By Richard Martin
SALVADOR, Brazil (Reuters) – Copa America hosts Brazil had three goals ruled out and missed a series of chances as they were held 0-0 by Group A rivals Venezuela on Tuesday.
Roberto Firmino had a goal chalked off late in the first half after the referee awarded a foul against the hosts, before substitute Gabriel Jesus found the net on the hour mark only for a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review to deem Firmino offside in the build-up.
Philippe Coutinho looked to have finally found the winner when he netted from close range but VAR intervened again.
Brazil lead the group on four points ahead of Peru, who beat Bolivia 3-1 earlier in the day and also have four points.
Brazil meet Peru in their final group game on Saturday with both sides needing only a draw to seal their place in the quarter-finals. Venezuela have two points while Bolivia are without a point, with the two facing each other on Saturday.
The top two in each group are guaranteed a place in the last eight, along with the two highest-ranked teams finishing third.
Brazil made a brighter start than in their 3-0 win over Boliva in the tournament curtain raiser but failed to take their chances as David Neres and Firmino missed the target and Richarlison was thwarted by Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez.
Venezuela tightened things up at the back and nearly took a surprise lead when all-time top scorer Salomon Rondon narrowly missed the target with a near-post header.
Richarlison was taken off at halftime and replaced by Manchester City striker Jesus, who instantly livened up Brazil’s attack but failed to help provide a goal.
The final whistle was greeted by loud boos from the unimpressed 39,000 supporters at the Arena Fonte Nova, the hosts again failing to attract a full house after underselling the opener, with over 10,000 seats left empty this time.
Brazil defender Thiago Silva said his side did not deserve the criticism they were getting.
“Venezuela were very defensive, we were sometimes too hasty in trying to make a quick final pass and that led us to lose a bit of confidence. But when you don’t score goals it looks like everything is wrong,” he told reporters.
“In the second half they practically never got out their own area. We didn’t win because of small details.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherfordpeter.firstname.lastname@example.org; +822 3704)