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Brazil beat Venezuela, advance in Copa America as Group C winners

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VenezuelaVenezuela
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Thiago Silva hit a first-touch volley off a corner kick to give Brazil a 1-0 lead vs. Venezuela.

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Playing without suspended star Neymar, Brazil defeated Venezuela 2-1 Sunday in its final group game to reach the Copa America quarterfinals.

Thiago Silva scored with a volley in the 9th minute off a perfect delivery from a corner by Neymar's replacement Robinho. Roberto Firmino added the second in the 52nd, hammering home a cross from Willian.

The loss in Group C eliminated Venezuela, which got an 84th-minute goal from Miku.

The final match in qualifying set up the quarterfinal pairings with Chile vs. Uruguay on Wednesday, Bolivia vs. Peru on Thursday, Argentina vs. Colombia on Friday and Saturday's match pitting Brazil against Paraguay.

Barcelona's Neymar was banned for four games after a 1-0 loss to Colombia on Wednesday. Angry with the defeat, Neymar kicked a ball at a Colombia player, and also appeared to head-butt another player.

CONMEBOL, the governing body of South American football, said the referee's report also showed he insulted the referee after the match and grabbed him by the arms.

Brazil seemed to play better without Neymar, at least early in the first half. Robinho and Philippe Coutinho, who replaced midfielder Fred, gave Brazil more attacking.

After scoring, Silva raced to the sideline and waved to Neymar, who was sitting in the stands wrapped up under a blue winter cap. He was jeered by Venezuela fans on a chilly night in the South American winter.

Brazil had a couple chances just after Silva's goal with Robinho and Filipe Luis looking dangerous. But the attack stalled through most of the first half.

Willian was stopped by Venezuela keeper Alain Baroja on a point-blank shot in the 39th.

Venezuela had its best chance in the 44th when Gabriel Cichero looped a shot from the left which went just wide of the far post.

Brazil started the second half quickly. Coutinho had a chance in the first minute with Firmino's goal minutes later sealing the outcome.

Venezuela made it close in the 84th. Brazil keeper Jefferson dove to meet Juan Arango's free kick, tipping it off the post with Miku heading it home.

Five-time World Cup champion Brazil is hoping to recover its reputation in this tournament, still stinging from a humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in last year's World Cup semifinals at home. It has looked ordinary in three group matches in Chile, a shadow of Brazilian teams that were once feared.

Brazil still remains a co-favorite with Argentina, with Chile, Colombia and defending champion Uruguay also viewed as contenders.

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