x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Venezuelans no longer the whipping boys

Claudio Borghi, the Chile coach, is not alone in having been impressed by the skill, as well as the tenacity, of Venezuela, whom they face at San Juan in the quarter-final of the Copa America

SAN JUAN, Argentina // Chile are keen to land a first Copa America crown after the frustration of four losing finals.

The Chileans, led by the stylish Alexis Sanchez, have played some fine football at the event and won Group C with something to spare.

But before they can even start dreaming about reaching another championship match they have the small matter of tonight's quarter-final against their surprise opponents, Venezuela, to deal with.

Claudio Borghi, the Chile coach, is not alone in having been impressed by the skill, as well as the tenacity, of Venezuela, who they face at San Juan in what is almost a home match for his side.

"Everyone's changed the way they look at the Venezuelans … they have progressed a lot," said Borghi, in looking back at the not-so-distant past where Venezuela would be a team to bolster one's goal difference against with three points a virtual formality.

The Chileans have not forgotten that in the last World Cup qualifying round - in which they finished second only to Brazil - the Venezuelans held them to a 2-2 draw in Santiago.

The striker Esteban Paredes said that "we won't be underestimating them. For me they played better than Brazil in the three group games. I think we are in for a tough but attractive game".

The Venezuelans ceded top spot in Group B to Brazil on goal difference. And they may be forgiven for thinking they have done all that can be expected of them after reaching the last eight for the second successive time and first on foreign soil.

But Grenddy Perozo, the striker, whose header rescued a 3-3 draw against Paraguay after a stunning late fightback, said that there is no reason to stop the adventure here.

"Now for Chile," he said. "They are a pretty good side but we have managed to get results against them before, so why not this time?"