Venezuela upsets Mexico, sets up furious Group B finish


One team ended up clinching its spot in the quarterfinals of Copa America on Wednesday night.

However, it was not the team that was favored that booked its spot in the next round of the tournament. Venezuela got big performances from Salomon Rondon and keeper Raul Romo in its match against Mexico at Sofi Stadium, as Rondon scored from the penalty spot early in the second half, and Romo made several big saves in the match, none more important than stopping a penalty late in the half, and Venezuela delivered the shock result of the tournament to date, as the leave Inglewood with the 1-0 win.

The win clinched a spot in the quarterfinals for La Vinotinto, and will only need a win or a draw in its last match against Jamaica to win Group B. As for Mexico,  it now faces a do-or-die scenario in the last match of group play against Ecuador in Arizona on Sunday. Mexico needs to win against Ecuador on Sunday to advance out of the group, and a draw will not do them any good, as Ecuador has a commanding lead of 4-1 against Mexico on goal differential.

The moment came for Venezuela starting in the 55th minute. Venezuela held the ball deep inside Mexico’s half the field, then made its move, as Jonathan Aramburu and Cristian Cacaceres worked a one-two that got Aramburu into the penalty area, Mexico’s Julian Quinnones tried to defend Aramburu, but ended up pulling him down from behind and referee Raphael Claus made the relatively easy decision to send Venezuela to the spot. It was the grizzly veteran Rondon, the player with the most caps and the most goals for La Vinotinto that stepped up to the spot, and the player that goes by the nickname “The Gladiator” came through, sending the penalty to his left, while keeper Julio Gonzalez went the other way.

Mexico’ had its chance to grab a late equalizer from the penalty spot, though this scenario took a while longer to develop. It started in the 82nd minute, as Gerardo Arteaga crossed from the left side into the penalty area, Guillermo Martinez brought the ball down, Cesar Huerta took a touch, then left a ball for Jorge Sanchez, who took the shot, but was blocked by Miguel Navarro, the ball fell to Alexis Vega, but his rebound chance was also blocked and eventually cleared out of the box.

However, Claus soon got the call from the VAR referee. Claus took a look, and it showed that on Sanchez’s shot, Navarro, already inside the penalty area, clearly blocked the ball with his left hand, leaving it a very easy decision for Claus to award Mexico the penalty. Orbelin Pineda stepped to the spot for Mexico, but did not get the same result that Rondon did for  Venezuela, as Pineda shot to his left, but keeper Raul Romo guessed right, and parried the shot over the end line, and Mexico could not make anything out of the ensuing corner kicks. Mexico had one last show to salvage the draw in the 91st minute, as Arteaga crossed into the penalty area, the ball eventually bounced to Martinez, but Romo denied Martinez just inside the six-yard box and the rebound chance by Huerta was blocked and eventually cleared.

Mexico came out firing to start the match. El Tri got its first chance just seconds into the match, as Carlos Rodriguez played Uriel Antunua into the penalty area, Antuna sent a ball into the six-yard box towards the far post, Santiago Gimenez sprinted to get to the ball, but just missed on a chance to slot the ball past a scrambling Romo. In the tenth minute, Quinones played a ball to Luis Chavez inside the 18, but Chavez’s one-timer was saved by Romo and eventually cleared out of the box. Mexico’s other chance in the first half came in the 19th minute, as Chavez sent a long ball forward, Gimenez timed his run perfectly to get behind the Venezuela defense, Gimenez touched the ball into the penalty area, setting himself up for a golden opportunity in the box, only whiff on the shot attempt.

Venezuela soon got its chances inside Mexico’s side of the field. La Vinotinto got its first good look at goal in the 14th minute, as Yeferson Soteldo curled a ball from about 24 yards out towards the upper middle of Mexico’s goal, the shot missed, though not by much. However, it was the chance in the 34th minute that was the most agonizing for Venezuela, as Jefferson Savarino sent a ball long, Rondon perfectly timed his run to get behind a pair of Mexico defenders, Rondon got inside the 18, then fired a left-footed shot that beat Gonzalez, but did not beat the framework, as the ball bounced off the far post and over the end line. Venezuela had another great chance in the 53rd minute, as Soteldo forced a turnover, dribbled all the way into the penalty area, then played a ball back out of the box to a trailing Rondon, and he let loose another left-footed shot, Gonzalez had to scramble to cover the net, but fortunately for Gonzalez, the shot missed the far post, though by a mere inches.


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