SPORT

Quarterfinals of Copa loom large

Barquisimeto (Venezuela): There won’t be much new for half the quarterfinal field at the Copa America.

Brazil takes on Chile again, and Venezuela faces Uruguay in rematches from the first round — when Robinho provided all the scoring in a 3-0 Brazilian victory, and nobody scored between hosts and the 14-time champion.

On Sunday, tournament-favourite Argentina plays Peru in Barquisimeto and Paraguay takes on Mexico in the other two remaining quarterfinals.

Despite being the defending champion, the Brazilians appear to have the most to prove — at least to their own fans.

The win over Chile restored the Selecao’s confidence after a 2-0 loss in its opener to Mexico, but except for the individual play of Robinho, the five-time World Cup champion has struggled to find the “joga bonito” — or “beautiful play” — expected of them.

Without some its notable regulars like Ronaldinho and Kaka, who requested out of the South American championship, Brazilian manager Dunga has experimented with several different midfield combinations. But against Chile in Puerto La Cruz, a stadium both teams have played in already, he’s likely to tap Diego to organize the attack.

The Brazilians are characteristically nonchalant about their less-than-stellar play, and Chile is aware of their potential.

Chile allowed only a disputed penalty in the first half of its first-round loss to Brazil, and threatened to equalise until allowing two goals by Robinho in the final seven minutes.

Chile, however, has seven players hobbling — Rodrigo Melendez, with an ankle injury, and defender Miguel Riffo, due to a hamstrung pull. Two other regular starters, captain Jorge Valdivia and Reinaldo Navia, are expected to recover from other light injuries.

Host confident

In the other match, host Venezuela appears emboldened.

Having entered this Copa America with only one victory in 45 games, the “Vinotinto” opened with a draw against Bolivia, beat Peru and drew with Uruguay to finish atop its group and advance past the first round for the first time.

Having been outscored 149-29 in 13 previous Copa America tournaments, Venezuela finished the first round with a 4-2 goal difference.

Conversely, Uruguay scored just one goal in its first three matches — the fewest of any of the 12 teams in the tournament. Striker Diego Forlan, who won the European Golden Boot award for scoring a continent-best 25 goals for Spain’s Villarreal in 2005, has not come close in Venezuela. — AP

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