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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bolivia Fails to Crack Brazil in Copa Final

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Brazil won the Copa America the hard way, surviving a second-half bombardment and then scoring twice in the last 15 minutes to beat Bolivia, 3-1.


Brazil striker Ronaldo had seemed to be one of the players least likely to score until the 79th minute, when he put Brazil ahead, 2-1. Ze Roberto then scored in injury time to give Brazil its fifth Copa America title and the first outside its own country.


The two goals came after Brazil, clearly struggling with the difficulties of playing at 3,600 meters above sea level, had been run ragged in the second half.


Edmundo, standing in for the injured Romario, had given Brazil a first half lead, but the world champions were on the ropes from the moment that Taffarel relived his La Paz nightmare.


A horrendous misjudgment by the Brazil goalkeeper -- a veteran of two World Cups -- on the stroke of halftime allowed a 35-meter shot by Erwin Sanchez to sneak between him and the post for the Bolivia equalizer.


Four years ago, Taffarel had scored an own-goal as Bolivia beat Brazil, 2-0 -- the current world champion's first and only defeat in a World Cup qualifier.


Brazil, clearly hampered by the thin air and cold, was only half the team that had won its five previous games at sea level in Santa Cruz.


Its well-oiled tactical system simply ceased to function, and at times in the second half the Bolivians, who like Brazil had a perfect record on their way to the final, appeared to have an extra two or three players on the field.


Bolivia, sensing Taffarel's uneasiness, took potshots at his goal from outside the penalty after the break.


Brazil was saved by the crossbar twice while several other shots went flying narrowly wide with the beleaguered goalkeeper seemingly uncertain as to whether to leave them or not.


But Taffarel also made up for his blunder, making a superb save on the hour to parry away a powerful, close-range drive by Julio Cesar Baldivieso. Shortly afterwards, he dived bravely at the feet of Sanchez to make another important save.


Edmundo had put Brazil in front in the 37th minute from a rebound after Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Trucco had failed to hold a low, swerving 30-meter kick by Roberto Carlos.


The 45,000 crowd, which had seen its team enjoy the better of the first half, was briefly silenced, but came back to life again after Sanchez's equalizer.


A Bolivia goal seemed only a matter of time after the break until Ronaldo latched on to a long through ball by Denilson and scored with a powerful 20-meter drive.


It was the fifth goal of the tournament for Ronaldo, who had barely touched the ball in the second half.


Substitute Ze Roberto finished off a sweet move to score again in injury time, after the Bolivians had clearly lost heart.


Bolivia's players claimed that Edmundo had elbowed Luis Cristaldo in the second half, but the Brazil striker was immediately substituted by Paulo Nunes with referee Jorge Nieves seemingly oblivious to the trick that was being played.