Uruguay vs. Venezuela ended 1-0 in favor of La Vinotinto, as a Suarez-less Uruguay basically bowed out of the Copa America without a fight. Venezuela frustrated La Celeste, and continually hit them on the break to great effect, with Salomon Rondon scoring the lone goal. Neither team are assured of anything yet, but barring a shock result when Mexico take on Jamaica later tonight, Uruguay are out, and Venezuela are through.
The big story for Uruguay on the night was how they would fare without star striker and captain Luis Suarez. The Barcelona man injured himself against Sevilla in the Copa Del Rey and was sidelined for Uruguay's 3-1 loss against Mexico.
Without Suarez, Uruguay looked tame against El Tri, which resulted in more pressure on Edinson Cavani, as once again he failed to make an impact in the national jersey. With Suarez out again in a must-win match against Venezuela, Cavani needed a big performance to get the criticism off his back.
For Venezuela, the key matchup was big man Salomon Rondon against Atletico Madrid's center back pairing of Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin. Playing as a lone striker, Rondon would have it all to do against two of the best defenders in Europe this season, especially considering that Venezuela didn't look exceptionally potent against 10-man Jamaica.
Before the game kicked off, it was a relief to see that the Copa America actually played the right national anthem for Uruguay this time. Well done guys.
Venezuela started the brighter of the two teams, as they created a couple of dangerous openings within the first few minutes, but they came to nothing as the Uruguayan defense held their nerves. The game then lost a lot of its momentum as Venezuela's Roberto Rosales took a hard challenge and was forced off in the eighth minute after treatment, with Alexander Gonzalez replacing him.
Going into the 13th minute, the game had really failed to pick up any momentum, as match official Patricio Loustau called foul after foul. Loustau was clearly not inclined to let anything flow early on. Despite the stop-start nature of the game, Uruguay had a golden opportunity after Alvaro Gonzalez headed a cross down towards the penalty spot where Cavani was waiting.
Alas, the PSG striker completely whiffed his shot, further compounding the building pressure on his shoulders.
The game continued to plod on, punctuated only by the shrill screech of Loustau's whistle, as if he was doing his very best to replicate Sprint's Copa America commercial. By the 30th minute, there had been 17 total fouls, and a mere three shots—only one of which was on target.
Since Loustau was the same official who took charge of Costa Rica's 0-0 draw with Paraguay, there was a growing unease that this match might turn into the snoozefest that that match was. If any game ever needed a goal, this one did.
But then . . . the football gods smiled, and there was light...and it was good. In the 37th minute, Alejandro Guerra recieved the ball for Venezuela just past the halfway line on the right flank. Noticing Fernando Muslera off his line, the midfielder took an audacious shot from distance.
Muslera managed to get a fingertip to it somehow (it really was a great save), but it cannoned off the crossbar and into the awaiting feet of Salomon Rondon, who hit it off the ground and over Muslera into the net. It was the special moment that the game desperately needed.
Alejandro Guerra almost pulled off a miracle again, as he drove through three Uruguay players into the box, but his outside-of-the-foot shot was saved easily by Muslera. The goal probably should have awoken Uruguay, but instead it seemed to put a pep in the step of Venezuela, who finished the half much the stronger.
Uruguay, quite frankly, were terrible in the first half. Venezuela were relatively much better, but honestly, they didn't even really do that much, with a moment of magic being the only difference between these two teams.
The second half proved to be much more open than the first, as Uruguay threw everything they had at Venezuela, creating a few bright openings. The final ball was consistently awful from La Celeste though, and Venezuela looked dangerous everytime they countered. Uruguay kept pressing as the half went on, but they had very few clear sights at goal, in part thanks to an extremely stingy Venezuelan defense.
Cavani had a call for a penalty in the 68th minute denied, as he took a cross on his chest only to be bundled over by a Venezuelan defender. The referee waved play on and the resulting counter-attack put Adalberto Penaranda through on goal. He tried to slot his shot low, only to be denied by a good save from Muslera. Again, it was a small slice of excitement in an otherwise dull 20 minutes.
Then, in a moment that made most fans' hearts skip a beat, the camera switched to Luis Suarez who was warming up on the sideline. Yes. The man who was maybe going to miss the entire Copa America was going through the paces on the sidelines. He also was not listed as an official substitute so he couldn't come in anyway. Maybe they could bend the rules? We could only hope at this point.
— Rik Sharma (@riksharma_) June 9, 2016
Alas, the change never happened (much to the fury of Suarez), and Uruguay continued to struggle to create any meaningful chances. Venezuela, on the other hand, looked threatening everytime they came forward. Godin started to come up from the back for Uruguay, and the resulting space was continually exploited by the Venezuelans. Unfortunately for them, they lacked the clinicism required to make Uruguay pay.
Then the clouds of mediocrity parted, and Edinson Cavani picked up a loose ball and dashed into the penalty area. He beat his defender, was completely through on goal and . . . blasted it embarassingly wide of the post. It pretty much summed up Uruguay's night. Not good enough.
Venezuela almost sealed it into stoppage time when Muslera went up for a corner. The ball deflected out to Romulo Otero but he couldn't quite bend it into the empty net. Shortly after, it was all over.
Uruguay are pretty much out of the tournament now. If Mexico win or draw, it's all over for La Celeste. It's been a poor display from the record-holding Copa America champions. Edinson Cavani failed to make an impact and blew a golden opportunity for Uruguay's equalizer, but make no mistake, nobody else on Uruguay did themselves any favors either.
Gimenez and Godin displayed none of the dominance they usually do at club level, and the players on the flanks barely played a decent ball all night. To put it into perspective, Uruguay had only one shot on target over the course of the game. The only player who came out with some semblance of dignity was goalkeeper Fernando Musler, who made a couple of great saves, and was honestly unlucky to concede the goal after making a good initial save.
Venezuela fully deserved their win, and if they can continued this type of performance, they stand a good chance of getting beyond the quarter-finals.
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