x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Goals are hard to come by at the Copa America

Copa holders Brazil are frustrated to a 0-0 draw by South America's usual whipping boys Venezuela.

Renny Vega,the Venezuela goalkeeper, and teammate Grenddy Perozo celebrate their draw against Brazil.
Renny Vega,the Venezuela goalkeeper, and teammate Grenddy Perozo celebrate their draw against Brazil.

Brazil 0 // Venezuela 0

LA PLATA, ARGENTINA // The Copa America Holders Brazil were held 0-0 by Venezuela in their opening Group B match after being denied a possible penalty and seeing Alexandre Pato hit the bar.

Venezuela survived a controversial decision from the Bolivian referee Raul Orosco when Brazil looked to have earned a penalty for handball near the end of the first half.

Goalkeeper Renny Vega parried a shot and Robinho, following through, hit the rebound on target. Defender Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, scrambling back, slipped as he tried to block the ball with his body.

The ball appeared to hit his upper arm before bouncing out, with a corner given.

"This is the first chapter of something historic and we're going to be talked about a lot," the Venezuela striker Nicolas Fedor said after his side celebrated the draw like a victory.

Brazil, unsurprisingly, dominated the first half and striker Pato blasted a shot against the bar in the 38th minute and had three other efforts on target.

The Brazilians constantly stretched the Venezuela defence with Neymar out wide and linking with full back Andre Santos on the left, while Daniel Alves pressed forward on the right and Robinho looked for openings through the middle.

Venezuela were more enterprising in the second half and the match became more even with half chances at both ends but none clear cut.

Just before the hour, left back Gabriel Cicero put in a cross for the head of striker Nicolas Fedor which goalkeeper Julio Cesar, one of Brazil's few survivors from last year's World Cup side, just beat him to.

Then striker Salomon Rondon, sent away by a fine through ball from Arango, might have passed inside to the unmarked Fedor but instead tried to go around Lucio on the left and ended up getting booked for a dive.

Julio Cesar had to deal with a couple of shots on target, something he did not have in the first half, while Brazil's attacks continued to lack enough clarity needed to breach the Venezuelan defence.

"I think there are no longer any dumb teams. This is 11 against 11 and everyone has a chance," Julio Cesar said.

It was the second match in the tournament's first three days in which favourites were held to draws after hosts Argentina had to come from behind to hold Bolivia 1-1 on Friday.

Paraguay and Ecuador also drew 0-0 in a miserly Group B.