Venezuela Stuns Colombia In Copa America Group Opener
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman projected his side as one of the contenders to win this edition of Copa America ahead of starting their campaign. Colombia stormed into the World Cup quarter-finals last summer in Brazil and are currently fourth-placed in the FIFA rankings. But Pekerman’s side received an early jolt in the tournament as they were stunned by Venezuela 1-0 in their Group C opener at Rancagua in Chile on Sunday.
“We see it as an obligation to do well and we are candidates because the majority of our players were in that World Cup team. We want to build on what we achieved over there,” Pekerman told Mundo Deportivo ahead of the tournament. “This team should be protagonists here and we must continue to compete for the top places. We are looking to find balance and make a strong start to our Copa campaign. Everybody knows that our responsibility is to try and win the Copa America.”
Los Cafeteros won the championship in 2001. Venezuela, on the other hand, achieved their best-ever fourth place finish in Argentina four years ago. Noel Sanvicente’s side might be placed 68 steps below Colombia, but dominated the match from the first minute at Estadio El Teniente against their much fancied opponents comprising of stars like James Rodriguez of Real Madrid, Radamel Falcao of Monaco and Chelsea forward Juan Cuadrado.
The underdogs created a number of opportunities in the first half and had a few close shaves at goal. Colombian side was reduced to pedestrian’s pace on the pitch, as Venezuela took control over the midfield. Colombia’s only chance came when Falcao attempted an audacious lob viewing Venezuelan custodian drifting far forward from the goal-line.
Venezuela finally got the reward in the 60th minute when Zenit St Petersburg striker Salomon Rondon’s bullet header shook the net. Colombia woke up in the last 15 minutes and displayed some attacking flair, but Venezuelan goal-keeper Alain Baroja rose to the occasion to keep the citadel intact.
Earlier in the first game of Group C, 8-time champion Brazil started their campaign with a 2-1 win against Peru at Temuco. After the sides exchanged goals in the opening five minutes, Brazil had to wait till the injury time when Douglas Costa netted the winner. Brazil faces Colombia in the next game on Wednesday.