By Willie Leniek
Another cliff-hanger ending in the second match of the closing day of quarterfinal action in the Copa America 2011 with Venezuela sending home Chile at the end of the 90 minutes with 2-1 score. The score however was not indicative of the game’s development, mostly because Chile could have put away the Vinotinto side with innumerable opportunities to score. Two shots splintered the post and a mirage of well placed centers that shook goalkeeper Vega, were not enough to send the Cup’s biggest underdog home. On the other hand, it only took two free kick centers that landed within the penalty box to put the Venezuelan team on top. In fact the win against Chile has marked Venezuelan soccer history with the most important achievement in that country’s entire run since being included in the Conmebol. Coach Cesar Farías had demanded respect during the press conference held after beating Paraguay last week. With this win against Chile he assured that the Venezuelan squad will be taken seriously as they enter the semifinals for the first time in the Cup’s history.
Venezuela’s semifinal rival, Paraguay, sent tournament favorite Brazil home after they reached penalty shoot outs. This game ended in a tie with no goals after 120 minutes of grinding play. The Brazilian side attacked time and time again but the offensive game from Alexandre Pato, Robinho and Elano were not enough to break the tie. A solid defensive game by the Guaraní team was enough to send the game into overtime and eventually penalties. It was in this instance that all four Brazilian kickers missed their mark, while only two penalties were scored by Paraguay. It is no small detail that at the the penalty spot, the grass was in deplorable state and players from both sides had problems getting a foothold at the time of striking the ball.
In the previous games Peru surprised Colombia with a 2 – 0 lead in overtime. The Peruvian team had struggled at the start of the tournament but was able to overcome a Colombian team that seemed a times a team in disarray. Peruvian midfielder Carlos Lobaton scored the first goal in 101st minute said “ We were able to capitalize on the Colombian mistakes.” Ten minutes later Juan Vargas sealed the game with another goal. Peru’s next rival in the semis will be Uruguay. The Celestes defeated the local favorite, Argentina, in yet another definition from the penalty spot. Many called this match the tournament finals, since both teams were strong candidates to win the Cup. But 5 minutes into the game midfielder Diego Perez silenced the stadium with the first goal. Argentina led by Messi and Gonzalo Higuain stepped up their game and tied things up in the 17th minute of the first half. The remaining minutes of the first half had Argentina dominating and creating a good number of scoring situations but none ended in the back of the net. The second half and with one less player after Diego Perez was red carded from the game was surprisingly even with both teams leveling their play. Uruguay dug into their defense and fended off the Argentine team to take the game into overtime and eventually penalties. It was here that Carlos Tevez, the peoples favorite player, kicked to the left of the goal where goal keeper Muslera dove to put an end to the Argentine dream.
Only four teams remain in the chase for the Cup, strong candidate Uruguay will play Peru and Paraguay will play underdogs Venezuela in the semifinals. Hold all forecasts until the end of the tournament, since one thing is for sure, this tournament has been and could very well be, even more surprising.