Venezuela’s opening Group B game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup saw them sensationally see off European heavyweights Germany. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the match and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-tracking…
(Source: Wikipedia – Check here for all other results, fixtures and standings)
Venezuela 2-0 Germany
2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Group B, 20 May 2017 (YouTube)
Rafael Dudamel’s much-admired generation of youngsters kick-started South Korea 2017 in memorable, expectation-defying fashion, defeating Germany with a relative degree of comfort. Indeed, though Guido Streichsbier’s men arguably had the upper hand during the first half, their superiority was ever so slight and consisted of little more than having the likes of Philipp Ochs aim a few extra shots from range that either missed the target or were easily stopped.
Things soon changed decisively after the break. Indeed, barely had the second period began when Venezuela had crafted the hitherto best chance of the game, which was soon followed by the opening goal in the 51st minute, scored by Ronaldo Peña. He capitalised on some defensive uncertainty on the flank before confidently waltzing with the ball past goalkeeper Dominik Reimann. Just three minutes later, the lead was emphatically doubled by Sergio Córdova, who was played into a little space on the right side within the area, before firing home low into the back of the net. Subsequently, the Europeans evidently had the wind knocked out of their sails and, as a contest, the game somewhat petered out in the final half-hour or so.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this extraordinary result for Venezuela is that both the players as well as the fans know that they can in fact play much better than this. Therefore, if to some they didn’t already, then now especially, the possibilities for this crop of cracks suddenly seem limitless.
Though the hordes of fastidious tactics bloggers may wish to disagree, to these eyes, the best compliment that could be paid to the defence that kept this clean sheet is that, well, they weren’t very prominent. Indeed, with the exception of maybe one centre-back foot that needed to be instinctively put in to stop the ball rolling towards the wrong feet for a sudden close-range opportunity, La Vinotinto were never seriously tested. There were no last-ditch challenges, no heroic recoveries after having given away possession in the final third, no goalmouth clearances and no goalkeeping acrobatics. There didn’t need to be – and not just because the opposition were somewhat lacking as an attacking threat. Though in the initial stages, there was some midfield carelessness that allowed the Germans to roam towards the edge of the area, generally the team as a whole – and, of course, the back four, in particular – maintained their focus, kept their vigilance and tracked their rivals, rarely granting them an inch in meaningful positions.
Regarding the outfield rearguard, 18-year-old Nahuel Ferraresi (No. 4, Deportivo Táchira) was the one notable surprise on the team-sheet, as during qualifying it was the bench-dwelling Josua Mejías (No. 17, Carabobo FC) who formed one half of a much-admired centre-back partnership with Williams Velásquez (No. 2, Estudiantes de Caracas). However, the defensive record – the best in that tournament – that was achieved back then also involved a few personnel alterations necessitated largely by suspensions. Thus, it would appear that, not only did Ferraresi acquit himself well, but also that Dudamel has an impressive pool of defence-minded individuals at his disposal who are receptive to the system that has been instilled.
Furthermore in this area, left-back Eduin Quero (No. 3, Deportivo Táchira), who received two red cards in his six qualifying matches, also got booked here early on but did well to keep his cool and quell any trouble on his side. His colleague over on the right-flank, Ronald Hernández (No. 20, Zamora FC) was again the more adventurous of the pair, having Venezuela’s only real attempt on target in the first half, shooting from 25-30 yards out on the inside-right in the 24th minute, though his, admittedly ambitious, effort was comfortably saved. He did, however, also combine very well on the overlap on the right on the half-hour mark, with his nifty bit of skill ultimately leading to a lay-off to a certain individual in a good position inside the area who – to the surprise of few – skied the ball over.
This would be attacker and target man, Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas), who earned the ire of many fans during qualifying for his profligacy in front of goal. However, shortly after the interval, he rose to prominence, first receiving a pass from defensive-midfielder and captain Yangel Herrera (No. 8, New York City FC, on loan from Manchester City) and nudging the ball past a defender to give Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) a clear, albeit brief, sight of goal. His strike was blocked by the goalkeeper but four minutes later, the diminutive dribbler – who was to later grow in confidence, enjoying short bursts with the ball – played a role in the opening goal, forcing a defender into a poor backwards header over on the right flank. This was seized upon by Peña, who gave his compatriots the gift they could scarcely have ever dreamed of as he exhibited some fine footwork, first taking the ball past another defender, then the goalkeeper, before sliding into the empty net. Cue elation.
The man who had combined well with Hernández for Peña’s first-half opportunity was right-sided attacker Sergio Córdova (No. 23, Caracas FC) and, just a few minutes after the Las Palmas youngster made it 1-0, it was he who doubled the lead. He had also struck a minor opportunity off-target in the first half and his 54th-minute goal came about following some fine work by the left-sided Adalberto Peñaranda (No. 7, Málaga, on loan from Watford). The dynamic forward who played in the 2015 CONMEBOL tournament but not the 2017 edition, showed that he can slot into this side rather neatly indeed as he dribbled from the inside-left into the dee, before sliding the ball inside the area for Córdova. The Caracas FC man thus took one touch before firing home at the near post. Cue euphoria. Overall, he showed considerable determination and ability from his right flank, impressing many back home who, in one notable online poll, overwhelmingly voted him the man of the match.
Otherwise, as is custom, midfielder Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) sprayed some good passes and put in a few notable deliveries, the best coming after 14 minutes from a set-piece which centre-back Velásquez stretched for, but couldn’t quite connect with.
Ultimately, this was a performance to serve notice to the global footballing fraternity not yet up-to-speed with the very promising developments in Venezuela. It’s especially exciting given that all Vinotinto fans know there is much more to come from their fresh-faced representatives, not least highly-rated goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC), who was never seriously troubled today. Given the organisers’ generosity of allowing 16 of the 24 group teams to qualify through to the second round, it is hard not to feel as if Venezuela already have one foot in the knock-out stage.
In the other Group B game played today, Mexico nabbed a 3-2 win at the death against Vanuatu, who will be Venezuela’s next opponents on Tuesday 23 May 2017.
To keep up-to-date with the latest news on the South American nations at South Korea 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter and check back to Hispanospherical.com for match-by-match talent-tracking articles.