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Venezuela proving their doubters wrong at Copa America

Their win over Uruguay demonstrated just how good Venezuela can be.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Venezuela already opened a lot of eyes when they battered Jamaica in their first match in the Copa America Centenario, but few observers gave them a serious chance against Uruguay. But on Thursday, they beat Uruguay, and they looked pretty convincing doing it.

After the World Cup two summers ago, many were ready to see Venezuela step up big-time in South America. They'd only narrowly missed qualifying, and Salomon Rondon stepped up as a big-time star for them and was backed by an improving supporting cast. They had some good performances leading up to the Copa America but then fell apart at the tournament itself, failing to advance out of their group with only a win over a disappointing Colombia side to their name.

Things got worse for Venezuela after that, with a disastrous start to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, earning just one point in their first six matches. They're in last place, while Uruguay sits on top of the standings with 13 points.

Everyone thought that, based on that form, there'd be little chance that Venezuela would be anything but pushovers in this summer's Copa America. Sure, Rondon was coming in on good form from his club season, but the team as a whole looked just as poor as the side that's struggled for the last year. They didn't even look terribly impressive in their warmup matches.

Then the matches actually started, and something happened -- Venezuela outplayed a Jamaica side considered by many to be a dark horse, getting an early goal and then holding on against a late comeback charge. Against one of the tournament favorites in Uruguay, Venezuela took control early and didn't let go, scoring in the first half and keeping La Celeste at bay for the rest of the night to earn their second win -- and all but lock up a spot in the Copa America knockout rounds.

It wasn't a fluke performance of any kind either. Their pace and drive on the counter dominated the early run of the match, throwing Uruguay badly off balance and leaving them exposed -- even if it did take a bit of magic for them to score off Alejandro Guerra's long-range strike that caught Fernando Muslera off his line before going off the bar to set up Rondon's goal.

The goal was well-earned, though, for all the attacking quality Venezuela had shown, and while they didn't score a second goal in the match, it wasn't for lack of trying -- they were definitely the more dangerous side going forward all night long.

But it wasn't just Venezuela's attack that impressed against Uruguay. Their midfield and defense worked hard from first whistle to last, constantly harassing and disrupting Uruguay's attempts to get forward, leaving them incapable of creating the quality chances they needed to find an equalizer. It was an inspiring performance for Venezuela from start to finish, and they put themselves on top of the group in jaw-dropping fashion.

In just a week, Venezuela have gone from being a joke to being the story of the Copa America Centenario. Their doubters have been left in the dust, and they have legitimately looked like one of the best teams in the tournament. Can they maintain this form and become a dark horse themselves in the knockout rounds? Who knows. But for now, they're a whole lot of fun to watch and they're winning games, and that's all that matters.