Brazil exit as Venezuela shock Chile at Copa

LA PLATA, Argentina, July 17, 2011 (AFP) - Paraguay dumped holders Brazil out of the Copa America on Sunday, winning a quarter-final penalty shootout 2-0 after a poor match ended goalless after extra-time.

Paraguayan goalkeeper Justo Villar stops the penalty from Brazilian defender Thiago Silva during the penalty shoot-out. AFP

A day after hosts Argentina slid out, also on penalties, to Uruguay, the shocks kept coming as Venezuela reached the semi-finals for the first time with a gutsy 2-1 win over fancied Chile.

Oswaldo Vizcarrondo gave Venezuela a 34th-minute lead only for Humberto Suazo to level midway through the second half.

But just as extra-time seemed to be on the way once again Gabriel Cichero struck from close range to spark scenes of joy among the travelling Venezuelan fans and leave the Chileans, four-times finalists, stunned.

The giant-killers will now go up against the Paraguayans, whose last title came in 1979, in a Wednesday semi at Mendoza after Uruguay first take on Peru at La Plata.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, preparing for chemotherapy on Cuba, was quick to send his customary congratulatory tweets to the team.

"Let's pay supreme tribute to our boys from the Glorious Vinotinto (the team nickname)," Chavez tweeted.

Coach Cesar Farias was also delighted - if in more restrained fashion.

"The happiness we feel gives us the desire to keep on in the same vein," said Farias.

But he added that winning the semi would be a tall order.

"Paraguay are a strong team and they will start favourites, insisted Farias.

The Venezuelans will have to make do without Tomas Rincon, red-carded in injury-time for some shirt pulling.

Chile also finished a man short after having Gary Medel sent off eight minutes from the end.

But the real shock of the day was Brazil - not so much for their exit but the apparent paucity of their ambition.

They had chances - Ganso and Pato brought good saves from Justo Villar in the Paraguayan goal and Fred, who rescued a dramatic draw between the two nations a week earlier in the group stage, had a header cleared off the line.

But much of their play was laboured, while their penalty-taking was woeful.

Marcelo Estigarribia and Christian Riveros converted for the Paraguayans while Elano, Thiago Silva, Andre Santos and Fred missed for the eight-times continental champions.

"When you lose you know you made some mistakes," said Brazil coach Mano Menezes, who partly blamed the poor state of the penalty spot for the dreadful finale.

"But this happens in football and we have to live with it. The object haas always been to get a strong team together for the World Cup in 2014."

The five-times world champions host that and will want to provide much better fare for their fans than they did here.

Brazil forward Robinho tried to put a positive gloss on the defeat.

"I think we played a good Copa overall. But now we must keep our heads up and go on to lift the World Cup in our homeland," said the Milan striker.

In an ugly incident, Lucas Leiva of Brazil and Paraguay's Antolin Alcaraz were sent off for a tussle which sparked an injury-time free-for-all.

Robinho joined Ganso and strike pair Pato and Neymar, the four comprising Menezes' "magic quartet".

But they could provide the necessary spark against tough opponents who gave no quarter.

Paraguay boss Gerardo Martino rejigged his side as top striker Roque Santa Cruz missed out through injury.

If they rode their luck at times, they ultimately won through sheer dogged rearguard resistance.

With five minutes remaining Brazil should have stolen it but Fred, who poached a last-gasp leveller against the same rivals a week earlier, saw his header cleared off the line.

"We showed a lot of heart," said Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino, though he admitted: "Brazil should probably have won it over the 90 minutes."

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