Venezuela, Paraguay upset odds on day of firsts
© AFP

THE DAY REPLAYED - Venezuela stunned Chile 2-1 in San Juan on Sunday to qualify for their first ever appearance in the semi-finals of the Copa America. Awaiting them will be Paraguay, who edged out Brazil 2-0 on penalties after 120 tense, goalless minutes in La Plata. La Albirroja thus reached the last four for the first time in 22 years.

Results
Brazil 0-0 Paraguay (0-2 PSO)
Chile 1-2 Venezuela

Memorable moments

Bad luck or loss of nerve?
If you go by the premise that penalty shoot-outs are something of a lottery, you could say that luck was not on the side of Mano Menezes’ Brazil against Paraguay. Yet the fact that Elano, Andre Santos and Fred all missed their kicks, while Justo Villar saved Thiago Silva’s effort, cannot be put down to chance alone. As a result, La Seleção head for home having never before failed to convert at least two penalties in a major tournament shoot-out.

Taking the middle ground
Four games into their Copa campaign, Paraguay find themselves in the semi-finals despite being yet to taste victory in open play. What is more, taking into account Venezuela 2007, Los Guaraníes have now gone six Copa matches without a win. Even so, their four draws here on Argentinian soil have been enough to secure a last-four berth for the first time since 1989.

A first time for everything
Venezuela continue to cut a swathe at Argentina 2011, this time by seizing a historic first semi-final spot at the expense of opponents who they had never previously beaten at this competition. In nine prior Copa meetings, Chile had won seven and drawn two, while yesterday’s match was only the second time La Vinotinto had sunk La Roja at senior international level.

Coincidence or curse?
The defeat against Venezuela was Chile’s fifth match played on a 17 July in Copa America history. Of these five encounters, La Roja have been unable to record a single victory, drawing three times and losing twice.

The player
Gabriel Cichero (Venezuela)
The Venezuelan defender’s contribution in his country’s victory over Chile was nothing short of immense. Not only did the 27-year-old grab his side’s winner after seizing on a fumble from La Roja No1 Claudio Bravo, he also produced two moments of goal-saving inspiration at the other end with his keeper beaten.

Goal of the day
Chile-Venezuela, Humberto Suazo 69’
With his team trailing, Chile’s Gary Medel set the move that led to La Roja’s equaliser in motion with a quickly taken throw-in out on the right flank. After receiving the ball from Medel, Mauricio Isla laid it off to Alexis Sanchez, who sent in a cross which renowned poacher Suazo controlled before lashing home an unstoppable right-foot strike on the turn.

The stat
3
– This year’s competition is only the third time in 43 Copa Americas that neither Brazil nor Argentina have featured in the last four. What is more, the two previous occasions that La Albiceleste and A Verde e Amarelo were not involved at this stage came at Peru 1939, when neither team attended the competition, and Colombia 2001, which took place without Argentina.

What they said
“We played a totally different game to the one we’d planned for. It would be great to say we’d intended it to go that way but it'd be a lie. It took an enormous amount of sacrifice, a great display from Justo Villar and, if you don’t mind me saying, a large dose of luck,” Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino, at the press conference following his side’s shoot-out win over Brazil.

Up next
Semi-finals
Peru-Uruguay, Tuesday 19 July, La Plata, 21.45 (local time)
Paraguay-Venezuela, Wednesday 20 July, Mendoza, 21.45 (local time)