Paraguay will play Venezuela in the Copa America semi-finals after a rousing penalty shootout victory over Brazil in Buenos Aires on Sunday.Both regular time and extra time finished 0-0 after eight-time Copa winners Brazil squandered a succession of gilt-edged chances, and they were made to pay in the shootout, missing their first four spot-kicks as they went down 2-0.
Host nation Argentina suffered a similar fate on Saturday, losing their quarter-final against Uruguay on penalties, meaning that for just the second time in Copa America history, neither one of the powerhouses will feature in the semi-finals.
Paraguay failed to get a single shot on target in the 120 minutes, and can thank goalkeeper Justo Villar for pulling off a number of excellent saves to keep his side level.
Villar was called into action to make a point-blank save from Lucio in the 33rd minute after the defender latched onto Andre Santos’ free kick, and the goalkeeper was again busy in the second half as he denied Paulo Henrique Ganso and Pato in quick succession.
Substitute Fred looked as though he had finally made the breakthrough after his looping header beat Villar, but Edgar Barreto was on hand to clear the ball off the line with his head.
Brazil continued to pound the Paraguayan defence in extra time to no avail, and both sides were reduced to 10 men when Paraguay defender Antolin Alcaraz and Brazil midfielder Lucas Leiva were sent off late in the match.
In the shootout, Elano, Andres Santos and Fred all fired their penalties wide while Villar saved from Thiago Silva, with Cristian Riveros scoring the winning spot kick for Paraguay to set up a semi-final against Venezuela, who triumphed 2-1 over Chile.
Chile were favourites heading into the match, but that counted for little when Oswaldo Vizcarrondo put Venezuela ahead on 34 minutes after flicking home Juan Arango’s free kick with his head.
Chile improved after the interval, and striker Humberto Suazo had them level on 70 mintues; his shot on the turn beating Venezuelan goalkeeper Renny Vega before going in off the crossbar.
All three previous quarter-finals at this year’s tournament had gone to extra time, and it looked like this game would go the same way until Gabriel Cichero scored the winner for Venezuela with nine minutes remaining.
Chile keeper Claudio Bravo failed to deal with a swerving free kick from Arango, only managing to parry the ball into the path of Cichero, who duly stabbed the ball home from close range.
Both sides finished with 10 men after Chile’s Gary Medel and Venezuela’s Tomas Rincon were both sent off in the final seven minutes, but it did little to change the outcome of the match.