THE MATCHDAY REPLAYED – Though there have been just four matches so far at the Copa America 2011, it is already clear the favourites are not going to have things all their own way. First to find themselves struggling to make headway against the icy winds of the Argentinian winter were the host nation, held 1-1 by Bolivia in Friday’s opening match, and yesterday it was Brazil’s turn to leave the pitch disappointed after a scoreless draw with Venezuela.    

Also expected to be among the contenders, following their impressive displays at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Paraguay were unable to do better than a 0-0 draw with Ecuador, thus rounding off a goalless matchday in Group B.

Group B
Brazil 0-0 Venezuela
Paraguay 0-0 Ecuador

Memorable moments
Canine capers in La Plata
It was Brazil forward Alexandre Pato who came closest for his side in the first half against Venezuela, when crashing a shot against Venezuela No1 Renny Vega’s bar after a great ball from Daniel Alves. Yet what followed was arguably the highlight of the opening period, with a dog evading security to get on the pitch at the Estadio Unico de La Plata, before enjoying a swift walk around the Vinotinto box and trotting off down towards the dressing rooms – the fans’ applause ringing in its ears.

Benitez denied at the last
After the uninspired opening exchanges, the clash between Paraguay-Ecuador suddenly burst into life when the latter’s Christian Benitez went on a lighting attacking raid. Having eluded the attentions of three opposing players, Benitez would have scored a wonder goal but for the anticipatory skills of Albirroja keeper Justo Villar, whose slight touch as La Tri’s forward attempted to round him enabled his defenders to clear.      

The player
Alexandre Pato (Brazil)
The AC Milan forward was A Seleção’s most threatening attacking option in their opener and kept the Venezuelan rearguard on their toes throughout. Aside from hitting the bar, Pato used the ball well and his intelligent movement meant his midfield men always had an outlet up front. “Unfortunately the ball hit the bar instead of going in,” said the player afterwards. “We now need to train hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again in our next games.”

The stat
25 –
The number of goals that A Canarinha had put past El Vinotinto in only five previous meetings at the Copa America, prior to this Sunday’s 0-0 draw. Brazil had won all five of those prior encounters by scores of 4-0 (1975), 6-0 (1975), 5-0 (1987), 3-1 (1989) and 7-0 (1999).

What they said
“I had less work to do than I’d expected, especially after seeing the attacking players they’d lined up with. This result, alongside Argentina’s draw with Bolivia, proves that this Copa America won’t be easy for the big teams. We’re not here to make up the numbers and, just like the other sides, we’re aiming to secure a place in the next round,” Venezuela keeper Renny Vega.

Up next
After just three goals in four games thus far, fans following the Copa America will be hoping to see the net bulge more frequently in Monday’s two promising encounters in San Juan: Uruguay-Peru and Chile-Mexico.