(Watch the brawl that followed Paraguay’s shootout victory against Venezuela in the Copa America semifinals here.)
Things seemed to be going so well at Copa America....
The knockout stage games were full of excitement, upsets were happening every time you turned around, and, perhaps most importantly, the violence some feared ahead of the tournament, had not materialized.
Not until Wednesday night, that is.
Moments after goal-starved but luck-filled Paraguay advanced to its first Copa America final since 1979 with a 5-3 penalty shootout win against Venezuela, players started throwing punches at one another on the sideline.
Maybe the Venezuelans were sick of watching Paraguay celebrate shootout victories — the red-striped squad has not won a game outside of a shootout yet, drew all three of its group stage matches and has led for only 59 of 510 minutes of play. Or maybe Brazil offered them prime seats to the 2014 World Cup to continue the fracas that started in Sunday’s Brazil-Paraguay quarterfinal.
Whatever the cause, expect Sunday’s final to be especially intense — it’s the battle of the guays, Paraguay vs. Uruguay. Much more than a spot in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup will be on the line in this one.
That match will take place in the stadium of storied club team, River Plate, which just so happened to be the site of a massive riot on June 26th. Following a loss that doomed Los Millonarios to relegation for the first time in the club’s 110-year history, devastated fans hurled projectiles onto the pitch, ripped seats from the stands and eventually forced the abandonment of the match.
At the time, CONMEBOL spokesman Nestor Benitez assured fans they could “rest easily.” But will anyone be able to rest easy when Paraguay-Uruguay goes down to penalties on Sunday?