The second round of games in Group B saw Robinho turn on the style as Brazil eased aside Chile 3-0 to revive hopes of a second consecutive Copa America title.
|Brazil's striker Robinho|
Their opening-day executioners Mexico all but assured a place in the last eight with a 2-1 defeat of Ecuador in a rainswept Maturin, a result that leaves Luis Fernando Suarez's side virtually down and out.
Robinho revives Brazil
After an error-strewn opening night, Brazil finally got their lines right in front of a packed Estadio Monumental in Maturin. It was leading man Robson da Silva, aka Robinho, who brought the house down with a virtuoso performance, the Real Madrid man bagging three goals to revitalise his side's defence of their Copa America crown.
Nothing other than a win would do for Dunga's men after that hugely disappointing 2-0 defeat to Mexico. Opponents Chile, fresh from an exciting 3-2 triumph over Ecuador, were determined to make life difficult for the Auriverdes, packing their defence and leaving the dangerous Humberto Suazo to fight a lone battle up front.
It took the Brazilians a little over half an hour to find a way through the well-manned Chilean back line, that man Robinho firing past Claudio Bravo from the penalty spot after defender Miguel Riffo was adjudged to have brought down Vagner Love.
La Roja's hopes of getting back into the game were dented by untimely injuries to Rodrigo Melendez and Riffo, forcing coach Nelson Acosta to deploy his substitutes on defensive duties. Nevertheless Brazil dropped their guard, and almost paid for it 20 minutes from time when the shaven-headed Suazo waltzed his way through a posse of defenders before seeing his shot cleared off the line.
The near-miss only served to reawaken the five-time world champions, who killed the game off with four minutes of magic from Robinho. Seizing on a neat through-ball from strike partner Vagner, the elusive forward cleverly dinked the ball over Bravo to make it 2-0, and promptly grabbed his hat-trick when he slalomed past three defenders and fired a low drive past the despairing keeper.
With Brazil's final game coming against a deflated Ecuador side, Chile's only hope of preventing them from marching into the last eight is to beat group leaders Mexico in their final match on Wednesday.
Mexico in the mood
After dumping the Brazilians in their opening encounter, Mexico gave further notice of their intentions by shrugging off Ecuador's challenge in the day's second game.
With keeper Oswaldo Sanchez, Rafael Marquez and Nery Castillo providing a solid spine, Hugo Sanchez's side produced plenty of good football in another intelligent performance that leaves them on the verge of the quarter-finals.
Content to sit back and let the Ecuadorians knock the ball around, the men in green bided their time, safe in the knowledge that chances would soon come their way. And so it proved, Castillo opening Mexico's account on 22 minutes when he pounced on a mistake by Ecuador skipper Ivan Hurtado to round the advancing Cristian Mora and slip the ball into an unguarded net. Sensing that an early exit was close at hand, the yellow shirts poured forward in the second half but found Sanchez, ably assisted by his defence, in fine form between the posts.
Just as the Ecuadorians threatened an equaliser, up popped Omar Bravo when his side needed it most, the striker heading home Cuauhtemoc Blanco's cross with ten minutes left. Although Edison Mendez managed to pull one back via a deflection off Jonny Magallon, time ran out for Suarez's side, who now face almost certain elimination. As for Sanchez and Mexico, the quarter-finals beckon.