Two six-goal thrillers light up Copa America

CORDOBA, Argentina,  (Reuters) – Holders Brazil and  their Group B rivals breathed life into the Copa America in two  six-goal thrillers as they qualified for the quarter-finals with  Venezuela and Paraguay on Wednesday.

Brazil won the group on goal difference from Venezuela,  former whipping boys of South American soccer, with a 4-2  victory over Ecuador and will meet Paraguay in La Plata on  Sunday.

Much-improved Venezuela, 1-0 up after five minutes but 3-1  down going into the 90th, struck twice for a 3-3 draw with  Paraguay in Salta that put them in a last-eight meeting with  Group A winners Chile in Mendoza.

Peru, with Paraguay one of the two best third-placed teams  in the 12-nation competition, head to Cordoba to meet Group A  winners Colombia in Saturday’s quarter-finals, while hosts  Argentina meet old rivals Uruguay in Santa Fe.

After a dearth of goals marred opening matches, Lionel  Messi-led Argentina may have sparked the tournament into life  with their 3-0 victory over Costa Rica on Monday, but Brazil’s  display served notice the champions were beginning to gel under  coach Mano Menezes.

Mano Menezes

“Today’s was Brazil’s best match of the tournament so far,”  Menezes told a news conference after two changes — Maicon at  right back and Robinho in attack — gave his team more punch.

However, Menezes remained wary of Paraguay’s strengths after  Brazil shared a 2-2 draw with coach Gerardo Martino’s side four  days ago in their previous group match.

“We know Paraguay’s coach can put out a team that will be  hard to beat but that’s our path,” Menezes said.

 BRAZILIAN   VIRTUES

Young strikers Alexandre Pato and Neymar scored two goals  apiece for Brazil, winners of four of the last five tournaments,  while eliminated Ecuador contributed two fine equalisers from  big forward Felipe Caicedo.

Typical of the traditional Brazilian virtues Menezes has  sought to revive was their second goal facilitated by playmaker  Paulo Henrique Ganso, who took a ball with his back to the net,  turned and slotted it through for Neymar to shoot into the top  corner.

Eliminated Ecuador’s Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda signed  off by saying: “Given our hopes, this (tournament) was negative  for Ecuador. Today we played better but it wasn’t enough against  effective rivals like Brazil.”

Paraguay were guilty of failing to defend the two-goal lead  they got four minutes from time when midfielder Cristian Riveros  sent a glancing header inside the near post from a free kick  from the right.

Striker Nicolas Fedor pulled one back in the final minute  and three minutes into added time Grenddy Perozo equalised with  a diving header at a corner.

“The team never lost their cool. We’re a mentally strong  team and we showed that today,” Fedor told reporters.

Goalkeeper Renny Vega played a key part when he came up into  the box for the last-ditch corner and his header into the middle  was met by Perozo.

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