Vinicius Junior’s brace helps Brazil win 4-1 over Paraguay in Copa America group stage

With four points, Brazil is two behind group leader Colombia, which defeated Costa Rica 3-0 earlier Friday.
Brazil's Vinicius Junior celebrates scoring his side's third goal against Paraguay during a Copa America match
Brazil's Vinicius Junior celebrates scoring his side's third goal against Paraguay during a Copa America match (Photo | AP)

LAS VEGAS: Vinícius Junior scored two first-half goals to lead Brazil to a 4-1 victory over Paraguay and put itself in position to advance out of Group D in the Copa America.

Savinho also scored a first-half goal for Brazil and Lucas Paqueta scored on a penalty kick in the second half. Omar Alderete scored Paraguay's goal. There were plenty of tense moments with five yellow cards and a red-handed out.

Andres Cubas was sent off for a red card in the 81st minute, forcing Paraguay to play the last part of the match down a man. Yellow cards were handed to Brazil's Wendell, Junior and Paqueta and Paraguay's Fabian Balbuena and Hernesto Caballero.

The victory was quite a response for the Seleção Canarinho, who opened the tournament Tuesday with a scoreless draw against Costa Rica despite outshooting their opponent 18-2.

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With four points, Brazil is two behind group leader Colombia, which defeated Costa Rica 3-0 earlier Friday. A victory or tie by Brazil against Colombia on Tuesday ensures one of the group's two spots in the knockout stage.

Brazil also has a six-goal differential advantage over Costa Rica, so a loss likely won't keep out the nine-time Copa America champions. Brazil has had its difficulties against Paraguay in Copa America play, having drawn in their previous five meetings.

That tied for the second-longest unbeaten streak against Brazil in this tournament, which Paraguay also was part of from 1963-83.

But Brazil won the most recent meeting, defeating Paraguay 4-0 two years ago in World Cup qualifying, and there was little doubt about the outcome of this match after two late goals broke it open in what was a contentious end to the first half.

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Moments after teammate Bruno Guimaraes hit the crossbar, Savinho put Brazil up 2-0 in the 43rd minute. Both teams got into a scrum in extra time, with Chilean referee Piero Maza Gomez handing yellow cards to Wendell and Balbuena at three-plus minutes.

Then Junior delivered the crushing blow five minutes into extra time Paraguay had its chances and even outshot Brazil 8-5, including 4-3 on goal. Brazil goalkeeper Alisson Becker made a tremendous save diving to his right to prevent a goal from Damián Bobodilla 15 minutes into the match.

Early in the second half, however, Alderete scored to close the deficit to 3-1. Then 17 minutes later, Paqueta made up for a missed penalty kick in the first half by converting to give back Brazil its three-goal lead.

Brazil coach Dorival Júnior made a bold and controversial move by deciding not to start Raphinha. The move, with national team legend Neymar watching from the stands, clearly paid off.

Raphinha was a late-game substitute, entering the match in the 72nd minute in place of Savinho.

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