MERIDA, Venezuela, July 3 (Reuters) - Venezuela and Uruguay played out the first goalless draw of this year’s Copa America on Tuesday, a result that ensured both sides advanced to the quarter-finals from Group A.
With the hosts already through thanks to the previous night’s results in Group C — the first time in Copa America history they have made the last eight — and Uruguay needing a point, neither team made much effort to win.
“We played intelligently, we knew this result was enough for us to finish top of the group,” Venezuela striker Jose Torrealba told reporters.
It was by far the worst game of what has been a hugely entertaining tournament and a huge letdown for a 41,000 sellout crowd, many of whom had queued for hours for tickets.
Venezuela topped Group A with five points, followed by Peru and Uruguay on four apiece, Peru taking second spot on goal difference. Bolivia were last with two points.
Uruguay are certain qualify as one of the best two third-placed teams from the three groups.
Venezuela’s top spot means they return to San Cristobal, where they enjoy passionate support, for their quarter-final on Saturday.
Venezuela had two good efforts in the first half as a rocketing Juan Arango free kick forced Fabian Carini into action and the Uruguay goalkeeper then dived bravely at Giancarlo Maldonado’s feet.
Uruguay’s only shot on goal came in the 52nd minute when Diego Forlan’s 25-metre effort dipped over the bar.
For long periods, the teams played the ball sideways and backwards as their opponents sat back and watched.
Venezuela quickened the pace in the last 20 minutes and Jose Torrealba shots over from 20 metres, then Cesar Gonzalez was close with a curling free kick.