Updated: June 28, 2021 2:51:45 pm
A much-changed Brazil failed to win for the first time in 11 games but still qualified top in Group B for the quarter-finals of the Copa America on Sunday after drawing 1-1 with Ecuador in Goiania.
The draw at an empty stadium in central Brazil marked the first time Brazil have not picked up a win since they lost 1-0 to Argentina in a friendly in November 2019.
The host nation had already qualified in first place in Group B and rested a number of regulars, with Gabriel Barbosa, Everton, Douglas Luiz, Fabinho and Douglas Luis among those getting a chance from the start.
Lucas Paqueta was a bright presence in a team that missed Neymar’s creativity going forward but most of the replacements failed to impress even though Brazil went in 1-0 up at half time thanks to an accomplished header from defender Eder Militao.
Brazil had won their first three group games but were surprisingly pegged back for the first 15 minutes of the second period and substitute Angel Mena equalised for Ecuador with a thumping drive after 53 minutes.
It was not until Casemiro replaced Douglas Luiz after just an hour that Brazil regained their poise.Nevertheless, neither side made many clear-cut chances and as a draw suited both teams the game petered out slightly.
“We knew it would be a difficult game,” said Paqueta.
“In the first half we managed to neutralise their style of play and pass the ball around and score, (but) in the second half they scored and that complicated the way we play. The objective was to win but the main objective was to finish in first place and we did that.”
With Peru defeating Venezuela 1-0 in the other Group B game, they joined Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador in the quarter-finals as Venezuela exited.
The Venezuelans were hard hit in the early stages of the tournament when at least eight players tested positive for COVID-19 and had to self-isolate.
The quarter-final matchups will be decided on Monday after the last round of Group A fixtures.
Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay have already guaranteed their place in the last eight but the final round of fixtures will decide who plays who.Bolivia are already out, having lost all three of their games so far.“From now on every game is a final,” said Paqueta, “and we’ll need to give it our all in order to win”.
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