Copa America 2011: Set-pieces save then punish Paraguay against troublesome Venezuela

Copa America 2011: Set-pieces save then punish Paraguay against troublesome Venezuela

Paraguay 3 – 3 Venezuela

Alcaraz 32′  Rondon 4′

Barrios 62′  Miku 90′

Riveros 85′  Perozo 90′

Estadio Padre Martearena, July 13 – Group B

With usual whipping boys Venezuela already through, the game looked fairly well set up for Paraguay to get an easy win to guarantee their progress to the quarter-finals – one needed with a wounded Brazil desperate for a win later against Ecuador. A goal from Salomon Rondon four minutes in suggested we probably shouldn’t make assumptions.

Gerardo Martino made clear their position before the match: “It is clear that the only alternative that remains is to win the match”, but he remained calm and continued with what had been a successful set-up for Paraguay: a 4-4-2 formation that looked to get the ball towards the tall frontline fairly quickly, via wingers Marcelo Estigarribia and Enrique Vera, but would play patiently if necessary.

A win for Venezuela would ensure they won the group, giving them an easier tie against an under-strength Costa Rica in the next round, so there were only a couple of changes to the line-up by Cesar Farias. Like Paraguay they continued in their 4-4-2, also looking to get the ball forward quickly.

With both sides playing 4-4-2, you would assume we could expect a good open game, which, unlike our original assumption, was correct. With extra space in the middle, both sides found it easier to move the ball up the pitch and everyone on the pitch had a direct opponent, leading to an entertaining game. The simple set-ups did mean there was little to talk about from a tactical viewpoint though.

Something had obviously changed about Paraguay: while they still looked well-organised, they didn’t seem to have quite the control over Venezuela that they shown against Brazil and Ecuador. Venezuela pressing the Paraguayans high up the pitch had clearly unsettled them, and, four minutes in, a heavy touch by Nestor Ortigoza was pounced upon by Tomas Rincon to give Rondon a chance to get a shot away, the slipping Dario Veron looking unprepared to defend against him.

After just a few minutes, Paraguay suddenly looked in danger. Venezuela were making them think quicker than they wanted to, so, although they eventually settled, they didn’t look as dangerous as they previously had done. As is becoming rather inevitable at this tournament though, a set-piece got Paraguay out of their rut – Antolin Alcaraz poking the ball into the net during a goalmouth scramble – then another set up Lucas Barrios to give them the lead, and another meant Cristian Riveros would presumably secure the win.

Not so. Miku livened up the game in stoppage time with a goal – you could point out the space between the lines Giancarlos Maldonado found himself in, but it could just as easily be explained by a combination of some haphazard defending (concerning when considering how much Paraguay’s game relies upon organisation, especially when they had conceded Brazil’s late equaliser under similar circumstances) and a lucky deflection. With the clock ticking down, Venezuela won a corner and threw men forward, which Grenddy Perozo was more than happy to get on the end of, snatching a point from under Paraguay’s noses.

Both teams progress but neither get quite what they wanted, forced to wait for the Brazil game to find out their final places in the group.

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