The first round of Group C matches got underway on day four of the Copa América, with Colombia facing Venezuela followed by Brazil locking horns with Peru. The shocks kept coming in another fascinating day of football in Chile.
2011 surprise package Venezuela shocked last year’s impressive World Cup quarter finalists Colombia 1-0 in Rancagua, in a match which the Colombians were noticeably poor, while Brazil defeated two-time Copa América champion Peru 2-1 in Temuco, largely thanks to a phenomenal performance from superstar captain Neymar. Brazil and Venezuela sit equal top of Group C on three points after the first round of matches, while Colombia and Peru both sit at the foot of the table without a point.
The day’s opening match saw José Pékerman’s Colombia meet Venezuela at the Estadio El Teniente in Rancagua, with Los Cafeteros backed as heavy favourites coming into the match. The 2001 champions boasted a richly talented side featuring the likes of James Rodríguez, Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado and Carlos Bacca, and made the brighter start of the two sides in Rancagua. Rodríguez came close only six minutes in as Colombia had the lion’s share of goalscoring opportunities, while Venezuela came close when Ronald Vargas forced David Ospina into action on the half hour, but the scores remained 0-0 at the interval.
Real Madrid star Rodríguez came close for Colombia again soon after the restart, but Venezuela looked a threat on the break and would ultimately take a shock 1-0 lead on the hour when Zenit striker Salomón Rondón’s impressive header beat the outstretched Ospina at the far post. Colombia should have hit back, first through substitute Teofilo Gutiérrez and then Cuadrado, but Los Cafeteros’ chances continued to go begging as Venezuela held on to record another Copa América shock, grinding out a deserved 1-0 win, which suggests La Vinotinto are well capable of repeating their heroics from the previous tournament in Argentina in 2011.
The other match in Group C saw five-time world champion Brazil face Ricardo Gareca’s Peru at the Estadio Municipal Germán Becker in Temuco. In what turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining game of football, a defensive mix-up between David Luiz and goalkeeper Jefferson saw Alianza Lima winger Christian Cueva fire home his debut goal for Peru after only two minutes, giving Los Incas a shock lead. Only two minutes later, however, Brazil was level after Neymar rose unchallenged to head home Dani Alves’ teasing cross from the right flank. The Seleção had the majority of the chances in a very open 45 minutes, but were unable to take the lead as both sides entered the break with a goal a piece.
Neymar’s influence continued to show for Dunga’s side after the restart, and the Barcelona star nearly gave his side the lead seven minutes in, when his 20-yard snapshot crashed against the bar. Roberto Firmino and Douglas Costa soon entered the fray for the eight-time Copa América champions, in an effort to swing the match in Brazil’s favour. Both sides had their share of chances in the second half, but it was not until stoppage time when Brazil finally netted the game’s decisive goal. A sumptuous ball from Neymar picked out an unmarked Costa just inside the box, and the Shakhtar Donetsk man coolly slotted the ball home to give Brazil a deserved 2-1 victory, ahead of its mouth-watering clash with Colombia later in the week.