x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Venezuela look to continue silencing the doubters at Copa America

Cesar Farias, the Venezuela coach, said his side should be given more respect as they prepare for their semi-final match against Paraguay.

Venezuela’s Gabriel Cichero is hoping to silence the Paraguay fans during their semi-final tonight.
Venezuela’s Gabriel Cichero is hoping to silence the Paraguay fans during their semi-final tonight.

The Venezuelan media have been revelling in the fact that the national team - nicknamed "Vinotinto" - qualified for the Copa America semi-finals for the first time with a victory over much-fancied Chile on Sunday.

"Venezuela, the best Vinotinto," enthused sports daily Meridiano the day after the game.

El Universal was equally impressed.

"The national side did everything. They played well, lost their way a bit, righted themselves and had a bit of luck - the luck of winners and those who work hard," the paper wrote.

"Glory to the brave team," wrote El Nacional, in its own amended version of the national anthem, which sings "Glory to the Brave People".

Sports daily Lider said that people should now respect a side who were considered cannon fodder at this level only a few short years ago.

"Let them be respected," wrote the paper as it showed a photograph of Gabriel Cichero, the match winner in a 2-1 victory, with his finger over his mouth to silence shocked Chilean fans.

Oswaldo Vizcarrondo and Cichero scored the goals against Chile on Sunday that took the Vinotinto through to a meeting with Paraguay tonight.

In a tournament of shocks - with Argentina, the hosts, and Brazil, the champions, both being eliminated in the quarter-finals along with the fancied Colombia - Venezuela have been the biggest surprise of all.

This is the only country in the 10-team South American confederation that has never reached the World Cup. Baseball has always been more popular.

Venezuela used to be the whipping boys of South America - they were beaten 7-0 by Brazil in the 1999 Copa - but that may be changing.

They reached the quarter-finals in 2007, a tournament they hosted, and were only two points away from a play-off to reach the World Cup in the last qualification tournament.

Six different players have each scored once at the tournament for Venezuela: Cichero, Miku Fedor, Cesar Gonzalez, Grenddy Perozo, Jose Salomon Rondon and Vizcarrondo.

Cesar Farias, the coach, has lectured reporters repeatedly, asking them to give his team respect.

"We've beaten adversity and the forecasts," Farias said after defeating Chile. "We played when we had to play, and suffered when we had to suffer. And we had luck when we needed to have luck."

Paraguay, who reached the second round at the World Cup before losing to Japan, now stand between Venezuela and Sunday's final.

Justo Villar, the Paraguay goalkeeper, held Brazil scoreless for 120 minutes in their quarter-final, and in the shoot-out the Brazilians beat themselves.

Three of their four spot kicks were off target, and Villar stopped the fourth with Paraguay winning 2-0.

Gerardo Martino, the Paraguay coach, was frank after the match.

"Brazil should have won in 90 minutes," Martino said. "We were lucky."

But then again, that is the kind of Copa America it has been so far.

Paraguay v Venezuela, 4.45am (Thursday), Aljazeera Sport +3