Venezuela 1, Ecuador 0

Cesar Eduardo Gonzalez scored in the second half to help

Venezuela defeat Ecuador 1-0 in the Copa America on Saturday,

reaching first place in the tough Group B.

Gonzalez struck a powerful right-footer from the top of the area

in the 61st minute, giving the Venezuelans the lead in a group

which also has Paraguay and South American powerhouse Brazil.

Venezuela has four points and is in good position to advance to

the second round. Brazil and Paraguay, which drew 2-2 earlier

Saturday, have two points each, while Ecuador remains with one

point ahead of the final round of group play.

A draw against Paraguay will be enough to send Venezuela to the

next round, while Ecuador will have to beat Brazil to have any

chance of advancing.

Football’s popularity ranks behind baseball in Venezuela and it

is the only South American nation never to have played in a World

Cup. The only time it advanced past the first stage of the Copa

America was in 2007, when it hosted the competition.

”We have gained respect in the last 10 or 15 years,” said

Venezuelan defender Oswaldo Vizcarrondo.

Venezuela dominated the match at Estadio Padre Ernesto

Martearena, but it wasn’t able to capitalize on its scoring

opportunities until Gonzalez broke the deadlock with his long-range

strike that gave no chance to Ecuador goalkeeper Marcelo Ramon

Elizaga.

Venezuela outshot Ecuador 13-6, and only after allowing the goal

did the Ecuadoreans begin to push forward.

They had a great chance to equalize in the 71st after striker

Felipe Caicedo beat two defenders inside the Venezuelan penalty

box, but his weak close-range shot was easily saved by goalkeeper

Renny Vicente Vega.

Ecuador came close again in the 85th, but Vega pushed Christian

Benitez’s shot wide of the post.

”We still have a chance and we hope that against Brazil the

team can bounce back,” Ecuador’s Walter Ayovi said.

Lineups:

Venezuela: Renny Vicente Vega, Roberto Rosales, Oswaldo

Vizcarrondo, Grenddy Perozo, Gabriel Cichero, Tomas Rincon,

Franklin Lucena, Cesar Gonzalez (Jesus Meza, 63), Juan Arango,

Nicolas Miku Fedor (Salomon Rondon, 73), Giancarlo Maldonado

(Giacomo Di Giorgio, 81).

Ecuador: Marcelo Ramon Elizaga, Neicer Reasco, Norberto Araujo,

Frickson Erazo, Walter Ayovi, Segundo Castillo (David Quiroz, 76),

Cristian Noboa, Michael Arroyo (Edson Montano, 71), Edison Mendez,

Christian Benitez, Felipe Caicedo.

Referee: Walter Quesada (Costa Rica).