LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vinícius Júnior scored two first-half goals to lead Brazil to a 4-1 victory over Paraguay on Friday night and put itself in position to advance out of Group D in the Copa America.

“Today, he played almost a perfect match,” Brazil coach Dorival Júnior said through an interpreter. “He was dynamic.”

Sávio also scored a first-half goal for Brazil and Lucas Paquetá scored on a penalty kick in the second half. Omar Alderete scored Paraguay’s goal.

There were plenty of tense moments with five yellow cards and a red handed out. Andres Cubas was sent off for a red card in the 81st minute, forcing Paraguay to play the last part of the match down a man. Yellow cards were handed to Brazil’s Wendell, Vinícius Júnior and Lucas Paquetá and Paraguay’s Fabián Balbuena and Hernesto Caballero.

The victory was quite a response for the Seleção, who opened the tournament Tuesday with a scoreless draw against Costa Rica despite outshooting their opponent 18-2.

“There was a certain level of disappointment for the lack of results in the first match,” Dorival Júnior said. “But I think our performance was of a great level. We’ve made great progress in very little time. We almost never have 20 days to work together.

“I told you be patient because this team is trending on the right path.”

With four points, Brazil is two behind group leader Colombia, which defeated Costa Rica 3-0 earlier Friday. A victory or tie by Brazil against Colombia on Tuesday ensures one of the group’s two spots in the knockout stage. Brazil also has a six-goal differential advantage over Costa Rica, so a loss likely won’t keep out the nine-time Copa America champions.

Paraguay will not advance to the next round, leading to some tense back-and-forth between coach Daniel Garnero and reporters who questioned the team’s continued struggles in this tournament. The country has won Copa America twice, but not since 1979.

“There have been many head coaches and nobody’s finding the solution,” Garnero said through an interpreter. “You’re talking about a match that just finished. I cannot talk about something that happened ages ago.”

Brazil has had its difficulties against Paraguay in Copa America play, having drawn in their previous five meetings. That tied for the second-longest unbeaten streak against Brazil in this tournament, which Paraguay also was part of from 1963-83.

But Brazil won the most recent meeting, defeating Paraguay 4-0 two years ago in World Cup qualifying, and there was little doubt about the outcome of this match after two late goals broke it open in what was a contentious end to the first half.

Moments after teammate Bruno Guimarães hit the crossbar, Sávio put Brazil up 2-0 in the 43rd minute.

Both teams got into a scrum in extra time, with Chilean referee Piero Maza handing yellow cards to Wendell and Balbuena at three-plus minutes. Then Vinícius Júnior delivered the crushing blow five minutes into stoppage time.

Paraguay had its chances and even outshot Brazil 8-5, including 4-3 on goal. Brazil goalkeeper Alisson Becker made a tremendous save diving to his right to prevent a goal from Damián Bobodilla 15 minutes into the match.

Early in the second half, however, Alderete scored to close the deficit to 3-1.

Then 17 minutes later, Lucas Paquetá made up for a missed penalty kick in the first half by converting to give back Brazil its three-goal lead.

“We played against two world class teams,” said Garnero, referencing Paraguay’s 2-1 loss to Colombia in its opener. “It’s complicated being in my place. I’m seeing a great effort by the team. They’ve measured up, but we still need to achieve the results.”

Dorival Júnior made a bold and controversial move by deciding not to start Raphinha. The move, with national team legend Neymar watching from the stands, clearly paid off.

Raphinha was a late-game substitute, entering the match at the 72nd minute in place of Sávio.

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AP Copa America coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/copa-america