x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Venezuela show they have bite

But draw with Brazil will be 'worthless' if the upcoming side fail to win against Ecuador in the ongoing Copa America.

BUENOS AIRES // Having the perennial favourites Brazil in your group at the Copa America can be seen as a blessing or a curse. Playing the five-time World Cup champions guarantees a high-profile match, which seems attractive; the prospect of a heavy defeat is less appealing.

Venezuela saw their match with Brazil as an opportunity, and their goalless draw leaves a country far better known for baseball than football one step from the knockout stages of the tournament.

Surprisingly, it was not Venezuela's first result against the continent's superpower in recent years. They played a goalless draw against them in a 2009 World Cup qualifier and won a friendly 2-0.

Talented young players are coming through Venezuela's national side, and they showed some nice touches against Brazil in cold conditions that did not suit them any more than the defending Copa champions.

Venezuela actually made the last eight in 2007, but that was on their own turf. Doing the same in an Argentine winter would be a significant accomplishment for them, and a win against Ecuador, which would take them to four points, would almost certainly be enough to book their slot in the next round.

Ecuador held Paraguay but are, amid Venezuela's rise up the rankings, perhaps the weakest side in the group - though the Fifa list currently have them right next door to each other, at 68th for Ecuador and 69th for Venezuela.

A decade ago, the Venezuelans were ranked 120th, but they have come on steadily since.

The trouble is that an upwardly mobile trajectory is in itself a bit of a problem, said Luis Seijas, Venezuela's Colombia-based forward.

Expectations are now higher than ever, he said, and the match with Ecuador "for me, is going to be tougher than Brazil".

He added: "You can feel the pressure is on to win. It's tougher than Brazil, because the onus is on you not to sit back and defend but go out and attack.

"We have to go out and chase a big result which will take us through."

He described the match today as "very important for us.

"The Brazil game was, too, but if we get nothing from [the Ecuador match] then the point from that will be worthless.

"We will see if the Brazil result was important."

The defender Jose Manuel Rey said that since the Brazil game "you realise that if you don't fall victim to complacency you can stop any opponent".

Ecuador will hope that Manchester United's Antonio Valencia can get over the ankle injury he sustained in his side's opener with Paraguay.

Without the winger, Ecuador may struggle to score in Salta if Venezuela can plug into the confidence gained from holding the Brazilians.

Valencia suffered a dislocation and broken bone in the same ankle last September during a Champions League outing.

Reinaldo Rueda, the Ecuador coach, said Venezuela are "very strong and very difficult to play against".