Venezuela was the only team in group B of the Copa América that before today's final matches was certain to go to the quarterfinals. However, what was not clear was whether they would progress on first, second or third spot.
This being only the second time ever Venezuela progresses in this tournament (and the first time was 4 years ago when they were hosting the tournament themselves), to progress on third spot would be considered a success. However, this Venezuelan side was obviously not satisfied with the leftovers as they went on the pitch against Paraguay today. After only four minutes Málaga's striker, Solomón Rondón, brought Venezuela ahead, and the World Cup quarterfinalists of Paraguay seemed in complete disarray as their usually rock-solid defense seemed open to Venezuelan attacks. It was a pity that Venezuela didn't expand their lead, as Paraguayan efficiency struck back with a messy goal after a corner-kick. Still, 1-1 remained acceptable for Venezuela, although I, as a newly-become Vinotinto fan, was more annoyed at the fact that they were not winning at half-time.
The second half became the best drama of this tournament so far: Venezuela started best, but after another corner-kick, Borussia Dortmund's dangerous striker Lucas Barrios scored a goal that should have been disallowed for hand-ball. Still, Paraguay was proving efficient as Venezuela seemed to become confused about what had happened to the match for them. Not long after, Paraguay scored another goal on a school-book free-kick situation, and it all seemed over for Venezuela. Still, coach Farias insisted on more offensive power and brought on Juan Arango, Giancarlo Maldonado and Miku Fedor. It was this last one who in the 44th minute scored Venezuela's second, and suddenly, in the dying seconds, Venezuela pressed on against the usually cool-headed Paraguayans. In the last second, Venezuela got a corner-kick, and with nothing to lose, sent everything forward, including goalkeeper Renny Vega. And it was in fact Vega who got a header on to Grenddy Perozo, who managed to equalize for Venezuela in the very last second of the match.
I was jumping with myself in my apartment celebrating the goal, although I soon had to admit that it was a lucky Venezuelan side who had given away some silly goals, and until the last seconds, been too nice to the poor Paraguayan defense.
Still: great, GREAT, Vinotinto!!!! I am proud to be here at this time, and can confirm that yet again I have great football-karma on the countries that I live in!
The final positions on the table depended on the last match of the group between Brazil and Ecuador. Brazil did not play a good first half, but managed to score a good goal by Pato, before the talented Felipe Caicedo equalized for Ecuador. In the second half, Brazil finally woke up though, to become the team that everybody expects them to be, and ended winning the match 4-2, enough to give them the first spot in group B, being better than runners-up Venezuela on goal-difference. This means that while Brazil will be facing Paraguay in the quarterfinals, Venezuela will be tested to their best against Chile, who have looked very strong so far in the tournament.
Although the Chileans should know that playing the Vinotinto will be no walkover, the Venezuelans have to work more on not making the mistakes that cost them goals today. If they can correct this, they will surely have a chance of taking yet another historical step for Venezuelan football!