Brazil (+123) at Paraguay (+210), Draw (+225)
CONMEBOL is proving once again that it is one of the strongest and most treacherous soccer federations in the world. Through five qualifying fixtures for the 2018 World Cup, world power Brazil sit third in the table with eight points. Despite being at home – and playing their best 45 minutes since the 2014 World Cup – the Selecao could only must a 2-2 draw with Uruguay on the weekend. Now they hit the road to face Paraguay at Defensores Del Chaco stadium in Asunción tomorrow (7:45 PM Eastern).
Douglas Costa (1′) and Renato Augusto (26′) staked Brazil to an early 2-0 lead against Uruguay, but Edinson Cavani (31′) responded before the half was up and Luis Suarez (48′) level the match early in the second.
In reality, Brazil were lucky to escape with the draw as Uruguay dominated the second half and had multiple chances to pot the game winner.
The draw leaves Brazil five points back of first-place Ecuador and two back of Uruguay. Tomorrow, they’ll be facing a Paraguayan team that’s also on eight points through five matches. Brazil owns the tiebreaker with Paraguay at the moment thanks to a better goal differential (+3 versus +1).
Paraguay are also coming off a 2-2 draw on the weekend, but will feel decidedly better about their result. They were able to pick up a point on the road in Ecuador against a team that was a perfect 4-0-0 heading into the match.
After falling behind 1-0 in the 20th minute, Dario Lezcano (38′, 59′) leveled the match and gave his team in improbable lead. The home side pressed hard for the equalizer and eventually got it in injury time. Paraguay were even luckier than Brazil to get a point; the lost the possession battle badly (70-30) and were outshot 31 to five.
Paraguay struggle when they need to attack opponents, but are arguably the best counter-attacking team in South America. So far, they’re 1-1-0 at Defensores Del Chaco stadium in the qualifiers, beating Bolivia 2-1 and holding Argentina to a scoreless draw. They’ve fared well against Brazil lately, too, beating them twice in last year’s Copa America.
But given that the team’s are level on points – and that Argentina are right behind them in the standings – I expect Brazil to come out focused and at least earn a point.
Pick: Draw (+225).
(Photo Credit: By copa2014.gov.br [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)