woensdag 13 juli 2011

Pressure off Venezuela, on Paraguay at Copa

  • BUENOS AIRES, July 11, 2011 (AFP) - Few observers would have expected two of the top three finishers in South America's World Cup qualifiers to be struggling to reach the Copa America quarter-finals, still less stand in Venezuela's shadow.

    Yet that is the situation facing both eight-times champions Brazil and Paraguay as both bid to land a place in the last eight while the Venezuelans can largely afford to relax ahead of their final group game.

    Although now the baseball-loving nation will hope to go the whole hog and win the group they can afford to lose Wednesday's encounter in the northern Argentinian city of Salta and still sail on having drawn with the auriverde and beaten Ecuador.

    Final group rivals Paraguay must, like Brazil, scrap to ensure further progress after two draws and the Paraguayans will not take the Venezuelans lightly after the Vinotinto's impressive showing to date.

    The Paraguayans did the double over Cesar Farias' men in World Cup qualifying on the way to coming third in the regional grouping to book a place for South Africa, where they pushed Spain hard before succumbing in the quarter-finals.

    Venezuela, meanwhile, were happy with the highpoint of a draw away to Brazil as the traditional continental whipping boys finished above Peru and Bolivia.

    Indeed, two points more and they would have had the same points tally of Uruguay, who finally crept into a playoff with Costa Rica before going on to reach the semi-finals.

    With the two best third-placed teams in the three-group Copa advancing to the quarters there is a chance that a draw might be enough for the Paraguayans.

    But, just like Brazil against Ecuador, they cannot be sure that three points in total will suffice, hence the need to ratchet up their form.

    "Now for the moment of truth," says Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino, who will be banned from the dugout after arguing with Colombian match official Wilmar Roldan during the Brazil match.

    "We have to correct the mistakes we made in the previous games - we can't depend on luck, otherwise we'll be on our way home," Martino said Monday, adding he believed his side is overall playing better than at the World Cup.

    Venezuela counterpart Farias meanwhile is basking in the glory of a first passage to the last eight on foreign soil.

    "When you look at the table and see we are first in a Copa America which has coaches of the calibre of (Uruguay's Oscar) Tabarez, (Costa Rica's Ricardo) La Volpe, (Peru's Sergio) Markarian and (Colombia's Hernan Dario) Gomez, then I'd say we must be doing something right!"

    Venezuela, almost hourly recipients of praise from President Hugo Chavez via his Twitter account, have in the past been dubbed the "Cinderella" of the Latin American game - but they will go to the quarter-final ball.

    Possible lineups of the teams: 

    Paraguay: 1-Justo Villar, 2-Darío Verón, 14-Paulo Da Silva, 5-Antolín Alcaraz, 17-Aureliano Torres; 13-Enrique Vera, 20-Néstor Ortigoza, 16-Cristian Riveros e 21-Marcelo Estigarribia; 9-Roque Santa Cruz and 19-Lucas Barrios. Coach: Gerardo Martino.

    Venezuela: 1-Renny Vega, 16-Roberto Rosales, 20-Grenddy Perozo, 4-Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, 6-Gabriel Cichero; 8-Tomás Rincón, 14-Franklin Lucena, 11-César González, 18-Juan Arango; 9-Giancarlo Maldonado and 7-Miku. Coach: César Farías.

    The stars of the game: 

    Paraguay: Paraguayan national team invests in the experienced former striker Roque Santa Cruz. The forward has 29 years, comes to his third Copa America, being the player who did the most goals among the squad with 24 goals. Other stars of the team are Justo Villar, Paulo da Silva and Lucas Barrios.

    Venezuela: The Venezuelan side has as the great hope of winning Juan Arango. The striker, 31, is the team captain and has many years’ experience playing in Europe. Another star of the team is defender Jose Manuel Rey. Rey is the most capped player in history, with 111 games. Giancarlo Maldonado and Salomón Rondón are the other bets of the "vinotinto."

    Curiosities of the Confrontation:

    - This confrontation has happened 19 times, with 15 wins of Paraguay, Venezuela has two wins and two draws. Paraguay has 41 goals and Venezuela scored 15 times.

    - For the Copa America, were 4 matches, with 4 wins of Paraguay. Paraguay scored 16 times and Venezuela scored five goals.

    - The top scorer of the clash in the Copa America are Gustavo Neffa, Luis Alberto Monzón, Buenaventura Ferrera and Juan Carlos Rojas with two goals each.

    - Venezuelan never won Paraguay in the Copa America.

    - Venezuela was the country hosting of the 2007 Copa America.

    - Paraguay is the most "foreign" out of the 12 participants, with three Argentines in the squad, plus the coach Gerardo Martino.

    - Jose Manuel Rey, defender of Venezuela, is playing his sixth Copa America.

    - Venezuela is the only South American who has never played a World Cup.

    - Marcelo Elizaga, goalkeeper of Ecuador, is the oldest player in this edition of the Copa America, 39.

    - Venezuela has never won the Copa America. 

    - On the other hand the Paraguayan national team has won twice, in 1953 and 1979.

    - Venezuela is the South American country that less acted in Copa America, with 15 participations.

    The last duel:

    In the last duel, Paraguay won Venezuela for the 2010 World Cup Qualifiers. The victory by 2-1, held in Maracaibo, Venezuela, was in 2009. The goals were scored by the Paraguayan Salvador Cabanas and Oscar Cardozo. Salomón Rondón discounted to Venezuela.
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