Group B: Paraguay 3-3 Venezuela
How it happened: Late, late goals from Miku and Grenddy Perozo snaffled a draw for Venezuela in last night’s thrilling 3-3 draw against Paraguay in Salta.
With their progress to the knockout stages already assured before the game had even kicked off, Cesar Farias’ side rallied at the death to keep their unbeaten record intact, denying Paraguay with goals in the 89th and 92nd minute.
It was Venezuela who were quickest out of the blocks, racing into a 5th minute lead when 21-year-old Jose Salomon Rondon fired the game’s opening goal past Villar from the edge of the D.
Paraguay got themselves back on level terms 12 minutes before the break, Antolin Alcaraz finding himself in the right place at the right time following a scramble in the Venezuelan penalty area, before Lucas Barrios capitalised on some sloppy goalkeeping from Vega to put Gerardo Martino’s men 2-1 up.
Cristian Riveros’s 84th-minute header looked to have put the game beyond doubt but Miku’s deflected strike at the death gave Venezuela a life-line.
And when goalkeeper Vega flicked on a corner in the second minute of stoppage time, it was Perozo who reacted quickest, stooping low to head past Villar.
Key player: Renny Vega. It’s not often that a goalkeeper’s injury-time forays into the opposition penalty area pay dividends, but Vega’s flick on was key to Venezuela’s last-gasp equaliser.
Turning point: Miku’s goal in the 89th minute which gave Venezuela the impetus to press on and defend their unbeaten record.
What it means: Both sides progress to the last eight. Venezuela will play Group C winners Chile on Sunday night in San Juan while Paraguay claim a spot as one of the best third-placed teams, meaning that they will have to do it all over again against Brazil.
Group B: Brazil 4-2 Ecuador
How it happened: A brace apiece from Alexandre Pato and Neymar spared Brazil’s blushes as the Selecao limped into the last eight with a 4-2 win over Ecuador in Cordoba.
It was the AC Milan striker who gave Brazil the lead on 27 minutes, guiding Andre Santos’ pinpoint cross past Elizaga with his head from 12 yards.
The advantage was fleeting, however, as Julio Cesar let Felipe Caicedo’s 20-yard drive squirm underneath his body ten minutes later.
The Brazilian keeper was at fault again on 58 minutes, allowing another straightforward Caicedo effort to slip through his grasp, cancelling out Neymar’s first of the evening which had arrived just three minutes after the restart.
Knowing that defeat would result in elimination, Mano Menezes’ side wasted no time in going forward in search of another goal, Pato pouncing on an Elizaga error just two minutes later.
Neymar sealed all three points and a quarter-final date against Paraguay in the 71st minute, capping the best move of the evening with a tidy finish from Maicon’s teasing cross.
Turning point: Pato’s second, which put Brazil 3-2 up on the hour mark. A quick response to Ecuador’s equaliser killed any hopes of an upset that Reinaldo Rueda’s men might have had.
Key player: Julio Cesar, but for all the wrong reasons. If Brazil are going to win a third successive Copa, their keeper will need to cut out silly errors like those made last night.
What it means: Brazil qualify as the winners of Group B, setting up a quarter-final showdown against Paraguay on Sunday evening. With only one point from their three games, Ecuador are sent packing.
Next up: The tournament takes a two-day break before getting down to the business end of things on Saturday when Colombia play Peru at 20:00 BST, followed by the game between the hosts Argentina and Uruguay at 23:15 BST.