Santiago, June 22 (IANS) Former captain Thiago Silva helped Brazil overcome the absence of suspended skipper Neymar to book their place in the quarter-finals of Copa America 2015 as Group C winners with a 2-1 victory over Venezuela.
Dunga’s men progress to a quarter-final meeting with Paraguay in Concepcion on Saturday, but will be without their talismanic forward for the remainder of the tournament, unless they are successful with any appeal against his four-match ban. Defeat for Venezuela on Sunday saw Noel Sanvicente’s men eliminated, as Colombia progressed to the last eight from third place, where they will face Argentina on Friday in Vina del Mar.
Thiago Silva, who was replaced as captain following the 2014 World Cup, powered home a volley from Robinho’s corner with just nine minutes gone to give the Selecao the perfect start at the Estadio Monumental in Santiago.
And Roberto Firmino made it 2-0 in the 51st minute with a simple side-foot finish from close range after Chelsea midfielder Willian’s excellent driving run down the left and inviting cross.
Venezuela set up a dramatic finale with six minutes to go when Juan Arango’s free-kick was tipped onto the post by Jefferson with substitute Miku on hand to nod home, but there was to be no late leveller. Neymar sat in the stands throughout Brazil’s victory, which set up a re-match with Paraguay, the side who defeated them on penalties at the same stage four years ago.
After opening the scoring and putting one foot firmly in the last-eight, Brazil allowed Venezuela plenty of possession in the first 45 minutes, but Sanvicente’s men were unwilling to go into all-out attack mode because of the threat of counter-attacks led by Robinho.
Venezuela registered just one shot on target in the first half – a flick from Andres Tunez from Roberto Rosales’ 30th-minute free-kick – and despite their more adventurous resumption after the break, they were two goals behind before they could really react.
After Philippe Coutinho sliced a shot wide 15 seconds after half-time and Thiago Silva forced Alain Baroja into a stunning low stop with a header soon after, Firmino struck to double Brazil’s lead.
A flowing passing move saw the ball eventually reach Willian on the left wing, and the Chelsea midfielder’s quick feet saw him get away from his marker before crossing with the outside of his right boot to set up the goal.
Tunez was again at least partly to blame, as the Venezuelan centre-back lost track of Firmino, just as he did for Thiago Silva’s first-half goal.
Sanvicente’s side gave themselves hope when skipper Arango’s free-kick was palmed onto the post by Jefferson in the 84th minute and Miku stooped to head home his first international goal since 2012.
Miku could have pulled off an incredible comeback in stoppage time but Josef Martinez’s cross flashed just over his head with the goal gaping.