A Neymar-less Brazil makes it through to the quarter final as the talismanic forward’s four game ban meant he could only cheer on from the stands.
BY STEVE NJUGUNA
Brazil beat Venezuela by two goals to one to seal qualification into the quarter finals of the Copa America in Chile in a tense and nervy game of football. Coach Dunga of Brazil had to draft in Santos striker Robinho to replace the suspended Neymar who received a four game ban after assaulting Colombian players Jeison Murillo and Pablo Armero and scuffling with Carlos Bacca. Bacca himself got a two game match which means he will be able to play if Colombia make it to the Semifinals while Neymar’s ban effectively ruled him out for the rest of the tournament. Brazil have made clear their intention to appeal the decision.
The game started at a slow pace as the Brazilians seem to adapt to new formations without their star man but they settled into their rhythm and drew first blood in the 10th minute when captain Thiago Silva volleyed home after some haphazard defending by the Venezuelans .The Brazilians grew in confidence as they pinned back their opponents to their own half of the pitch and they continued probing in the first half with Robinho and Willian coming close to double the lead.
The second half saw Venezuela look more dangerous on the counter attack as they looked particularly menacing on free kicks and set pieces. Brazil grabbed their second as Willian squared the ball for Roberto Firmino to tap in at point blank range in the 51st minute. Venezuela started putting more impetus in their attack and gave the Brazilians something to think about with a string of free kicks and corners which forced a few acrobatic saves from Brazil goalkeeper Jefferson.
The resilient Venezuelans finally got their deserved goal when Jefferson punched away a free kick straight onto the head of Rayo Vallecano striker Miku who had just come on as a substitute and was at full stretch to head the ball into the back of the net in the 83rd minute. This prompted a late push forward by the Venezuelans which was to no avail as ‘La Selecao’ held on for the win. They will now face Paraguay in the quarter finals.