Ecuador clinch Copa quarter-final berth as Venezuela sink Jamaica – Sport

AUSTIN: Ecuador ground out a nerve-jangling 0-0 draw with Mexico to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Copa America on Sunday as Venezuela sealed top spot in Group ‘B’ with a 3-0 win over Jamaica.

Ecuador finished level with Mexico on four points but progress to the last eight thanks to a superior goal difference.

“We would like to have a little bit more control,” Ecuador coach Felix Sanchez told reporters.“It’s a very young squad, as I said, and we actually need to be able to overcome these situations in these matches. We know that even if you obtain the results you want, you need to be self-critical and continue improving.”

Ecuador withstood a furious late onslaught from ‘El Tri’ to reach the last eight.

Mexico launched wave after wave of attacks in the final quarter, with Johan Vasquez forcing a save from Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez in the 71st minute, six minutes after Santiago Gimenez struck the post with a shot from close range.

There was almost a dramatic twist deep into eight minutes of time added on, when Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar awarded what would have been a winning penalty to Mexico after Ecuador’s Felix Torres appeared to foul Guillermo Martinez in the area.

The Mexican-dominated crowd erupted in delight only for the celebrations to be cut short when VAR instructed Escobar to review the decision. Replays showed Torres clearly got a touch on the ball in his challenge on Martinez and the penalty was overturned.

Jaime Lozano, Mexico’s third head coach in the last two years, also faced criticism after their 2-0 loss to the United States in the 2024 CONCACAF Nations League final, and defeats in two recent friendlies, including a 4-0 thrashing by Uruguay.

“Whenever an objective is not meant, there is certain discomfort and doubts, that’s only natural, no matter who’s here,” Lozano said.

“But the players kept believing until the very end, that’s not easy. It’s not easy to play that strong union and the commitment that they showed … over the whole tournament. That decision (about my future) is not up to me.”

Ecuador will now face Group ‘A’ winners Arge­n­tina in the quarter-finals in Houston on Thursday.

Venezuela, meanwhile, will take on Group ‘A’ runners-up Canada in Arlington on Friday as they chase a place in the semi-finals.

The Venezuelans, who were already assured of a quarter-final place after wins over Ecuador and Mexico, preserved their 100% record against winless Jamaica.

Eduard Bello headed Venezuela into the lead after 49 minutes, nodding home at the far post after a perfectly weighted cross from Jon Aramburu.

Veteran striker Salomon Rondon then doubled the Venezuela lead on 56 minutes, latching on to a through ball from Yangel Herrera and then smuggling a low finish into the net past advancing Jamaica goalkeeper Jahmali Waite.

A decisive victory was sealed in the 85th minute when Eric Ramirez was sent through on goal by Kervin Andrade before coolly finishing past Waite.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2024

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