Brazil will be without superstar forward Neymar and central defender David Luiz when Brazil travel to Paraguay in Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier in Asuncion, with both sides seeking to gain ground in the CONMEBOL standings. Brazil and Paraguay rank third and fourth, respectively, but both have eight points while chasing first-place Ecuador (13 points).
Neymar and Luiz were booked in last week's match with Uruguay that ended in a 2-2 score. The absence of Luiz may be irrelevant considering his error-prone ways may have landed him on the bench against a steady Paraguay squad. But head coach Dunga will need to find new ways to score with his best forward out of the lineup and with a roster that has often lacked scoring punch.
Santos forward Gabriel has reportedly made the squad to replace Neymar. While Neymar was once heralded as the next great Brazilian forward, there are also high expectations for Gabriel, who at age 19 will be making his senior team debut. There will be added pressure on the starlet due to the game's high importance.
"We have to aim for goals and wins. The table is very tight, therefore, with one victory you could be at the top," Dunga said Monday in a press conference.
Paraguay are coming off a 2-2 result with Ecuador. Forwards Enner Valencia and Angel Mena each found the back of the net against the table leaders despite losing possession by a wide 71-29 margin and 31 total Ecuadorian shots.
Head coach Ramon Diaz, who helped guide River Plate to titles as both a player and manager, believes the draw was a sign of things to come for his side.
“We showed that we're a competitive team who can fight against anyone,” Diaz said. “I hope that the team will continue to grow.”
Brazil has failed to defeat Paraguay in their last four tries. The two sides last met in last year’s Copa America quarterfinals, with a 1-1 draw in extra time resulting in a 4-3 victory for Paraguay on penalty kicks.
Start Time: 8:45 p.m. ET
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