Although Venezuela's World Cup qualifying campaign looked all but over some time ago, it will come as a bitter disappointment for La Vinotinto to suffer mathematical elimination at the hands of Paraguay on Friday -- at home, no less. The draw will sting even further thanks to the way the match played out, with the visitors getting an early goal and then holding out against a furious Venezuelan storm that could have, on another evening, resulted in an emphatic victory. But, alas, it was not to be.
Paraguay weren't entirely toothless in the opening exchanges, with Roque Santa Cruz heading just wide from a corner kick, but it was clear where the pressure was going to come from. Venezuela dominated possession, and started to test Justo Villar through Junior Arango, who forced the goalkeeper into a pair of smart saves from range.
But in between those stops, the visitors had taken a surprise lead. Edgar Benitez took down a nice pass from Victor Ayala, turned Alex Gonzalez inside out and slotted past Daniel Hernandez to give Paraguay a barely deserved advantage. The goal came against the run of play, and forced Venezuela to re-double their efforts to find the back of the net.
The misses became comical. Both Gonzalez and Miku contrived to knock the ball straight to Villar when it looked easier to score, and by midway through the second half, more shots had fizzed just wide of the post than were expended in the war of the Triple Alliance. Still, a goal wouldn't come, and Venezuela needed two.
They finally got their lifeline in the 82nd minute, when Luis Seijas' long-range effort took a slight deflection before going in off Villar's left-hand post. But they'd left it too late, and despite throwing everyone forward during injury time, simply could not find that second goal.
Venezuela starting lineup (4-4-2): Daniel Hernandez; Rosales Roberto, Fernando Amorebieta, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, Alex Gonzalez; Franklin Lucena, Juan Arango, Romulo Otero, Yohandry Orozco; Miku, Josef Martinez.
Goals: Luis Seijas 82'.
Paraguay starting lineup (4-3-3): Justo Villar; Junior Alonso, Gustavo Gomez, Paulo da Silva, Carlos Bonet; Luis Alcides Mino, Victor Caceres, Victor Ayala; Edgar Benitez, Roque Santa Cruz, Oscar Cardozo.
Goals: Benitez 28'.