Ralph Hannah –
Day 5: VAR rescues Venezuela again as Tite’s team stumbles. In the end, it was a historic night for Venezuela who drew against Brazil in Brazil for only the 2nd time in their history, the 0-0 draw also represented the first time they have avoided defeat against the host nation of the Copa América in 15 attempts.
Day 5: Brazil draw against Venezuela
The draw was all the more rewarding for Rafael Dudamel’s side after a slick opening spell from Brazil that suggested a rout was on the cards. Tite brought back Arthur, injured for the first game, into the starting line-up and immediately he seemed to have an effect. The diminutive midfielder was the conductor they had missed against Bolivia, in the first half he completed 51 passes out of 52 attempts and kept the game ticking over and helped create different angles of attack.
Dani Alves and Richarlison isolated Machís early on down the right and Neres found some joy against the inexperienced Hernandez who had replaced the suspended Mago. But for all the clever wide play, there was no linkage in the middle with Firmino until the 38thminute when he managed to connect with a low Alves cross and find the net. The referee immediately disallowed the goal for a push by the Liverpool forward; it would be the first of three goals ruled out this evening.
What Brazil lacked in the middle, Venezuela had in the form of Salomon Rondón who combined his physical presence and technical ability to hold up play superbly all night and try and bring in the faster players Murillo and Machís, later Soteldo to set up a counter attack. He was the closest to scoring, a header that flashed wide in the first half.
Tite tried to force the issue by bringing on Gabriel Jesús for Neres at halftime, as in the first game the Man City forward was more direct and looked to attack the area rather than pull wide. That worked early into the second half when his deflected pass and run into the box resulted in a goal…only for the referee to consult VAR and correctly rule it out for offside. Firmino had drifted ahead of the last line of defence before crossing low to Jesús.
The game didn’t seem to have much energy as Brazil kept the ball well, but Arthur was content and patient to keep moving the ball sideways, waiting for an angle to arrive. Watching Tite’s teams, this Brazil and previously Corinthians is often like watching a Boa Constrictor kill its prey. Slowly and surely it squeezes the life out of you; it is as if every completed pass is another tensing of the muscles until eventually, there is no more resistance. It seemed to have happened again in Salvador when a rare moment of individual brilliance from substitute Everton saw him slice through the stout Venezuelan defence, and his deflected cross found Coutinho to score and salvage the Selecçao again. But once again the Chilean referee had a word in his ear, and for the third time of the night, a Brazil goal was ruled out.
This final act was cruel for Brazil as the ball was adjudged to have hit Firmino on the way in and for the third time the Liverpool forward was at fault, although this time the offside must have been microscopic.
The result means Venezuela go into their final game against the weakest side in the tournament, Bolivia, knowing that a win would almost certainly take them into the knockout stages. It is a position that they wouldn’t have been in if VAR didn’t exist, the vinotinto have seen four goals chalked off via video and another one at the referee’s discretion. If the argument is that they’ve had the rub of the green so far, now they need to make that luck count.
Day 5: Bolivia vs Peru
There was a sense of Dejá Vú in the Marcaná when Marcelo Martins put Bolivia ahead from the spot against Peru. Curiously his last goal in the Copa America was also a penalty against Peru in the 2015 tournament. The blanquirroja might have felt aggrieved to be behind; they had seen a strong penalty shout turned down on 8 minutes after Advincula, who had impressed in the opening match, went over in the box. Unlike the Zambrano handball that led to La Verde’s spot-kick, that didn’t get ratified by VAR – despite a fairly strong indication, there was contact.
Eduardo Villegas’ team couldn’t hold onto their lead; however, similar to the game against Brazil; they were punished for their mistakes. A loose touch in midfield just before the break saw Cueva nip in and thread a pass to 35-year-old Paolo Guerrero who scored his first goal at the Marcaná in just over two years. On that day it was the equaliser for Flamengo in the Fla-Flu derby, and they would go onto win 2-1 against Fluminense.
Today followed a similar pattern, early into the second half Guerrero found himself down the left-hand side and beat his man to stand up a great cross to Jefferson Farfan who climbed above Bejarano to head home. Unlike the previous game, where he had a header ruled out against Venezuela, there was no chance of offside and the goal stood – his first in the Copa America since 2004.
At this point Gareca and Solano were confident on the Peru bench, they knew if Bolivia wanted to get back into the game, they would have to risk something and that gave Cueva room to operate in midfield and Guerrero space in behind.
Peru turned the screw with around 15 minutes left, forcing Lampe into a string of saves. The goal was coming but didn’t arrive until the 96thminute, Farfan’s pass picked up by Edison Flores who waited and waited for the goalkeeper to commit before lifting the ball over him.
The 3-1 result matched the scoreline when these teams met in 2015, Peru reached the semi-finals that year and barring any surprises will be in the knockouts following this comfortable win.
Ralph Hannah is Londoner, who has lived in Luque and is now located in Miami, with a keen interest in Paraguayan football history and statistics. A frequent traveller throughout Latin America he attends games throughout the region and has written for a variety of publications and set up the first English-language blog on Paraguayan Football. When not in the Defensores del Chaco he’s looking after his 2 daughters. Follow Ralph on Twitter @paraguayralph.