It proved to be an unforgettable afternoon in Group A as the rain teemed down at the Estadio Pueblo Nuevo in San Cristobal. While the hosts downed Peru 2-0 to break a 40-year winless run in the competition, Uruguay drew on their renowned fighting spirit and tradition to edge out Bolivia 1-0. The quarter-finals now beckon for the Venezuelans, although they must still negotiate a crunch clash with the Charrúas in their final group game.
Uruguay remain in the hunt
|Venezuela's Alejandro Cichero celebrates after scoring a goal against Peru|
Saddled with a losing head-to-head record against Uruguay, Erwin Platini Sanchez's Bolivia side were determined to buck the trend in the day's opening game and add to the point they secured against Venezuela. However, after slumping to an opening-day 3-0 reverse to Peru, the Celeste had a little bit of history on their mind as well, as they sought to revive their ailing hopes of edging clear of Argentina on the Copa America honours board by landing their 15th continental title.
With so much at stake, therefore, it came as no surprise to see both sides adopt a cautious approach in a largely forgettable first half, notable only for the adverse weather conditions.
Desperate to secure the points, Oscar Tabarez's men became increasingly frustrated as the match wore on, and were relieved to see Vicente Sanchez finally break the deadlock on the hour-mark, the Toluca-based striker slotting home after linking up with Diego Forlan in the six-yard box.
The goal seemed to deflate the Bolivians, allowing Uruguay to coast home and save their energies for that vital showdown with the increasingly confident hosts.
Venezuela pen a glorious new chapter
The Vinotinto had only one thing on their mind as they ran out to face Peru: secure a win that would take them to the brink of the last eight and put an end to the curse that had seen them go without a Copa America win since defeating Bolivia back at Uruguay 1967. With Peru bolstered by their comprehensive three-goal demolition of Uruguay, however, and strike duo Claudio Pizarro and Paolo Guerrero in fine form, the task for Richard Paez's home favourites looked anything but straightforward.
Indeed it was the Peruvians who made the more confident start, picking up where they left off in their first game. Their early domination came to an abrupt end on 13 minutes though, when midfielder Pedro Garcia saw the first red card of the tournament following a nasty foul on Giancarlo Maldonado.
Even though their task had been made considerably easier, the Vinotinto still had to wait until the 48th minute before capitalising on their one-man advantage, Peru keeper Leao Butron failing to keep out Alejandro Cichero's well placed header from Maldonado's corner.
The goal prompted the hosts to adopt a counter-attacking game and cede territory and possession to their opponents. Hamburg striker Guerrero was at the heart of Peru's most dangerous attacks but after Renny Vega had stood firm in the Venezuela goal, Daniel Arismendi put an end to four decades of hurt with a superb solo goal eleven minutes from time.
The action continues on Sunday with a mouthwatering Group B double header at the Estadio Monumental in Maturin. Mexico will be out to follow up their surprise win over Brazil with victory over Ecuador, while Dunga's misfiring charges face a tricky encounter against a combative Chile side spearheaded by Humberto Suazo and Jorge Valdivia.