Venezuela coach Cesar Farias paid tribute to his players after their heartbreaking penalty shoot-out loss to Paraguay at the Copa America.After beating Chile 2-1 in the quarter-finals, Farias’ men pushed Paraguay all the way in Wednesday’s semi-final in Mendoza, but were eventually eliminated 5-3 on penalties after 90 minutes and extra time failed to produce a goal.
In Sunday’s final, Paraguay will meet Uruguay, who are chasing a record 15th Copa America crown, but Farias felt Paraguay were fortunate to reach the decider.
“I don’t want to do them down – but Paraguay were incredibly lucky,” Farias said.
“But we go home with our heads held high.”
“They chalked off a goal for us, we hit the woodwork three times and created more chances. We should have won but it didn’t work out for us.”
“This is how things go with football and I cannot reproach my players. We didn’t lose a match throughout. Penalties are basically all down to luck and today it wasn’t on our side.”
The match was mired in controversy, when Francisco Chacon did not send off Dario Veron for butting Giancarlo Maldonado in extra time, opting instead to caution the central defender, who scored the winning penalty.
While Farias stopped short of criticising the referee directly, he left reporters in no doubt as to his thoughts on the matter.
“I am tired of hearing that the big boys get to decide. This happens when they get the rub of the green from the referee. This hypocrisy has to end.”
“We never look to provoke incidents.”
Maldonado joined his coach in lamenting Venezuela’s luck during the match.
“We could have got so much further – we played good football but we didn’t get lucky,” the striker said.
“Yet we should be proud of what we have achieved.”
Venezuela now play Peru in the third-place playoff on Saturday.