South American correspondent Tom Webber brings you all the action from the Copa America.
Coming into this game, Venezuela were once again underdogs, as they have been in every game they have entered in this Copa America. It seems to suit them. They have showed great strength and resilience, making the most of what is a fairly solid defence, and countering with some capable attacking players. With the loss of Brazil and Argentina, Chile in fact became one of the favourites to win the title.
Venezuela opened the scoring in the typical style. The game had been going the way of Chile, though they had not produced anything noteworthy to trouble Renny Vega in the Venezuela goal. Alexis Sanchez had struggled to replicate his club form, evidence of another high profile player not to reach his potential in the tournament. Venezuela managed to earn a free kick in the opposition half out on the right hand side. Juan Arango put the ball in with a fantastic delivery. Oswaldo Vizcarrondo got in front of the first man and put a fantastic glancing header on the ball beating Claudio Bravo who could not get down to save the ball from going in. Vizcarrondo has been a rock at the back for La Vinotinto but showed his attacking prowess on this occasion.
Chile’s best chance came just before the break as Pablo Contreras header from a whipped free kick was instinctively pushed away by Vega who had little time to react. Venezuela took yet another surprise lead in at the break.
Chile came out a different side in the second half, Claudio Borghi must have delivered an inspiring half time team talk. It was not long until Humberto Suazo’s ball in to the back post was headed by Mauricio Isla back across the goal.His attempt beat the keeper but Cichero was back covering to head it away. Within a minute Chile had another opportunity as Suazo hit the bar with a thunderous strike on the turn that had the keeper beaten all ends up and rooted to the spot.
It seemed like it would not be the Chileans night when the woodwork was hit once again by substitute Jorge Valdivia. The ball was rolled across the box and the Palmeiras playmaker looked to bend it in with the outside of his right foot from being level with the left hand post. Valdivia got great power in his shot but could not find the net. Venezuela were hanging on as Chile cranked up the pressure. The needed to be able to hold the ball up in Chile’s half for greater spells and so both strikers were substituted.
Chile eventually got the breakthrough that they deserve from the bullish Suazo. He had been one of the best platers on the pitch, always getting into dangerous positions and hungry to be involved in the play. He peeled of his defender in the box finding space to control Sanchez’s cutback after a great run from the right hand side. Suazo took one heavy touch and struck the ball, which hit the underside of the bar and went in.
With Sanchez improving as the game wore on, Venezuela were desperately hanging on. Again the managed a free kick in the opposition half and once again they made the most of it. Another Arango free kick was difficult for Chile to deal with, placed perfectly in the box, the keeper was made indecisive as he failed to anticipate any contact being made. There may have been some slight contact which only enable Bravo to push the ball back towards the danger area. Cichero reacted quickest and ensured his side were ahead again, against the run of play, after 81 minutes.
It seems a Copa America quarter final would not be acceptable without a couple of sending offs to boot though. Within minutes of Venezuela taking the lead Gary Medel was sent off for a second bookable offence. It seemed quite harsh but it was definitely hand ball and so Medel had to leave the field. Tomas Rincon was also sent off in the 94th minute after a clumsy, lazy challenge, which means he will miss the semi final. This ocurring after Cichero yet again cleared the ball off the line from an attempt by Arturo Vidal after Vega had spilled a shot by Suazo into his path. The Chileans will be cursing his name as the Venezuelan defender was key to his side’s victory.
There was no time left for the Chileans to get an equaliser once the teams were leveled up and so Venezuela made it to their first ever Copa America semi final. It was also their first ever win against Chile in the Copa America, as another favourite was dumped out of the tournament. Now all the top teams are out we are left with Uruguay vs Peru and Paraguay vs Venzuela in the semi’s. No one would have dared predicted these outcomes of the quarter finals which now leaves any team capable of taking the title away from reigning champions Brazil.
Read more from Tom at his excellent blog Purple Patch