The Battle of Las Vegas : Uruguay Defeat Brazil in Penalties

A Nail-Biting Copa América quarterfinal ends with a ten-man Uruguay securing a heroic semifinal spot over Brazil. Join us as we examine the Key Moments, Tactics, and Heart-Stopping Penalties from today’s epic showdown at Allegiant Stadium.
Charles Cleiton
Picture taken from inside the Allegiant Stadium moments before the Brazil vs Uruguay match, July 6, 2024

Today, July 6, the highly anticipated Copa America quarterfinal match between Uruguay and Brazil took place at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.

With a spot in the semifinals on the line, both teams went in with full firepower.

Uruguay went into the match with the expected 4-2-3-1 formation, with Rochet in goal and Matias Viña, Olivera, Araújo, and Nández making up the defense.

The Uruguayan midfield was comprised of Ugarte, Valverde, Pellistri, Nicolás de la Cruz, and Maximiliano Araújo. Up top, leading the attack for the “Celeste” as the Uruguayan national team is known, was Darwin Núñez as the sole striker.

Guilherme Paula, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Brazil also went in as expected, with 4-2-3-1 as their formation of choice.

In goal for the five-time world champions was Liverpool’s Alisson with Marquinhos and Militão in front of him. The defensive flanks were made up of Danilo and Arana, with João Gomes and Bruno Guimarães in front of them defensively.

Up front, Brazil had Paquetá, Raphinha, and Rodrygo with Endrick as the sole striker in front of everyone.

The game had a lively start with both teams testing each other out and not scared to try and make something happen.

Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (CBF), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Uruguay dominated the first ten minutes of the game but Brazil’s solid defense didn’t allow for anything to happen.

The big first chance of the game came at 12 minutes of the first half when De la Cruz fouled Bruno Guimarães at the entrance of the box.

The foul, in a very similar location to that which Raphinha had scored against Colombia, ended up hitting the wall and going out for a corner.

The first chance of the game came at 17 minutes when, after a loose ball from a corner, Darwin Núñez put in a dangerous header towards Alisson’s goal, but he was denied by Militão’s big head getting in the way.

SOCCER DIGITAL, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

As we reached the 25-minute mark, Brazil was not able to have much of a game.

By the 26th minute, Uruguay had already committed 7 fouls, and Brazil only 2.

The congested nature of the game, with fouls every other minute, made the first quarter of the match a very ugly display of soccer.

Brazil’s first big opportunity came at 27 minutes when after a Uruguayan mistake, Endrick ended up with a one-on-one opportunity vs Rochet.

Sadly, due to the ball being on Endrick’s weak foot, he was not able to capitalize and instead of shooting he attempted to pass it to Raphinha but the Uruguayan defense was able to intercept.

Uruguay received a big blow when 32 minutes into the first half Ronald Araújo had to be substituted due to an injury.

The Barcelona starting defender is one of Uruguay’s best players and such an early departure from the game was sure to hurt the Celeste’s defensive integrity.

To replace Araújo, Uruguayan coach Bielsa put in José María Giménez.

Soon after the substitution, both teams had back-to-back opportunities to score.

At 34 minutes, Darwin Núñez went up for a header by himself inside the box but was not able to put it on target.

Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Right after, Raphinha had an amazing solo run, which resulted in a one-on-one situation but was denied by the Uruguayan goalkeeper.

The moments of high excitement kept going when at 36 minutes Endrick was fouled again in a position from which Brazil could cause trouble.

This time instead of Raphinha taking the free kick, Rodrygo took it, and just like Raphinha, Rodrygo sent it straight into the wall.

As we reached the 40-minute mark in the first half, the game continued to be very choppy with many fouls for both sides.

The far-from-beautiful first half seemed more like a game of pinball than anything else. Thankfully the refs only gave 2 minutes of added time so we wouldn’t have to watch any more of this American football-like game, where no one could create anything and the game would stop every two minutes.

The second half started with Uruguay putting Brazil under pressure.

Just two minutes in, Valverde put in a strong shot to test out Alisson, but the Brazilian goalkeeper was able to maintain his calm and make a secure save.

As we reached the 50-minute mark, it seemed that Brazil hadn’t realized the second half had started. Without being able to break the Uruguayan defensive lines, it seemed that all that was left for the Brazilian national team to do was defend and hope for a miracle.

The hard-to-watch game continued with Uruguay losing some of its tempo within the next ten minutes.

On the other hand, Brazil began to slowly get closer to the Uruguayan goal but a lack of creativity meant nothing tangible would come from it.

With about a foul every two minutes, as we reached the 65-minute mark the true challenge of the day was watching this horrific match.

In an attempt to adapt to the game at hand, Marcelo Bielsa decided to substitute Nicolás De La Cruz and put in Rodrigo Bentancur.

Ailura, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT <>, via Wikimedia Commons

This change would result in a loss of creativity but more physical power and would help the “Celeste” maintain its defensive integrity.

A key moment in the game came at 73 minutes when Uruguayan left-back Nández committed a nasty tackle on Rodrygo.

Initially, Nández received a yellow for the criminal foul committed on the Real Madrid superstar but after a review from VAR, referee Dario Herrera decided to change it to a red.

With an extra player, the match slowly became a sort of offense vs defense with Brazil on the offensive and Uruguay on the defensive.

As we approached the final moments of the game, both teams decided to go to the bench.

Uruguay made their changes first, with Bielsa putting in Arrascaeta and Varela for Darwin Núñez and Pellistri.

Dorival took out Paquetá, Raphinha, and João Gomes for Savinho, Andreas Pereira, and Douglas Luiz.

Amcj1990, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Brazil’s substitutions were very smart since the changes made by Dorival took out all the players who had a yellow and also refreshed the midfield.

An interesting fact about the Copa America knockout rounds is there isn’t overtime. So if the showdown at Sin City ended in a tie it would go straight to penalties.

With this in mind, Uruguay had one mission, not to let Brazil score.

In efforts to take the game to penalties, the Celeste began time-wasting a lot, in hopes of running down the clock.

Looking to take advantage of the extra man and to win in normal time, Brazilian coach Dorival decided to put in striker Evanilson and winger Martinelli.

Many would imagine this meant Endrick would get subbed out but in a bold move Dorival decided to keep the young star and instead, he took out João Gomes.

With one less CDM and one more striker, Brazil was ready to put it all on the line and do everything to not let the game go to penalties.

A shocking moment in the game’s dying moments was when the extra time was announced. According to the refs, it was appropriate to give only 5 minutes, which was surprising due to all the fouls, substitutions, and the time spent in VAR checking the red card.

The game’s final minutes were highly dramatic, with Brazil doing everything they could to score and Uruguay running the clock down to the best of their ability.

However bold Dorival was by leaving Endrick and playing with four offensive players, it was not enough. A 10-man Uruguay was able to hold Brazil to a stalemate and take the game to penalties.

Heading into penalties, the fate of both nations rested upon their respective goalkeepers. For Brazil, that meant Alisson, for Uruguay it meant Rochet.

URUGUAY: Sergio Rochet

After a dramatic coin toss, it was decided that Uruguay would be kicking first and Brazil second.

The first penalty-taker of the night was none other than Uruguayan icon and Real Madrid superstar, Valverde.

After a tense slow walk toward the penalty box, Valverde put the ball down on the spot and after a powerful shot in the bottom left corner, he opened the scoring 1-0 Uruguay.

The second penalty of the night was to be taken by Éder Militão.

The Real Madrid center-back had had the weight of a nation on his shoulders as he prepared to take the penalty.Éder put in a strong shot in the right corner but was denied by a miraculous save from Sergio Rochet.

With that, the scoreline became 1-0 and Uruguay would get a chance to make it 2.

Uruguay’s second penalty was taken by Bentancur. Following his teammate Valverde, he also struck a powerful shot, this time in the right corner, leaving Alisson no chance.

With a 2-0 scoreline, Andreas Pereira stepped to the plate needing to score, and he did. The Fulham midfielder kept his cool and put in a nice low shot to the left side, making it 2-1.

Uruguay’s third penalty taker was Arrascaeta, who shot a good penalty into the upper left corner and again left Alisson with no chance to score.

Ailura, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Douglas Luiz was Brazil’s third penalty-taker. With the scoreline of 3-1, Douglas had to score but a not-so-well-taken penalty resulted in the ball going straight into the post.

With this miss, Uruguay went into the fourth penalty only needing to score to win.

With everything on the line, Giménez stepped up to take it and he did well, but Alisson did better.

Granada, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

With a strong shot in the right corner, he put it in the perfect spot for Alisson to make a beautiful save and keep Brazil in it.

Brazil’s fourth penalty also had a lot of weight since a miss would result in elimination. 

As was needed, Martinelli took it and scored, keeping Brazil alive.

Uruguay’s final penalty would prove decisive.

With the score of 3-2 and both teams having only one more kicker left, if Uruguay converted it, they would eliminate Brazil and move on to the semifinals.

Up to the ball went midfielder Manuel Ugarte, and with an impeccable shot placed to the left of Alisson, he scored and as a result, won Uruguay the whole game.

Manuel Ugarte
Scpforlife, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

After 90 minutes of hard-to-watch soccer and 9 very well-taken penalties, the game was over. Brazil was eliminated, Uruguay came out victorious, and Manuel Ugarte became a national hero for the Celeste.

The Battle of Las Vegas was everything it promised to be: a dramatic, competitive showdown between two very strong teams.

As I mentioned in my article yesterday, Uruguay went in as favorites and even after the red card, Brazil was still not able to create enough to deserve a win.

Brazil did not run enough, shoot enough, or fight enough. Uruguay, on the other hand, knew how to play the game and even after getting a red card, they were able to keep their composure and take the game to penalties.

Moving on from today’s dramatic game, Uruguay will now look forward to their next game, which will be on July 10, against Colombia.

While Brazil will be left to watch the semifinals from home, on the couch, with maybe some popcorn and a nice cold beer.

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