Playing without suspended star Neymar, Brazil defeated Venezuela 2-1 on Sunday in its final group game to reach the Copa America quarterfinals.
Thiago Silva scored with a volley in the 9th minute off a perfect delivery from a corner by Robinho — Neymar’s replacement. Roberto Firmino added the second in the 52nd, chipping in a cross from Willian.
The loss in Group C eliminated Venezuela, which got an 84th-minute goal from Miku.
The final match in qualifying set up the quarterfinal pairings with Chile vs Uruguay on Wednesday, Bolivia vs Peru on Thursday, Argentina vs. Colombia on Friday and Saturday’s match pitting Brazil against Paraguay.
Barcelona’s Neymar was banned for four games after a 1-0 loss to Colombia on Wednesday. Angry with the defeat, Neymar kicked a ball at a Colombia player, and also appeared to head-butt another player.
CONMEBOL, the governing body of South American football, said the referee’s report also showed he insulted the referee after the match and grabbed him by the arms.
Asked about Neymar’s absence, Brazil coach Dunga replied: “Any team would miss Neymar, but when you don’t have him, you can’t feel sorry for yourself.”
Brazil seemed to play better without Neymar, at least early in the first half. Robinho and Philipe Coutinho, who replaced midfielder Fred, gave Brazil more attacking.
After scoring, Silva raced to the sideline and waved to Neymar, who was sitting in the stands — wrapped up under a blue winter cap — and jeered by Venezuela fans on a chilly night in the South American winter.
Dunga called the quarterfinal with Paraguay a “very tricky match” and likened it to “a final.”
“We have to respect everyone, but we can fear nobody.”
Brazil had a couple chances just after Silva’s goal with Robinho and Felipe Luis looking dangerous. But the attack stalled through most of the first half.
Willan was stopped by Venezuela keeper Alain Baroja on a point-blank shot in the 39th.
Venezuela had its best chance in the 44th when Gabriel Cichero looped a shot from the left which went just wide of the far post.
Brazil started the second half quickly. Coutinho had a chance in the first minute with Firmino’s goal minutes later sealing the outcome.
Venezuela made it close in the 84th. Brazil keeper Jefferson dived to meet Juan Arango’s free kick, tipping it off the post with Miku heading it home.
“We have the feeling we could have given a bit more,” Venezuela coach Noel Sanvicente said. “But worrying about it now doesn’t matter.”
Five-time World Cup champion Brazil is hoping to recover its reputation in this tournament, still stinging from a humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in last year’s World Cup semifinals at home. It has looked ordinary in three group matches in Chile, a shadow of Brazilian teams that were once feared.
Brazil still remains a co-favorite with Argentina, with Chile, Colombia and defending champion Uruguay also viewed as contenders.
Peru draw with Colombia to reach Copa America quarterfinals
Peru held Colombia to a 0-0 draw Sunday to secure a spot in the Copa America quarterfinals.
Colombia also advanced after Brazil defeated Venezuela 2-1 in the late game in Group C. A draw would have eliminated the team led by James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao from the South American competition.
Brazil finished first in the group with six points, two more than Peru and Colombia, which made it as one of the top-two third-place finishers in all three groups. Defending champion Uruguay was the other third-place team to advance.
In the quarterfinals, Peru will play Bolivia, Colombia will face Lionel Messi’s Argentina, host Chile will play Uruguay and Brazil will meet Paraguay.
With Colombia surviving, the Copa America avoided losing two of its greatest stars in Falcao and Rodriguez. Neymar was already out after being suspended four games after a confrontation with Colombian players.
Falcao and Rodriguez had a lackluster performance on Sunday, failing to give Colombia the victory that would have secured their team a spot in the next round without depending on other results.
“When you play poorly, you end up paying for it,” said Rodriguez, who thrived with Colombia at last year’s World Cup in Brazil. “We played poorly in the first match and we played poorly today, that’s why we are in trouble. If we want to win anything, we will have to work very hard.”
The Colombians played aggressively in the beginning and created a few good scoring chances at the match in the German Becker Stadium in Temuco. Peru played conservatively from the start, knowing that a draw would be enough to secure its spot in the quarterfinals. It threatened in a few counter-attacks but at all times seemed happy with the draw.
“We played knowing that they were under pressure, they needed the victory,” Peru defender Carlos Zambrano said. “It was really difficult, but the goal was to advance.”
Falcao had the best chance to score less than five minutes into the game, firing a low shot that was saved by Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. Colombia dominated possession the rest of the match but wasn’t able to threaten very often.
Colombian defensive midfielder Edwin Valencia had to be substituted midway through the first half because of apparent knee injury.
“We were playing well until (the injury) to Valencia,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. “It’s difficult to lose a player when you are playing well, when you are organized. We faced something that was unexpected.”