Wednesday 1 June 2016 – Lockhart Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Guatemala 1-1 Venezuela
Highlights of Guatemala 1-1 Venezuela, International Friendly, 1 June 2016 (YouTube – quality of video suspiciously superior to what was available during the match)
‘Where Were You For Guatemala ’16?’
Although Salomón Rondón’s second goal in consecutive games earned Venezuela a draw, many fans will be disappointed that Rafael Dudamel was unable to gain his first win as manager.
Indeed, he now heads into Sunday’s Copa América opener with Jamaica with a record that reads: Played 4, Won 0, Drew 3, Lost 1. Furthermore, whilst the concession of four goals does hint at some improvement, scoring just three does little to raise expectations even if Venezuela are historically low-scorers.
However, the main thing most fans will take from this game was the viewing experience itself. With no official live transmission on either television or any online outlet (betting sites and the like), many will have assumed there was no way of watching and thus opted to sit it out or, perhaps, listen to the radio and/or follow text updates. Yet, those au fait with certain social media sites were to stumble across at least a couple of curious live feeds from the stadium, seemingly transmitted from fans’ state-of-the-art mobile devices.
Thus, to begin with, at least a couple of thousand clicked to squint at events from deepest darkest Fort Lauderdale which, initially, were provided by an individual whose vantage point rendered him/her unable to actually fit either goal-net into his frame. Still, beggars can’t be choosers. As there was little sound, many fans also opted to supplement the pictures with commentary from Internet radio, which was not in sync. Although some rather high-end everyday modern technology was in use here, the experience was somewhat of a throwback, akin to watching a bootleg film recorded on a shaky old video-camera, with someone on hand to explain any of the action one may have missed.
However, just when this rogue reporter was all set to go down in Vinotinto folklore as the Periscope Pirate, their operations were stopped by security in the 13th minute and they were told to put their phone away. Disaster. The fans were to be thwarted after all.
Or so it seemed for about five minutes, anyway. Following some frantic social media searches, those who were so inclined gradually cottoned on to the existence of another hand-held hero who had in fact also been broadcasting since the beginning of the game and was to do so until the very end. This feed was coming from a slightly higher position in the centre of the stands, yet somehow nobody in security picked up on this. Needless to say, the audience rapidly ascended and reached a peak of nearly 5,000 in the second half.
Nevertheless, though those responsible for the footage can rightly bask in the acclaim that their services to national morale merits, the viewing figures hardly suggest a football-mad nation. Thus, one can not help but feel that this match has served, in part, as a test of commitment and those who saw it live will trade on it for decades to come, as some kind of perverse badge of honour. Indeed, perhaps one day when La Vinotinto are at least threatening to qualify for a World Cup, there will be a somewhat chippy subculture of fans who, whether they actually saw the game or not, will become notorious for sniffily asking the Jhonny-Come-Latelys they encounter, ‘Where were you for Guatemala ’16?’
Lord knows what those who actually attended the game in person will say.
For now though, let us return to the present day. What, at long last, follows is a relatively succinct match report that is compiled from a mixture of watching the live feeds, listening to the radio and reading text updates.
In the early stages, Guatemala had the upper hand, pressing forward, winning free-kicks and shooting from range. Dani Hernández, playing his first Venezuela game between the goalposts for over a year, certainly had to be alert upon his return. Nevertheless, Venezuela were still a presence, with Guerra striking wide, Rondón hitting an attempt a little too close to the goalkeeper and Juanpi having a free-kick deflected wide. Although Seijas also managed a couple of shots, as the halfway point of the first half approached, the consensus was that Guatemala had enjoyed the better of the play.
Still, Venezuela had a good opportunity to take the lead just before the half-hour mark. Juanpi, who again was offering his country some more direct, central attacking options, found Rondón with a through-ball, but the West Brom forward struck too close to the goalkeeper.
However, if the first half was edged by Guatemala, Venezuela certainly stepped up a gear at the beginning of the second. The half was less than five minutes old when Juanpi curled a graceful free-kick just wide of the post, which on first viewing looked as if it hit the woodwork. Later on, just before the 70th minute, Rondón controlled a long diagonal ball ten or so yards from the right edge of the area then, after taking a stride or two, struck low and hard at goalkeeper Ricardo Jérez, who blocked and then gathered the ball.
Yet, despite these attempts, it was actually La Azul y Blanco who took the lead and when they did, it took many Vinotinto fans by surprise. The goal came following a long diagonal ball that bounced into the path of Gerson Tinoco who, with some space separating him and the two defenders, hit it first time from the edge of the area across the goal and past the despairing Hernández.
Venezuela, facing a very disappointing loss taking them into a major tournament, responded with some urgency, forcing a couple moments of uncertainty in the opposition area before the equaliser eventually arrived. Indeed, when it came, it certainly was not pretty nor, for that matter, is it particularly worth tracking down if you were in the overwhelming majority who missed the game. Nevertheless, they all count and we just about have the video footage to prove. The goal came from a corner that was flicked along into the middle where Rondón, with a little too much space for the most high-profile player in the team, hooked it in.
1-1 it ended. Underwhelming, it certainly was and hardly likely to provide much concern to their opening-day opponents Jamaica who, in marked contrast, beat holders Chile 2-1 in their last warm-up game. Nevertheless, at least Dudamel has had four matches to run the rule over his charges. Last year, Noel Sanvicente had zero in the weeks preceding the tournament yet still managed to pull off a surprise 1-0 win against the much-fancied Colombia. With fairly fresh facts still at the forefront of the minds of the fans, one can not help but still wonder, what awaits La Vinotinto this time around?
Guatemala (4-3-3): R. Jérez; L. Cardona, H. López, C. Jiménez, G. Arias; R. Saravia, M. Hernández, J. Contreras (J. Priego, 73′); L. Martínez, G. Tinoco (J. Pinto Samayoa, 82′), C. Ruíz (M. Castellanos, 90+3′).
Venezuela (4-2-3-1): D. Hernández; R. Rosales (A. González, 75′), W. Ángel, O. Vizcarrondo, M. Villanueva; A. Figuera (R. Otero, 63′), T. Rincón; A. Guerra (A. Peñaranda, 85′), L. Seijas, Juanpi (J. Martínez, 71′); S. Rondón.