What: 2011 Copa America (Semi-final)
Who: Paraguay vs Venezuela
When: Wednesday 20th July, 2011, at 21:45 local time (00:45 UK time)
Where: Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza, Argentina

Two-Hour Resistance

It took Paraguay 120 minutes and no little amount of luck to overcome one of the tournament’s biggest favourites, five-time World Cup winners Brazil. Missed penalties at the Brazilian end after 30 futile extra minutes of football meant that the two-time Copa America winners got their revenge after settling for a draw with the Canarinha little more than a week ago.

It was a game filled with tension, emotions, missed chances, red cards, wasted penalties, and another nation’s unexpected fall. Brazil’s inability to score any penalty in the shoot-out handed Paraguay their first Copa America semi-final spot since 1983, a moment man-of-the-match Justo Villar will be sure to remember: “We all have great joy. Brazil dominated the match and we had to take refuge at the back and we had no chances. Tonight is one of the best nights in my life as a footballer. I hope we will continue have joy like this”, acknowledged the veteran custodian.

A meeting with Venezuela awaits Paraguay before a possible place in the final, however. Venezuela have had their moments in the 2011 Copa America so far and will pose a threat for Gerardo Martino and his team.

And the Shocks Keep Coming

After the exits of Argentina and Brazil, the demise of Chile against Venezuela proved to be the latest shocker in a Copa America full of twists and turns. Few would have bet against an Alexis Sanchez-led Chile, yet La Vinotinto proved the pundits wrong, leading on two occasions before finally discarding Chile at the final whistle.

Writing history as they qualified for the semi-finals for the first time in their history, coach Cesar Farias expressed his joy as his team surpassed Chile, a worthy opponent, while citing that there is still a great amount of work to be done: “We are living in a cloud in which we concentrate game by game. We know there is celebration in our country; we know the numbers and statistics. Now we think of the semi-final. We did not get here to give away everything. Now we have to think of the semi-final. Today we fortunately were able to withstand 90 minutes and beat a global rival."

Against a very motivated Paraguay, luck will simply not be enough for Venezuela at this stage of the tournament. And the likes of highly rated Malaga forward Jose Salomon Rondon will have to improve their game should they want to meet either Uruguay or Peru in the final.

Recent form

Paraguay 0-0 Ecuador (03/07; Copa America)
Brazil 2-2 Paraguay (09/07; Copa America)
Paraguay 3-3 Venezuela (13/07; Copa America)
Brazil 0-0 Paraguay; 2-0 pens to Paraguay
(17/07; Copa America)

Brazil 0-0 Venezuela (03/07; Copa America)
Venezuela 1-0 Ecuador (09/07; Copa America)
Paraguay 3-3 Venezuela (13/07; Copa America)
Chile 1-2 Venezuela (17/07; Copa America)

Players to watch

Paraguay – Justo Villar: The veteran goalkeeper was immense against Brazil, blocking the likes of Alexandre Pato to keep his side in the game. Having produced one of the best performances of his career, Villar will have to continue his fine form should his team want to progress in the tournament.

Venezuela – Jose Salomon Rondon: The Malaga forward is gearing up for a much anticipated season with the nouveau-riche La Liga outfit through an adventure with Venezuela at the Copa America, scoring a goal against Paraguay in the group stages. A better showing in the latter stages will definitely augment his stock ahead of the new La Liga season.

Match Prediction

Beating record world champions is never easy, and Paraguay will undoubtedly be anticipating this match more than their opponents. Venezuela earned respect with a win over Chile, but it will be hard for the baseball mad country to plot a route past Paraguay. Expect Martino’s team to be victorious in the end, though Venezuela could go out with a flourish; remember too that these two met in the group stage, with a 3-3 draw the result. Fireworks lie ahead.

Click here to read the Peru v Uruguay Copa America Semi-Final Match Preview.

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