x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

No margin for error, says Pato

The Brazil striker has warned his teammates they must be ready from the first whistle against their quarter-final opponents - unlike last week, when Fred's last-gasp effort saved a 2-2 draw.

Alexandre Pato, right, prepares for Brazil's game against Uruguay.
Alexandre Pato, right, prepares for Brazil's game against Uruguay.

CAMPANA, Argentina // Brazil were a minute away from losing their Copa America group stage meeting with Paraguay before managing to salvage a draw.

Alexandre Pato, the striker, said Mano Menezes's side must learn from their mistake tonight at La Plata, with Brazil having been drawn to meet Paraguay again in the quarter-finals.

Menezes spent part of Friday getting his reserve squad to mimic as near as possible Paraguay's style of play in training.

However, after the Brazilians finally "woke up", as their media put it, in beating Ecuador to win Group B, they must start favourites with the in-demand Santos striker Neymar and Pato, from AC Milan, in their ranks.

Both scored twice against Ecuador, although Menezes will be aware that the Paraguayans are unlikely to allow them as much space coming forward.

Pato said that Brazil must be ready from the first whistle, unlike last week, when Fred's last-gasp effort saved a 2-2 draw.

"It will be a tough game and different from the last one in that this time there is no margin for error," said Pato. "But we're confident we can win it."

Given the form of Neymar and Pato, the firepower issue is set to tip the balance away from the Paraguayans, particularly with Roque Santa Cruz, who netted in the group match, doubtful through injury after going off in the 3-3 thriller with Venezuela.

"We are hopeful," Gerardo Martino, the Paraguay coach, said of Santa Cruz's chances. "We will give it another day and wait on the results of tests."

Santa Cruz, the Manchester City forward who needs one more goal to become his country's all-time top scorer with 26, had to go off shortly before half time against Venezuela after straining a leg muscle and was replaced by Nelson Valdez.

Martino, who is due to step down after the tournament, is confident that his side has a good chance of reaching the last four as they look to secure a first Copa title since 1979.

"We traditionally do well against the stronger teams," he said, adding that he believes Ganso, not Neymar, is Brazil's most dangerous player. "It is very important that we don't give him any space," Martino said.

While Paraguay fret over Santa Cruz, Brazil's injury concern is the defender Thiago Silva, who has a similar problem and had a session with the physio rather than take part in training on Friday.

If the AC Milan player does not recover his place will go to Benfica's Luisao or the less-experienced David Luiz, of Chelsea.

Maicon, Brazil's right-back, has warned his teammates that they have to keep on improving, having shown only flashes of their true talents in the final group game after two earlier draws.

"We know that we cannot just turn up and expect to win games because we are Brazil," he said. "We will only get the results we want if we are at our very best."