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Brazil reach Copa America last eight in style

MENDOZA (Argentina), Jul 13 (Agencies)
Published on 15 Jul. 2011 1:50 AM IST
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A brace each from Alexandre Pato and Neymar helped defending champions Brazil beat Ecuador 4-2 to reach the Copa America quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Defeat for Mano Menezes’ side at the Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes would have sent them crashing out of the competition, but they produced a battling display to win Group B and earn a last-eight date with pool rivals Paraguay.
Felipe Caicedo twice got Ecuador back on level terms, cancelling out Pato’s opener and then Neymar’s second goal for Brazil, but the Selecao moved up a gear when required to do so to ensure their progress - and Ecuador’s exit.
Menezes handed Maicon a starting berth at the expense of Barcelona’s Dani Alves, the Inter Milan man turning in a star performance for Brazil, while Robinho also returned to the starting XI.
The Brazilians bossed proceedings from the outset but struggled to create clear-cut chances early on.
The deadlock was broken in the 27th minute when Andre Santos crossed from the left and Pato headed home.
Robinho struck the bar as Brazil searched for a second goal, with Maicon’s marauding runs down the right causing all sorts of problems for Ecuador.
However, the next goal of the game arrived at the other end, Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar failing to hold onto a Caicedo effort on the counter-attack eight minutes before the interval.
Brazil restored their advantage within four minutes of the restart, Pato setting up Santos star Neymar to make it 2-1, but once again the lead was short-lived as another Caicedo shot from outside the box found its way past Julio Cesar in the 58th minute.
Ecuador may have been sensing a shock was on the cards, but when Brazil went ahead for a third time there was no way back.
Goalkeeper Marcelo Elizaga could not hold onto a Neymar shot and Pato pounced on the loose ball to make it 3-2 on the hour mark and then, 11 minutes later, Neymar notched his second after good play on the right by Maicon and Robinho.
The result left Brazil top of the group ahead of surprise package Venezuela - who will play Chile in the quarter-finals - and third-placed Paraguay, with Ecuador bottom of the pile.

Venezuela, Paraguay in last eight
Two late goals earned Venezuela a 3-3 draw against Paraguay in a Group B encounter which saw both teams reach the Copa America quarter-finals.
Salomon Rondon had given surprise pool leaders Venezuela a fifth-minute lead but Paraguay looked to be cruising into the last eight when goals from Antolin Alcaraz, Lucas Barrios and Cristian Riveros put them 3-1 up.
Venezuela never gave up, though, despite knowing their quarter-final place was already assured. Substitute Miku reduced the deficit in the 89th minute and then Grenddy Perozo headed home a stoppage-time equaliser.
Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino had viewed the match as a must-win encounter for his side but they could hardly have got off to a worse start at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena.
Malaga forward Rondon took full advantage after Nestor Ortigoza was caught in possession, rifling a 20-yard shot past Justo Villar with less than five minutes on the clock.
Teenager Alexander Gonzalez should have doubled his side’s advantage on the half-hour mark when he was played in on the right-hand side of the penalty area, but skewed his shot horribly wide.
Three minutes later, Paraguay were level. Barrios’ looping header from Aureliano Torres’ free-kick was somehow kept out by a combination of post and goalkeeper Renny Vega, but the Venezuela defence were unable to clear the danger and Alcaraz lashed home a scrappy equaliser.
Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz was replaced by Haedo Valdez three minutes before the break, and the substitute made a key contribution to his side’s second goal after 62 minutes.
Vega made a smart save after Valdez had done well to get his shot away following a corner, but Barrios was in the right place to divert the ball into the net.
Paraguay looked to have put the result beyond doubt when Riveros flicked a neat header past Vega at the near post in the 84th minute.
However, Miku’s deflected strike a minute from time gave Venezuela hope and, from the final attack of the game, goalkeeper Vega went up for a corner and provided the assist for Perozo to head in the equaliser.

Quarter  finals
Playing on Sunday
  Colombia vs Peru       12 am
  Argentina vs Uruguay   3:45 am   
Playing on Monday
  Brazil vs Paraguay      12 am
  Chile vs Venezuela       3:45 am   

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