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Copa America 2015: Thursday's Day 8 Takeaways

Alex Dimond@alexdimondUK Lead WriterJune 19, 2015

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Peru beat 10-man Venezuela 1-0 in the Copa America's only game on Thursday, in the process setting up a fascinating conclusion to Group C.

Claudio Pizarro's close-range finish was the difference between the two sides, although Venezuela were more than a little hampered by the dismissal of defender Fernando Amorebieta midway through the first half.

That sending off changed the dynamic of the game completely. Before the red card, Venezuela had looked the more dangerous side, but after it they were forced to defend very deep. Still, Peru struggled horribly to take advantage for large swathes of the rest of the game, eventually needing something of a slice of luck to present Pizarro with the decisive chance to get the win.

With Colombia beating Brazil 24 hours earlier, the final result means all four teams in the group currently have three points. The final round of group games on Sunday will decide who goes through to the knockout rounds and who goes home, and it should prove a fascinating conclusion to affairs.

Here are a few quick takeaways from events in Valparaiso, Chile, on Thursday.

1. Pizarro an oldie but (still) a goldie

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Jorge Saenz/Associated Press

In the end, the oldest outfield player in the competition was the one who ended up deciding the game for his country. Claudio Pizarro may be 36 and, at club level at least, firmly on the final straight of his career. But he still had enough in the tank to make a difference when it mattered most on Thursday, slotting home from close range to finally put Venezuela to the sword.

It was hardly the most emphatic of finishes—with all of the goal to aim at, the ex-Chelsea striker hit pretty much straight at the goalkeeper—and the deflected pass that preceded it might have been somewhat fortuitous. But it got the job done and now gives his team a realistic chance of reaching the last eight of the competition.

Oscar Saldaña @Oscarsa70

Pizarro marca un gol esperadísimo!!! Gana #Perú 1-0 #PeruxDT (Vine by @DTElComercio) https://t.co/9PFqqltysy

His fellow forward Paolo Guerrero might be Peru's most dangerous attacker these days, but Pizarro still has a bit of quality about him. Peru's defending might prove more significant in their final group game against Colombia, but coach Jose Pekerman's side will be respectful of the threat their veteran striker possesses.

2. Amorebieta's silly red proved pivotal

Luis Hidalgo/Associated Press

If Pizarro's goal was the decisive moment of the match, then arguably Fernando Amorebieta's red card was its defining event, the game turning on one decision from the referee.

Venezuela had started brightly prior to their left-back's dismissal, which came out of the blue. The Middlesbrough player had been tussling with Paolo Guerrero down the sideline, but there appeared to be nothing venomous about the foul he eventually conceded, as he pulled back the slippery striker's shirt and hauled him to the ground.

What Amorebieta did next was inexplicable (especially for someone so experienced) unless it was genuinely unintentional (which only he will know, as replays were somewhat inconclusive). Attempting to hurdle the fallen Peru player, he ended up stamping on his knee, an impact that drew blood.

The referee took a dim view of the incident, immediately brandishing his red card and sending the ex-Athletic Bilbao man to the stands.

Criterio Fútbol @CriterioFutbol

VINE | ¡Amorebieta ha sido expulsado! https://t.co/Uguwl0QGC8

Instantly the whole tone of the match changed. Venezuela, pretty composed up until that moment, were forced to sit deep and try to frustrate their opponents, a game plan they executed effectively until the final phase of the game. But Pizarro's goal nevertheless means they now need to get something from their final game against Brazil if they want to reach the knockout stages—no small feat.

Of course, they have already beaten Colombia in this competition, a team of similar attacking vibrancy, while Brazil will be without Neymar for the contest. If there is one positive to be taken from this game for the Venezuelans, then it is how they defended for so much of the game with 10 men, blunting the attacking threat of the Peruvians with ease for large spells.

They will need that same organisation and diligence against Brazil if they are to stand a chance. And they will need no one to make the same silly, rash mistake Amorebieta did on Thursday. 

3. A tight group just got even tighter

Luis Hidalgo/Associated Press

Working through the permutations for Group C following this result now requires a rocket scientist (or perhaps Stephen Hawking himself), with all four teams now locked together on one win and one defeat with one game still to play.

In terms of the top two automatic-qualification spots in the group, the dynamic is simple, with the two countries who win their final match certain to progress.

But third in the group comes with the possibility of also reaching the last eight (two of the three third-placed teams will go through), meaning a draw could well be good enough for the two teams involved. What if both games are draws, however? Then all sorts of permutations could come into play.

Interestingly, the final games in Group C are the last to be played of the competition group stages (Groups A and B will already be finalised), meaning all four teams should know exactly what they require to get at least a third-place qualification spot at the end of the evening.

That could yet have an interesting effect on events, particularly the second game between Brazil and Venezuela. If there is a winner in the earlier kick-off, could the two sides play to a draw to guarantee both go through?

It may be unlikely, but it's not impossible. All in all, Sunday promises to be a particularly complex day for all involved. 

4. A great atmosphere and a prompt start

Jorge Saenz/Associated Press

Consistently great atmospheres have hardly blessed this Copa America, but this game had a great vibe for one involving two of the tournament's lesser lights. Fewer than 20,000 fans can get into the ground in Valparaiso, limiting the full extent of the noise, but those who turned up created a buoyant atmosphere for both sides to play in front of.

On a similar note, the game also kicked off promptly at 8:30 p.m. local time, which made a refreshing change from other games in Chile this past week. With time-keeping having been somewhat lax up to this point in the tournament, that must have come as a particular relief to those watching events from less amenable time zones.

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