Another penalty shoot-out; another giant falls. A day after Argentina went out of the Copa America to Uruguay, holders Brazil also crashed out last night, beaten 2-0 in a shoot-out by Paraguay after a 0-0 draw in their quarter-final in La Plata .
This was a psychological breakdown of staggering proportions, the first four Brazilian takers all failing from the spot. Elano and Andre Santos blasted over, Thiago Silva saw his shot saved by the excellent Justo Villar and when Fred stepped up needing to score, he dragged the ball wide of the left-hand post.
Brazil were more proactive than they had been in the group game against Paraguay, when they drew 2-2, and the Paraguay left-winger Marcelo Estigarribia was far less threatening when faced with Maicon rather than Dani Alves. However, it was still far from the sparkling Brazil of myth and expectation.
Their frustrations spilled over shortly before half-time in extra-time, a mass brawl breaking out after Wigan's Antolin Alcaraz had responded to Lucio's meaty challenge on Estigarribia with a meatier one of his own. Alcaraz and Liverpool's Lucas Leiva were sent off, although it was hard to see that their raised arms were any more aggressive than those of half a dozen other players.
Paraguay themselves were far less adventurous than they had been in the group stage. The result was a rather less engaging game than a week ago, consisting largely of Brazil pounding on a Paraguayan door that, with a little luck and some inspired goalkeeping from Villar, remained closed. The goalkeeper made a superb block in the first half to keep out a Lucio volley and dived low to his left to palm away a drive form the largely ineffective Paulo Henrique Ganso. Neymar wasted two good early chances in the second half and Fred had a header cleared off the line by Edgar Barreto; that was more than enough opportunities to have won the game, but there was little fluency to Brazil.
Meanwhile, the Argentina coach, Sergio Batista, refused to resign after his side lost 5-4 on penalties to Uruguay, Carlos Tevez missing the vital kick, following a 1-1 draw in Santa Fe. "It never went through my head to resign," Batista said. "I signed my contract five months ago, and I must keep working. The balance [of the side] was not what we'd have liked, but it takes time and hard work."