Ooh, hang about…
Conmebol Qualifying Stage for Fifa World Cup 2022
Tuesday 17 November 2022 — Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas
Venezuela 2-1 Chile
Now We’re Underway
Venezuela and their new boss José Peseiro gave themselves a huge boost as La Vinotinto picked up their first points in the qualifying stage for Qatar 2022.
Coming into the game with three consecutive defeats, as well as captain Tomás Rincón suspended and two defenders injured, the Portuguese coach must have felt some apprehension about his side’s prospects.
However, perhaps he could perceive something his detractors couldn’t. He was, after all, able to field the returning man-of-the-moment Yangel Herrera and managed to motivate his charges to go out with a more positive approach than they displayed in the 1-0 loss against Brazil.
Venezuela certainly had the better of the opening exchanges and surprised even many of their own fans when, in the ninth minute, they scored their first qualifying goal. This came after Darwin Machís crossed in a free-kick from the right that Herrera headed into the six-yard box for Chile-based Luis Mago — a beneficiary of the defensive injuries sustained in São Paulo — to nod home.
Their elation was short-lived, however, as Inter Milan’s Arturo Vidal equalised six minutes later. The visitors found space on Mago’s left-hand side, with Mauricio Isla’s dangerous low cross into the box only being diverted into the path of the veteran midfielder, who made it 1-1.
Despite this, Venezuela didn’t lose any drive or belief, and should’ve regained the lead five minutes later when a perfectly weighted pass by Jefferson Savarino — currently the top provider in Brazil — reached Machís. But, one-on-one with Claudio Bravo, the Granada attacker had his weak attempt easily blocked.
Even more gilt-edged was the chance skied by Salomón Rondón some twenty minutes later. Here, Herrera exquisitely headed on Machís’s ball into the area for the ex-Newcastle man; however, the Vinotinto‘s all-time top-scorer shaped to adjust his striking stance a little too much and ended up embarrassingly fluffing his lines.
The hosts had the better of the first half, but that could not really be said of much of the second period where genuine chances were in short supply for both nations.
So when the winner came in the 81st minute, it was a little unexpected. Substitute Yeferson Soteldo, who, until less than an hour before the team sheet was announced had been predicted to start, helped set it up. From the right, the Santos dribbler put in a cross that took a slight deflection, bypassing the out-of-sorts Bravo to reach Rondón, who beat his marker to knock home.
Subsequently, after seeing off some Roja scares, Venezuela, who felt comfortable enough to grant a late debut to 18-year-old Óscar Conde, held on until the final whistle to claim an impressive victory.
For the players and fans, these three points are an undeniable morale boost; for the manager, they provide some breathing space and — so long as no FVF shenanigans are afoot — something to build on.
Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Faríñez; A. González, Y. Osorio, W. Ángel, L. Mago (Ó. Conde (90+1′); Y. Herrera, J. Moreno, C. Cásseres Jr (R. Otero, 78′); J. Savarino (Y. Soteldo, 70′), D. Machís (J. Chancellor (90+1′); S. Rondón.
Chile (4-2-3-1): C. Bravo; M. Isla, P. Díaz, G. Maripán, J. Beausejour; E. Pulgar (A. Vilches, 89′); A. Vidal; C. Pinares (C. Baeza, 46′), A. Sánchez, J. Meneses; F. Mora (C. Palacios, 76′).