Takeaways as Uruguay knock out Brazil on penalties in dirtiest game of the tournament (2024)

Takeaways as Uruguay knock out Brazil on penalties in dirtiest game of the tournament (1)

By Jack Lang and Thom Harris

Jul 7, 2024

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If you were expecting a beautiful, free-flowing encounter between two South American giants, you picked the wrong game.

This was the dirtiest match in this year’s Copa America so far with 41 fouls, surpassing the 37 in Chile’s 0-0 draw against Peru on the second day. Uruguay’s Nahitan Nandez was also sent off for a lunge on Rodrygo and there were four more yellow cards on a fractious evening in Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas.

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After 90 minutes plus stoppage time of pushes, prods and half-chances, it went down to a penalty shootout — and it was Marcelo Bielsa’s Uruguay who booked their place in the semi-final against Colombia. Brazil are going home.

Jack Lang and Thom Harris dissect the chaos…

What happened in the penalty shootout?

There was more pushing and shoving before the shootout commenced, with the 10 men of Uruguay trying to make their presence felt.

Eder Militao stepped up first for Brazil and saw his effort saved by Sergio Rochet.

Uruguay converted their first three spot kicks before Douglas Luiz hit the post, then Jose Maria Gimenez missed.

Ultimately, Manuel Ugarte stepped up to score the decisive penalty for Uruguay, who won the shootout 4-2.

Takeaways as Uruguay knock out Brazil on penalties in dirtiest game of the tournament (3)

Uruguay celebrate reaching the semi-finals (Ian Maule/Getty Images)

How did Uruguay stop Brazil?

Top-level footballers get used to being put under pressure by the opposition team. When you have the ball, the other lot want it back. It’s a law of nature.

Playing against a Bielsa side is a different thing entirely, however. His players don’t so much close people down as harass them in packs of two, three, four. It looks horrible to deal with, frankly. It is also one of the toughest examinations you can face.

GO DEEPER'You don't get time to breathe': What it's like to face a Bielsa team

Brazil struggled mightily here.

Alisson was often reduced to lumping the ball upfield, to no one in particular. When they did try to pass it out from the back, the entire operation looked fraught with danger. Joao Gomes had his pocket picked a few times but he was not the only one to fail the test. It was no coincidence that the Selecao’s best chances came from scrappy, confused chunks of play; there was no sense that they were ever building attacks in any organised manner.

Takeaways as Uruguay knock out Brazil on penalties in dirtiest game of the tournament (5)

Uruguay disrupted Brazil’s rhythm (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

There was a slight retrenchment from Uruguay after the break. It’s hard to maintain that level of intensity for 90 minutes, after all. The troubling thing for Brazil was that they still didn’t manage any convincing patterns of play. They looked like a team waiting for something to happen. Even when Uruguay were down to 10 men, there was no real sense that the Selecao were beginning to turn the screw. Nor is this the first time in this Copa America that they have lacked fluency.

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In a way, this is forgivable. This is still a team in construction. Dorival Junior only took charge in March and things were even worse before he turned up. He talks a lot about “following the steps”. There were, in fairness, positives to be taken from the way Brazil blunted Uruguay’s energetic attack.

Still, this is Brazil. It’s one thing to lose on penalties to a good team, but there is an expectation — self-imposed, sure, but no less powerful for that — that they be protagonists, as Dorival well knows. Indeed, as the Selecao laboured away, it was hard not to think back to Andreas Pereira’s provocative words on the eve of the game. “Uruguay dream of having Brazil’s team,” he said.

Not on this evidence, they don’t.

Jack Lang

How did Endrick get on?

The 17-year-old was making his first start for Brazil given Vinicius Junior, watching from the stands, was suspended after accumulating yellow cards in the group stage.

Officially, Endrick was only fouled three times in the opening 45 minutes. Anybody watching will be able to tell you that statistic is… wrong.

Tournament football is ruthless — the importance of winning only ramped up on the international stage — so it is no surprise that Uruguay chose to test the resolve of the inexperienced teenage striker from the start. In a game such as this — tense, tetchy and with everything on the line — any sign of weakness represents a potentially precious way through.

It’s a testament to his temperament, then, that Endrick wasn’t fouled at all in the second half. Brazil’s No 9 bounced back from most of the shoves and pushes sent his way. And even when the referee’s whistle did not come to his rescue — as it didn’t after he was charged into by Federico Valverde on 18 minutes — he was quickly back up to his feet, only to get knocked back down again. This time by Ronald Araujo, sneakily, mercilessly, while the ball was far away.

Takeaways as Uruguay knock out Brazil on penalties in dirtiest game of the tournament (6)

Away from the physical battle, Endrick did not have too much to work with in a cagey but competitive game.

Much of the football was played in the middle third, Uruguay’s relentless man-to-man press leaving no Brazilian with any time on the ball in the attacking half. Endrick drifted from side to side, trying to show for the ball, but whenever he received it, he had a South American giant on his back, and he rather snatched at a left-foot shot with six minutes remaining.

Takeaways as Uruguay knock out Brazil on penalties in dirtiest game of the tournament (7)

Thom Harris

Was Nandez’s red card justified?

In short, yes.

For all the quality on show, this was a fiercely competitive game, and the physicality got slightly out of hand. There were 41 fouls all in all (26 from Uruguay, 15 for Brazil) — the most in the tournament so far — and the referee would have been justified penalising plenty more crunching collisions and shoves in the back throughout.

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Nandez is a spiky little customer, the very embodiment of what Uruguayans call ‘garra charrua’, their trademark never-say-die attitude. His aggression and desire to get in front of his man also personify the intent of Bielsa’s system, looking to win back the ball as quickly and as close to the opposition goal as possible.

That he is even playing at right-back is a testament to his willingness to go above and beyond: he is, by trade, a midfielder. If you were being generous, you might call his tackle on Rodrygo a midfielder’s challenge. Either way, it was crude and dangerous. The only surprise was that a VAR review was required for the referee to reach that conclusion, replacing the initial yellow card with a red.

Takeaways as Uruguay knock out Brazil on penalties in dirtiest game of the tournament (8)

Nandez tried to plead with referee Dario Herrera (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

The still image was damning, studs firmly in contact with Rodrygo’s standing leg. It marked Nandez’s 12th foul of the tournament — only Brazil’s Bruno Guimaraes has committed more.

Uruguay survived, but with Araujo limping off to injury, and Nandez suspended, they will head into a semi-final against two-year unbeaten Colombia without two of their defensive pillars.

Thom Harris & Jack Lang

What did Dorival Junior say?

“There were positives over the games,” he said after the match. “Obviously, after a game like this, all the good things are canceled out. I’m aware of that.

“We didn’t play at a great level, technically, but we fought. We never stopped going for results. We were brave. There are more positives than negatives from this campaign.

“It wasn’t a great day in terms of creativity. The defences had the better of the attacks.”

What did Marcelo Bielsa say?

“It was a game of few chances, very disputed, very tight,” he admitted.

“With one man fewer, we had to defend deep, but we didn’t give up a chance in the second half.”

What’s next for each team?

Uruguay will face Colombia in the semifinals on Wednesday, July 10 at 8:00 p.m. ET (Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC)

Brazil are eliminated from the tournament.

Recommended reading

  • Brazil are still living in Neymar’s world at Copa America – and that’s how they like it
  • Marcelo Bielsa: Brilliant, brutal, bewildering… and back with Uruguay
  • Copa America manager fashion: Berhalter’s sneaker collection, Lorenzo’s lucky shirt, Marsch’s shorts
  • Copa America Power Rankings: Which teams look like they can go all the way?

(Top photo: Getty Images)

Takeaways as Uruguay knock out Brazil on penalties in dirtiest game of the tournament (2024)

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