Santiago (AFP) - Brazil shrugged off the absence of suspended captain
Neymar to reach the Copa America quarter-
finals with a 2-1 victory over Venezuela.
Goals in each half from Paris Saint-Germain star Thiago Silva and Bundesliga-based striker
Roberto Firmino clinched a win which ensured Brazil qualified for the last eight on top of
Venezuelas goal came from Rayo Vallecano striker Nicolas Fedor in the 84th minute.
Silva - who earlier celebrated finding the net with a dedication to Neymar - praised
Brazils team effort.
"The best thing today is we had a very cohesive team," he said. "Football is played this
way -- as a team.
"If you are an individual player you can lose focus on the collective effort. Neymar is
missed, he wont play any more in this Copa America. We played for him but in a different
Brazil will now face Group B runners-up Paraguay in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
"Its going to be a tough match," said Silva of the 2011 finalists, who knocked Brazil out
four years ago.
"Any team here is hard. Paraguay got to the last Copa America final and got there on merit,
beating us along the way.
"Beating them on Saturday will have a special meaning."
Brazil had suffered a shock 1-0 loss to Colombia in their last outing, a contest which
ended with a post-match brawl that led to Neymar receiving a tournament-ending four-match
Defeat to Venezuela on Sunday would have seen the five-time world champions making a
humiliating first-round exit from the South American showpiece but that outcome never
looked likely as Brazil dominated the start.
Brazil coach Dunga had opted to replace Neymar -- looking down from the stands at
Santiagos Estadio Monumental -- with Santos striker Robinho while the captains armband
was passed to defender Miranda.
With Colombia being held to a 0-0 draw in the earlier Group C game, Brazil headed into the
match comfortable in the knowledge that a point would be good enough.
But any suggestion Brazil would give Venezuela an easy ride was snuffed out in the opening
minutes as they seized control of the contest.
The breakthrough came after only nine minutes.
Robinho flighted a corner from the right into the heart of the penalty area and Silva was
on hand to sidefoot a sweetly struck volley past goalkeeper Alain Baroja, who failed to
react in time as the ball flew into the roof of the net.
Silva celebrated by gesturing support to the watching Neymar, signalling the suspended
strikers shirt number.
Brazil then set about extending their lead but were unable to find a second goal.
Robinho came close but saw his shot go just over following patient approach play before
Chelsea defender Filipe Luis drew a fine save from Baroja when he thumped a fierce angled
shot goalwards from the left hand side of the box.
Venezuelas lone first-half attempt on goal came on the half-hour mark, when a free-kick
from Malaga defender Roberto Rosales was flicked on by Andres Tunez, forcing Jefferson to
Brazil started the second half as they finished the first, laying siege to the Venezuelan
Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho unleashed a shot which flew wide, and Silva almost
grabbed his second goal from a setpiece, thumping a header from a Willian corner only to be
denied by a superb Baroja save on 49 minutes.
- Tense finale -
Brazil did not have long to wait for their second, however, which arrived on 52 minutes.
Willian skipped away from Rosales with ease down the left flank before crossing to Firmino
who sidefooted home from close range for 2-0.
Brazil looked to be heading to an easy victory but Venezuela ensured a tense finale with
Fedors late goal.
Juan Arangos free-kick was tipped onto the post by Jefferson but Fedor was on hand to head
in the rebound.
Venezuela mounted a late rally for an equaliser but were unable to find the goal that would
have seen them squeeze through to the quarter-finals at the expense of Colombia.
Colombia, who reached the last eight as one of the two best third placed teams, now face
Argentina in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Chile face Uruguay on Wednesday while Bolivia will play Peru.