Ugly scenes mar ill-tempered Copa America semi-final

A penalty shoot-out victory for Paraguay sparks clashes with Venezuela players.

Paraguay's players celebrate after Veron's match-winning spot kick in the Copa America semi-final.
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MENDOZA // Police were forced to intervene after a brawl broke out between Paraguay and Venezuela in the Copa America semi-final.

After beating Venezuela 5-3 on penalties to reach the final for the first time since 1979, the Paraguay players celebrated and scuffles broke out. Cesar Farias, the coach of Venezuela, blamed Paraguay team officials for provoking his players.

That incident came after an ill-tempered game in which Paraguay had their coach and assistant coach expelled from the sideline for arguing decisions.

Nestor Ortigoza, Lucas Barrios, Cristian Riveros and Osvaldo Martinez also netted for Paraguay in the shootout. Giancarlo Maldonado, Jose Rey and Nicolas Fedor scored for Venezuela, but Lucena – taking his team's third kick – saw his low shot to the bottom left corner comfortably held by Villar.

"We came convinced we could advance," Farias said. "We did everything humanly possible. Our team never lost its focus. ... We're not content because we worked to go farther."

Nelson Haedo Valdez, the Paraguay striker, said: "I hope we are having some champion's luck, because in truth we suffered a lot. We were very lucky, but football is like this, not always the winner is the best."

Venezuela, known more for its baseball, twice hit the post in extra time but came up just short of reaching its first ever final in the South American championship.

Twice champions Paraguay will now meet favourites Uruguay, chasing a record 15th title, in Sunday's final in Buenos Aires.