AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
SALTA: A thumping shot on the hour from Cesar Gonzalez put Venezuela in charge of Copa America Group B on Saturday in securing a 1-0 win over Ecuador.
Gonzalez struck a sweet effort on 62 minutes to send the 'Vinotinto', fortified by an earlier draw with holders Brazil, to the brink of the quarter-finals.
Ecuador will, meanwhile, be on their way home unless they can cause a sensation against the five-time world champions in their final group outing.
With Paraguay holding the Brazilians to a 2-2 in Cordoba, the stage was set for Venezuela, traditionally far more passionate about baseball than football, to show their battling showing against the auriverde was no fluke.
Once again they showed their mettle and deserved the points at the Padre Ernesto Martearena stadium in the northern Argentinian city of Salta.
Venezuela did reach the last eight four years ago, but that was on home territory and if they can make it this time that will be a first.
Ecuador, ranked one place higher than the Venezuelans at 68th in the world, showed a disappointing lack of attacking ambition as Felipe Caicedo was left to forage on his own up front and the Andeans are now bottom of the group having previously drawn 0-0 with Paraguay.
If Brazil finish their group programme with a win over Ecuador and Paraguay defeat Venezuela, the Venezuelans would still likely snatch a last-eight berth as four points should see them finish as one of the best two third-placed sides at the event.