarter-finals.

What's next?

Brazil will know their opponents in the last eight after the final two games in Group A on Monday, while Ecuador are next in action against Paraguay in World Cup qualifying in September.

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.

Page 5 of 8
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.