La Serena (Chile), June 23 (IANS) Paraguay defender Paulo da Silva believes Brazil remain extremely dangerous in their Copa America quarter-final match — even without suspended star forward Neymar.
Brazil lost their talisman for the rest of the tournament after the attacker was handed a four-game ban following his red card against Colombia, and subsequent insults to the referee in his side’s 0-1 loss last week.
Brazil decided not to appeal against the ban, and will gear up for their quarter-final clash with Paraguay in Concepcion on Friday without their captain.
However, Da Silva doesn’t think that the forward’s absence blunts Brazil in any way.
“Neymar is a hugely important player for Brazil,” Da Silva said in a press conference at Paraguay’s team hotel here on Monday.
“He showed at Barcelona last season what a great player he is, winning the treble. But Brazil remain extremely dangerous even without Neymar. They have had phases where they haven’t played so well, but in short tournaments it’s results that count. They are very good at dead balls and very dangerous.
“They are here on merit and they will punish any mistakes. We will try to advance to a semi-final, which would be a dream for us and something very special. But we will need to play an almost perfect game to get to the last four,” the centre-back added.
However, full-back Ivan Piris took the opposite view, explaining that Brazil’s hopes will be affected by losing Neymar.
“Neymar is a great player and being without him is pretty damaging to Brazil,” he said.
And asked about the forward’s four-match ban, he added: “I don’t want to talk too much about that because the problem belongs to them. But I think it’s fair.”
Paraguay defeated Brazil on penalties in the last eight of the 2011 Copa America en route to the final, but they did not win any of their matches in regulation or extra time in that competition, advancing from the group stage with three draws before shootout success in the quarter-finals and again in the semi-finals.
“I think we are a better team now than we were then,” Da Silva said.
“We came from 2-0 down against Argentina and we played well in phases against Jamaica and Uruguay. We have had more possession as well in recent games. I think we have evolved since 2011.
“It will be an even game and we want to give some joy to our people. It’s do or die against Brazil.”
The winner of the Brazil-Paraguay tie will square off in the last four against the victor from Argentina and Colombia’s meeting.