Brazil marched to an impressive 2-1 victory against Venezuela in their third match of Group C of the 2015 Copa America thanks to goals by Thiago Silva and Roberto Firmino. Playing without skipper Neymar, who had sustained a four-match ban for unsportsmanlike conduct following the team's 1-0 loss to Colombia in the team's previous match, Brazil attacked with focus from the opening whistle. Coach Dunga included Robinho and Phillipe Coutinho in the team's starting line-up and both players compensated for Neymar's absence by attempting to open up the Venezuelan defense with the vision and creativity characteristic of their captain. Veteran striker Robinho, in particular, rose to the challenge of filling Neymar's shoes by darting all over the pitch and orchestrating dangerous passing combinations with the likes of Coutinho, Willian, Dani Alves and Roberto Firmino.
Thiago Silva opened the scoring in the 9th minute with a stunning volley off a Robinho corner that sent a rocket into the roof of the net. Far from taking their foot off the accelerator after scoring, Brazil continued to attack with an impressive display of one touch passing and possession football. In the 38th minute, Willian carved out an extra inch of space on the right side of the box and fired off a shot that the Venezuelan keeper parried wide for a corner. Brazil captain Miranda managed to dispatch a shot from the ensuing corner but his strike sailed wide. Less than six minutes into the second half, Brazil cemented their hold on the match when a Willian cross from the left flank found Roberto Firmino in the box, who promptly leaped and deflected the ball into the back of the net to give the Selecao a morale-boosting 2-0 lead without their starlet Neymar. Venezuela were not to be outdone, however, as Miku headed in the rebound from a dangerous free kick to make it 2-1 with roughly five minutes of regular time to spare. Miku almost equalized for Venezuela in extra time by coming close to latching onto a cross from Martinez, but Brazil managed to retain their lead and sail into the quarterfinals to set up a mouthwatering matchup against Paraguay on Saturday. The match against Venezuela showed that, contrary to Brazil's 7-1 debacle of a defeat against Germany at the 2014 World Cup, the Selecao can indeed play without Neymar with style and strength. Robinho represented the key to today's victory as his experience and leadership compensated for Neymar's absence and, in many ways, led them to a better performance than their second match against Colombia.
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