Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela qualify

Barinas, July 3:

Argentina thrashed Colombia 4-2 and Paraguay overcame the United States 3-1 to claim berths in the Copa America quarter-finals on Monday and set up an exciting Group C decider.

The results were also good news for host Venezuela, which advanced to the last eight for the first time ever as, at worst, one of the two best third-place finishers. Venezuela, leading Group A, could win it when it plays Uruguay.

Led by Juan Roman Riquelme’s two first-half goals — one on a header in the 33rd minute and then a curving free kick over a Colombian wall just before the whistle — Argentina resumed the dominant offensive play that allowed it to breeze past the United States in its opening match.

But the victory may have cost the Albiceleste the services of Hernan Crespo. The Inter Milan striker left the match limping on his right leg after converting a penalty in the 21st. Diego Milito scored fourth goal in injury time. For Colombia, Edixon Perea scored the game’s opening goal off a penalty, and Jaime Castrillon closed the deficit to 3-2.

Paraguay had fewer chances than a more aggressive United States, but executed better in Barinas. Unlike the cautious play they exhibited during their 4-1 opening defeat against Argentina, the Americans dominated possession and were relentless on attack.

But Paraguay was more effective in the area. A sharp pass through two defenders from Oscar Cardozo set up Edgar Barreto’s goal in the 30th before the US equalized when Taylor Twellman knocked down a deep ball, and with his back to the net, one-touched to Ricardo Clark, who buried a shot past a diving Justo Villar.

With the Americans threatening, Cardozo then put Paraguay ahead after stealing a slow clearing roll in front of the net at the start of the second half. Salvador Cabanas scored his third straight goal off the bench with a free kick in injury time.