Paraguay (p)0-0 Venezuela
Estadio Mundialista Mendoza, July 21 – Semi Final
Once again, Paraguay get a repeat of their group stages. First time out against Brazil, they had had the better of the game; in the quarter final, they had lucked out to get through on penalties. First time out against Venezuela, they had been frustrated by their opponents, getting ahead through set-pieces then conceding late on from one themselves; this time, they improved on their initial performance, but still had to wait for penalties.
Both coaches set up their sides in 4-4-2 formations again, albeit with a number of personnel changes, but the game started much as the first had: both teams tried to get the ball forward quickly and Venezuela looked to press Paraguay. Initially, Venezuela, although their pressing no longer seemed quite as effective, were on top – they gave up the long balls a minute or two in and were trying to pass quickly along the ground, while Paraguay were giving possession away cheaply with their direct play.
Paraguay adapted their game, forgetting the direct play for a more passing-orientated gameplan. Lucas Barrios dropped deeper to link the play, with Nelson Haedo Valdez left leading the line on the shoulder of the last defender; the intelligent Edgar Barreto ghosted into whatever gaps he could find, adding another man to the central areas; Nestor Ortigoza returned to the base of midfield to move the ball on with his good passing; and Cristian Riveros was happy to move out to the left, with Jonathan Santana equally happy moving into the middle. Venezuela struggled to cope and now Paraguay had gained control.
The roles had been reversed: Venezuela’s plan wasn’t working, but it looked as if a set-piece might be able to save them. Oswaldo Vizcarrondo had a goal rightly ruled out for offside, yet the danger signs were clearly there – every time Venezuela won a corner or free-kick high up the pitch, it looked like a viable goalscoring opportunity, while Paraguay had dominated but only rarely carved out any meaningful chances.
The second half continued along the same path as the first, although Venezuela were now coping much better, so it was looking increasingly inevitable we would be seeing extra time. Venezuela livened things up in extra time by hitting the post twice, but nothing really changed until Santana’s red card. Afterwards, Venezuela upped the ante, throwing men forward and upping their pressing, but still they couldn’t score, so it was penalties again. Paraguay won meaning they get through to the final without winning a single game in open play. Impressed?