Paraguay outlast Venezuela on penalties
Paraguay booked their place in the Copa America final for the first time in 32 years after a penalty shoot-out win over Venezuela. Goalkeeper Justo Villar’s save to deny Franklin Lucena proved the key moment in the shoot-out, after a match Venezuela controlled for the most part ended goalless after extra time.
Venezuela struck the woodwork three times,Speak while Paraguay had Jonathan Santana sent off in extra-time, but still Gerardo Martino’s side held on to ensure their place in Sunday’s Buenos Aires showpiece against Uruguay.
Paraguay’s progress, which was sealed by a Dario Veron penalty, means they have qualified for the final despite having not won a match without the aid of penalties in the tournament so far.
Martino’s side were the clear favourites after knocking out Brazil in a shoot-out in the quarter-finals, while Venezuela were playing in their first-ever Copa America semi-final.
Cesar Farias’s side therefore understandably made a nervy beginning, and were indebted to the sharp reflexes of goalkeeper Renny Vega early on as he kept out Veron’s unmarked header.
More casual defending allowed Nelson Haedo Valdez a sight on goal but he thrashed his effort well wide before the Paraguay striker saw a far better attempt turned aside by Vega.
Venezuela finally began to settle as the game reached the half hour and had a goal chalked off on 35 minutes when Oswaldo Vizcaronndo headed past two team-mates who had drifted offside, although there was an argument they were not active in the play.
Venezuela then hit the woodwork for the first time just before the break when Alejandro Moreno headed against the frame before Salomon Rondon’s follow-up was well saved by Villar.
That moment proved to be the highlight of the 90 minutes as the second period proved a dull affair as caution undermined both sides’ play to prompt extra time.
After the lull of the second half Venezuela struck the woodwork twice more in the first five minutes of injury time.
First Miku saw a curling effort hit the left-hand post before skipper Juan Fernando Arango struck the same part of the goal-frame with a free-kick that then somehow alluded two of his team-mates on the goalline.
Paraguay then had Santana sent off for a second caution just before half time in extra-time, and while they were rocking for the rest of the additional period they held on for penalties.
Villar then proved the hero as he saved Lucena’s weak third penalty low to his right before Veron completed a faultless display from the spot to send the two-time champions through.