Rio de Janeiro, July 6 (IANS) A first-half strike from Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta fired Brazil to a 1-0 win over Peru as the Copa America hosts booked a place in the final at the Maracana Stadium.
Just as he did in Brazil’s 1-0 defeat of Chile in the quarterfinal, Paqueta showed predatory instincts by combining with Neymar to deadly effect on Monday. The latter skipped around two defenders before squaring the ball for the former Flamengo playmaker, who coolly sent a first-time shot past Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, reports Xinhua.
“Paqueta is a great player and improving with every game for the national team,” Neymar said after the match. “He had a great season for his club and now he’s showing that he can be important for Brazil too.”
Peru enjoyed brief periods of dominance in the second half but were unable to break down a Brazil backline that has conceded just twice in six games this tournament.
The result at Rio’s Olympic stadium means Brazil will meet either Argentina or Colombia — who will clash in the other semifinal — in the decider at Brazilian football’s spiritual home on July 10.
Brazil are now unbeaten in their past 13 outings and will be favourites to lift their second Copa America trophy on home soil in three years.
Neymar made no attempt to hide a desire to face Argentina in the final, citing friendships with several Albiceleste players, including Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria.
“I want to play against Argentina because some of us are good friends but I want Brazil to win, of course,” Neymar said.
Brazil midfielder Casemiro said a gruelling schedule was beginning to take its toll on the Selecao, who have played eight matches — including two World Cup qualifiers — in the past month.
“We know that as footballers we are privileged but I haven’t seen my family in around 35 days,” the Real Madrid player said. “We are now playing with our hearts and we’re going to give our all to get one more win.”