Tag Archives: André Carrillo

Peru 0-0 Venezuela – Copa América 2019 Group A (15 June 2019)

Creditable if not a classic. Here, @DarrenSpherical recounts La Vinotinto’s first Copa América 2019 game against Peru.

Copa América 2019 – Group A

Saturday 15 June 2019 – Arena do Grêmio, Porto Alegre

Peru 0-0 Venezuela

Video Highlights of Peru 0-0 Venezuela, Copa América Group A, 15 June 2019 (YouTube)

Venezuela Ride Their Luck To Hang On For A Valuable Point

In their group stage bow, Venezuela were reduced to ten men but VAR and goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez aided them to battle to a potentially crucial point.

Manager Rafael Dudamel fielded the same team that swept aside an under-strength USA, but here, against World Cup-level opposition, they were unable to combine with anything like the same verve. Perhaps it was the fear of the likely ramifications of losing, possibly it owed something to the stadium being less than one-quarter full, but whatever the cause, overall it was a rather lacklustre game.

The frequent stoppages didn’t help matters. The first of these came after seven minutes when Peru thought that they had taken the lead. Talismanic striker Paolo Guerrero was fouled by left-back Luis Mago on the right edge of the area and the resulting free-kick was swung into the danger zone. The cross was contested by Renato Tapia and Faríñez and the goalkeeper was left red-faced as he failed to collect it, with the ball instead bobbling to Christofer Gonzáles, who composed himself well to bounce a strike that ended up in the top corner of the net. However, after a four-minute wait, the goal was ruled out owing to an offside picked up by VAR. Nobody can argue with this decision, but they certainly can with the time it took to reach it as well as how this was factored into the amount of stoppage-time allocated. Indeed, given that several players were to later find themselves down on the deck for prolonged periods, then other than to save the organisers’ blushes, one can only wonder why the referee added on a mere four minutes at the end of the first half.

Still, Peru seemed to be in the ascendancy early on and could well have scored in the 15th minute when they broke up Mago’s side with Jefferson Farfán squaring the ball to Christian Cueva on the left edge of the area. However, despite the defenders being at sixes and sevens, the Santos attacker could only screw his strike wide of the target.

Not for the first time, Venezuela struggled to link up effectively with one another and it wasn’t until the 22nd minute that a chance of note was generated. On the left, Jhon Murillo received a diagonal ball from Jefferson Savarino and crossed into the area, with Yangel Herrera’s touch knocking it on to Salomón Rondón. The Premier League striker poked a point-blank effort goalwards but goalkeeper Pedro Gallese instinctively stuck his leg in the way to prevent a goal.

Five minutes later, Venezuela had another chance when, from an acute angle on the left, Savarino swung in a free-kick that Gallese punched away. Nevertheless, Peru soon re-asserted themselves and fashioned some half-chances: Luis Advíncula’s 32nd-minute low drive from the edge of the area that Faríñez collected at the second attempt and then a 37th-minute chest-and-strike from Guerrero which was hit with intent, albeit over the bar. Perhaps the Internacional forward was just warming up as in the 42nd minute he swung a powerful free-kick around the wall, forcing Faríñez to touch it out behind. From the resulting corner, the goalkeeper’s shaky start to the tournament continued as he weakly punched out the cross and was fortunate that, whilst he was in no-man’s-land, Tomás Rincón was covering the net and able to block Luis Abram’s goal-bound attempt.

All square at the break, the second half started a little brighter for Venezuela as Rondón’s 47th-minute free-kick just outside of the area was struck a yard or so wide.

This was a false dawn and some 15 minutes later when Farfán was granted space to head home, Los Incas thought that they had gained the lead. Again, however, Señor VAR intervened, this time to correctly adjudge that the ball was played offside before the cross even came in to the area.

Thus, another let-off for Venezuela who, courtesy of a Rondón flick five minutes later, suddenly found a hole in the Peruvian backline, but Murillo’s shot from a slight angle was aimed straight at Gallese.

Any hopes that Venezuela may just pull a crafty one on their opponents were largely put to bed in the 74th minute when Mago received his second yellow card for a badly-timed challenge. At this point, many Vinotinto fans’ memories were cast back to the 2015 Copa when fellow left-back Fernando Amorebieta also received his marching orders and a late Peru goal condemned Venezuela to a 1-0 defeat in a similarly crucial encounter.

However, it appears that Venezuela’s No. 1 is less prone to such fatalistic thoughts. Indeed, less than two minutes later he redeemed himself with a fantastic save. This came as Farfán’s effort was deflected to the back post where it looked as if it would be knocked home, yet the Millonarios goalkeeper was somehow able to anticipate the direction of the strike and claw it out from the goal line. Subsequently, the ball was played back into the goalmouth, forcing Faríñez to pull off another close-range save and then watch as the rebound was sliced against the post. As an aside, not that anyone involved was aware at the time, but these latter two attempts were from offside players.

This bout of goalmouth pinball was the biggest scare that the ten men were to face in the final 15 minutes, but not the only one: in the 81st minute, Faríñez was forced to parry wide Edison Flores’ strike from the edge of the area and two minutes later the goalkeeper breathed a sigh of relief as Farfán’s close-range header narrowly evaded the target.

Thus, overall Peru had the better of this 0-0 draw and for the majority of the second half Dudamel’s men, although never completely out of the game, struggled to really test Gallese’s gloves. Substitutes Yeferson Soteldo and Darwin Machís perhaps displayed some late attacking intent and creativity which may well influence the manager’s thinking ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Brazil, but he’ll know that they will need to do a lot better to trouble the hosts.

That said, even though Venezuela’s progression hopes are likely to be determined by the final game against Bolivia, this point, albeit gained in underwhelming circumstances, could undoubtedly prove invaluable to prolonging their stay.

To keep up-to-date with Venezuela’s Copa América campaign, please return to this website as well as follow @DarrenSpherical.

Team Selections

Peru (4-3-3): P. Gallese; L. Advíncula, C. Zambrano, L. Abram, M. Trauco; R. Tapia, C. Gonzáles (A. Carrillo, 88′), Y. Yotún (A. Polo, 66′); J. Farfán, P. Guerrero, C. Cueva (E. Flores, 46′).

Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Fariñez; R. Rosales, J. Chancellor, M. Villanueva, L. Mago; J. Moreno (R. Hernández, 78′), Y. Herrera, T. Rincón; J. Savarino (D. Machís, 69′), J. Murillo (Y. Soteldo, 84′); S. Rondón.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuela 2-2 Peru – CONMEBOL Qualification Stage for FIFA World Cup 2018 (23 March 2017)

At half-time, the thirteenth matchday of La Vinotinto’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign appeared to herald a rebirth; by full-time, it was just another chapter in a weary story. Here, Hispanospherical.com provides a full match report and some thoughts…

CONMEBOL Qualifying Stage for FIFA World Cup 2018

Thursday 23 March 2017 – Estadio Monumental de Maturín, Maturín, Monagas State

Venezuela 2-2 Peru

Video Highlights of Venezuela 2-2 Peru, CONMEBOL Qualifying Stage for FIFA World Cup 2018, 23 March 2017 (YouTube)

First Half Fantastic, Second Half Familiar for Fresh-Faced Venezuela

For the third time during their Russia 2018 qualifying campaign, Venezuela were pegged back to a draw after leading 2-0, thus stalling Rafael Dudamel’s attempts to revitalise his new-look bottom-dwelling nation. 

On what was a dangerous, rain-soaked pitch in Maturín, Peru came closest in the first quarter when Aldo Corzo’s powerful header from a corner was well-parried out by 19-year-old goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez. However, soon afterwards in the 24th minute, Venezuela took the lead. Rómulo Otero’s free-kick from the left was whipped in and headed onto the bar by a Peruvian defender, with the ball then bouncing kindly to Mikel Villanueva, who nodded home for his second international goal – both of which have come against Peru.

The hosts, playing in a 4-4-2 formation, often showed much intent to get forward, with the two strikers in particular finding themselves in promising positions. In the 32nd-minute, Salomón Rondón drove towards the area but instead of squaring it to Josef Martínez, he continued his run and was hustled off the ball by a defender, yet despite the West Brom man’s protests, no penalty was awarded. Three minutes later, his partner Martínez managed to get away from an opponent inside the area, before sliding it back to Jhon Murillo. However, though this ball bypassed the goalkeeper, there were a few defenders crowding the goalmouth and one of them did well to chest wide the Tondela winger’s side-footed strike for a corner.

However, in the 40th minute, Venezuela sensationally doubled their lead. Adding to a couple of similarly spectacular strikes earlier this year for his Brazilian side, Atlético Mineiro, Rómulo Otero phenomenally struck a swerving 35-40-yard free-kick which fizzed off goalkeeper Pedro Gallese’s gloves and into the net; perhaps the Peru no. 1 should have done better but it was also a very impressive hit. Five minutes later when the teams went in for the break, it looked as if Dudamel’s tweaking of the personnel and the system had ushered in the belated start of a new, more competitive, phase.

Yet, within the first minute of the restart, things began to sour. Peru pulled a goal back after Rolf Feltscher was easily beaten by Édison Flores on the flank; he, in turn, fed Christian Cueva who had plenty of space to pass it between the centre-backs to Benfica’s André Carrillo, who slid the ball past Fariñez.

Despite this, Venezuela were to have two very good opportunities to regain their two-goal lead before the hour-mark. Firstly, in the 49th minute, Murillo crossed in a dangerous low ball from the right yet Rondón couldn’t quite reach it with his slide. Then, five minutes later, the Premier League striker played into space Martínez, who then roamed towards the edge of the area; however, despite only having the goalkeeper to beat, the MLS top-scorer badly sliced his golden opportunity wide. Shortly afterwards, some attacking impetus was lost as he was replaced by youngster and fellow America resident, Yangel Herrera; post-match, it was revealed that Martínez had picked up an injury and will be reportedly out of action for ten days, thus missing Tuesday’s Chile clash.

However, it was to be Peru who took advantage of this increasingly open game. Familiar foe Paolo Guerrero provided the goal in the 64th minute when he beat the out-of-sorts Wilker Ángel to climb highest and head home Yoshimar Yotún’s corner. Eight minutes later, Guerrero was not far off taking Los Incas in front when a low cross fell invitingly, but he couldn’t quite locate the trigger, with Fariñez instead gratefully gathering.

Not long afterwards, the impressive Otero was replaced by 24-year-old Leganés attacker Darwin Machís, who was making his first Vinotinto appearance in over five years. Within two minutes, he took the ball past a defender on the left edge of the area before striking a hard low shot at the goalkeeper who, given the conditions, did well to hold onto it. However, this was soon eclipsed by a greater chance that fell to Rondón, who benefited from a ricochet yet, despite having a clear sight of goal, he horribly miscued his left-footed effort comfortably wide. Gasps of disbelief reigned around the rainy Estadio Monumental de Maturín; this was to be Venezuela’s last chance of note.

With six minutes remaining, Murillo made way for diminutive dribbler Yeferson Soteldo. With Herrera and Fariñez already on the pitch, this meant Dudamel had managed to field all three of the stand-out performers from the Under-20 side’s impressive Sudamericano Sub-20 tournament earlier this year. The manager appears to have many promising youngsters at his disposal, either still in their teens or early twenties; however, today was not the day for them to collectively flourish and announce themselves to a wider public.

After all, they very nearly ended up on the losing side when, in the 91st minute, Miguel Trauco’s cross was headed low inside the area by Raúl Ruidiaz. Yet to the evident relief of Fariñez and the apparent disbelief of Peru boss Ricardo Gareca, this went narrowly wide.

Thus, after a 2-0 lead was squandered, it ended all-square, just as it had done a year ago. Even though Villanueva scored, Venezuela’s new-look defence looked out-of-sorts, with the players gifting space and struggling to keep up with their opponents. Further upfield, Murillo and, in particular, Otero, caught the eye and provided some creative moments. Regarding the two strikers Martínez and Rondón, however, though they did demonstrate some nice link-up play and creativity of their own, their finishing left something to be desired.

With no Martínez, Venezuela will really need Rondón to be on his game when leading their attack against Chile, holding up the ball and providing relief for the defence. Given La Roja beat La Vinotinto 4-1 on Venezuelan soil a year ago, the back four will also especially be required to improve, in their case by demonstrating more alertness and mutual understanding.

Waiting for them in Santiago will be a Chile side who, having just lost to Argentina, are now outside of the top five positions and so really need to win. Venezuela famously knocked Chile out of the 2011 Copa América quarter-final, yet since then have lost all four subsequent encounters, scoring just once and conceding 14. Thus, those anticipating a Dudamel Revolution may wish to keep these wishful thoughts private for the time being.

Team Selections

Venezuela (4-4-2): W. Fariñez; A. González, W. Ángel, M. Villanueva, R. Feltscher; J. Murillo (Y. Soteldo, 84′), A. Guerra, T. Rincón, R. Otero (D. Machís, 73′); J. Martínez (Y. Herrera, 59′) & S. Rondón.

Peru (4-2-3-1): P. Gallese; A. Corzo, C. Ramos, A. Rodríguez, M. Trauco; Y. Yotún (S. Peña, 78′), R. Tapia (P. Aquino, 85′); A. Carrillo (R. Ruidíaz, 78′), C. Cueva, É. Flores; P. Guerrero.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Peru 0-1 Venezuela – International Friendly (31 March 2015)

International Friendly

Tuesday 31 March 2015 – Lockhart Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Peru 0-1 Venezuela

Match Highlights of Peru 0-1 Venezuela, International Friendly, 31 March 2015 (Courtesy of YouTube user Claudio Navarro Vargas)

La Vinotinto Bounce Back as Starlet Martínez Restores Optimism

Team Selections

Peru (4-2-3-1): Gallese; Advíncula, Zambrano, Ramos, Céspedes; Ballón, Tapia; Carrillo (Benavente, 71′), Deza (Cueva, 30′), Hurtado (Gonzáles, 84′); Ávila (Ruidíaz, 71′).

Venezuela (4-2-3-1): Baroja; Rosales, Vizcarrondo, Túñez, Amorebieta; Rincón, Seijas (Lucena, 68′); Guerra (A. González, 90+2′), Martínez (Arango, 64′), C. González (Vargas, 78′); S. Rondón (M. Rondón, 90+3′).

Match Report

In what was an open and often fiercely contested international, Torino forward Josef Martínez’s strike on the hour-mark was enough to give La Vinotinto a morale-boosting win against their Copa América Group C rivals. 

As Brazil and Colombia are also in this group, the encounter on 18 June between these two nations may prove decisive in determining whether either can qualify for the knock-out stage as one of the two best-peforming third-placed sides. Venezuela, having just four days prior been defeated by Jamaica – another side with marginal hopes of reaching the second phase of this competition – will be pleased, not to mention relieved, to have gone some way to getting back on track with this victory. Had they not, the pessimism that has occasionally been expressed in the national media in the first eight months of Noel Sanvicente’s reign possibly would have permeated throughout the squad before a Copa ball had even been kicked.

This Vinotinto performance, though far from flawless, was nevertheless an improvement, with the side linking up more effectively in attacking positions, creating far more chances and conceding less ground in defensive areas. The more frequent forward forays can partly be attributed to three changes, namely the use of Luis Manuel Seijas as a deep-lying playmaker and, more significantly further upfield, Alejandro Guerra and Josef Martínez – both of whom had provided rare offensive optimism after they came on at half-time against Jamaica.

Here at the Lockhart Stadium – home to NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers, whose pitch is evidently also used for American Football games – this attacking prowess was to be mostly demonstrated in the second half, with the first being a more even, albeit spirited, affair.

Indeed, Venezuela – in their blindingly luminous new away kit – began promisingly, with Martínez gaining some space on the inside-right within the first minute, though perhaps twisted one too many times in the area, thus allowing the defender to recover and block out any potential shot. Ten minutes later, the Serie A striker was to link up with Atlético Nacional’s Guerra on the inside-right, gaining space and putting in a low cross that rolled into space but was nevertheless dealt with. It was to be the Colombia-based Guerra who created La Vinotinto‘s best chance of the half when, on 26 minutes, he dinked in a ball from the right byline that went over goalkeeper Pedro Gallese but just evaded the agonising stretch of Zenit forward Salomón Rondón at the back post.

However, it was not to be all one-way traffic, with the Peruvians – who were missing top exports such as Paolo Guerrero, Jefferson Farfán, Claudio Pizarro and Juan Manuel Vargas – also exploiting space on the right in what was a rather even half. With what proved to be the only real efforts on goal in this period, both of Peru’s best chances came around the midway point and each fell to Jean Deza, currently plying his trade with Alianza Lima on loan from Ligue 1 outfit Montpellier. First, on 21 minutes, Luis Advíncula nudged the ball though to Deza in a central position and he gained some space before hitting a deflected shot that was comfortable for Alain Baroja. Six minutes later, the Caracas FC goalkeeper was again not to have too much trouble saving another effort that went into his arms from the edge of the area from Deza. Unfortunately for the Peruvian, despite looking like his side’s most likely scorer, this was to be his last contribution to the game as he was hurt by an incoming challenge and had to be withdrawn.

Though the first half was rather open and contested with a spirit that was refreshing for a friendly – possibly influenced by the buoyant expatriates in the crowd – this was to be turned up an extra notch or two after the interval, with both sides having more chances to score. Adherents to certain psychological methods may feel Venezuela coach Sanvicente helped to precipitate this by sending his charges out a few minutes before Los Incas. If so, it was to pay nearly instant dividends when a free-kick from a deep position was lofted into the area, then headed across by Oswaldo Vizcarrondo to Salomón Rondón who, under some defensive pressure, leant back slightly to scoop an attempt just over. On another day, he may well have been able to wrestle himself into some space before getting a snap-shot away.

Ten minutes into the new half, it was looking as if the game may boil over with three players – André Carrillo, Roberto Rosales and Josef Martínez – receiving yellow cards in quick succession, bringing the total number of players on a yellow card up to five. However, while the scrapes and skirmishes did not halt at this point, the cards did, with instead the real action – and what proved to be the pivotal moment – occurring soon afterwards.

Indeed, just before the hour-mark, the Peruvians were to suddenly gain some space on right, with a subsequent cross put into the area where it was met by Sporting Cristal marksman Irven Ávila. However, despite being in acres of room and being granted an age to direct his header, he could only nod it against the ground for it to clip off the top of the bar and over. The fact that the offside flag had gone up did little to spare his blushes.

However, little time was available to dwell on his poor finishing as immediately from Baroja’s pumped upfield clearance, Salomón Rondón flicked on the ball with Martínez taking it into his stride before unleashing a clinical right-footed shot from inside the area past Gallese. The versatile Torino forward, still a mere 21 years old, had given Venezuela the breakthrough. Yet, in a move that may have been planned before the goal, this highly promising starlet was almost immediately replaced by the undisputed icon of the past decade, Juan Arango.

Several minutes later it looked as if Sanvicente was looking to preserve this lead rather than extend it, as he took off Seijas, the attack-minded deep-lying playmaker, and replaced him with the more reserved, holding midfielder, Franklin Lucena. Yet if this was this intention, it was certainly not how the remaining 22 minutes panned out.

Indeed, La Vinotinto were to have several strong opportunities to increase the score as the Peruvians increasingly conceded possession and space. In the 76th minute, Arango burst forward slightly to the right-of-centre 30 yards out but, with only one defender separating him and Rondón, his pass went slightly askew, forcing the Zenit man into a wide position from where he could only win a corner. A couple of minutes later, Rondón attempted to turn provider when a poor clearance was rapidly headed into his path on the right, which he quickly released into the area but his intended target, César González, was in a difficult position and was unable to direct it goalwards. Another two minutes passed and Rondón again nearly set up a goal as he flicked on a ball centrally for Arango who, just inside the area, momentarily had a clear sight of goal, but a defender was ultimately to catch up and put him off making a meaningful connection with the ball.

Three minutes after this Arango was to have another, arguably better, chance to score as a cross sprayed from the right by Guerra drifted over two players tangling in the centre all the way to the Xolos de Tijuana man on the left of the area. Blessed with considerable time to shape up and shoot with only a defender’s desperate lunge separating him and the goalkeeper, he nevertheless dragged his shot wide of the far post.

With just three minutes remaining, Arango nearly managed to go some way towards making up for these wasted opportunities when, from the left inside the area, he slid the ball through to Guerra. Yet, from a mere seven yards out, ‘El Lobo’ was to sidefoot a very presentable opportunity straight at the chest of Gallese who managed to parry it out.

From then on, in stoppage-time Venezuela were to have one final opportunity to extend the lead. Following some rapid – and, in contrast to the majority of previous games, effective – short passing play, substitute Ronald Vargas curled in a fine cross from the left that Rondón ran onto but, perhaps due to a slight mis-timing of his run, headed over from just outside the six-yard box.

Though Venezuela had all these chances to record a more impressive victory, they could have also conceded on more than one occasion. Indeed, while the Peruvians were ultimately second-best in this half, they did continue to threaten, having a couple of penalty shouts turned down as well as, in addition to Ávila’s header against the bar, two opportunities that on another day could well have gone in. The most notable of the two came on 82 minutes when Paços de Ferreira’s Paolo Hurtado played an exquisite return pass to Alianza Lima’s Christian Cueva who, from eight yards out, volleyed a strike that seemed destined to go in but which Baroja did very well to parry out wide. This was a close shave, as was, more literally, Christofer Gonzáles’s shot a few minutes later. The Universitario substitute played a quick one-two from a free-kick then, 35 yards out, hit a fine effort that dipped only marginally over the crossbar.

Ultimately, La Vinotinto were to hold on, attaining what many will feel was the country’s first real victory under manager Noel Sanvicente, due to the other two against Honduras being in games contested solely by home-based players. While nobody should be getting too carried away given that the opposition were not at full strength and were experimenting in Ricardo Gareca’s first game in charge, it was nevertheless a boost following the dispiriting performance against Jamaica.

Quite where this all leaves the hopes of some of the players not entirely sure of their ticket to Chile in June is another matter, but several things taken from these two friendly matches can nevertheless be asserted. For some reflections on the Jamaica and Peru games, click here.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuela’s Friendly Internationals – March 2015 Preview

Friday 27 March 2015 – Montego Bay Sports Complex, Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Jamaica vs Venezuela

Tuesday 31 March 2015 – Lockhart Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Peru vs Venezuela

For those wanting to watch either of these games, both are scheduled to be broadcast on TeleAragua

(For a detailed position-by-position look at all the players Venezuela manager Noel Sanvicente has selected, as well as a peek at the probable line-up for the first game against Jamaica, please take a look at this article)

Expectations Mount as Sanvicente Sources a Rare Embarrassment of Riches

With the 2015 Copa América a mere 80 or so days away, these internationals can comfortably be billed as the most vital yet of the Noel Sanvicente era. Not only do they, the seventh and eighth of his reign, include a preliminary test against one of their tournament opponents, Peru, but they will also be potentially pivotal in determining who will be boarding the aeroplane to Chile. Most significant of all, however, is the available pool of players that Chita has been able to call upon – on paper at least, the strongest since he took over in July 2014.

Indeed, for his first two games – which occurred on September’s Asian tour and consisted of a 3-1 defeat against South Korea and a 2-2 draw with Japan (later officially overruled as a 3-0 loss; see here for more details) –  veteran icon Juan Arango omitted himself and a few other hitherto first-teamers were missing. October’s scheduled matches were cancelled and replaced by hastily arranged training sessions in Madrid that were almost exclusively attended by overseas-based players. Any tactical plans for the subsequent set of matches in November were undermined by the absences of 8-10 key players (mainly due to injury), which led to predictably disastrous results: a 5-0 thumping from Chile and a 3-2 defeat against Bolivia. Then early last month, it was left to domestic league players to contest two matches – a double-header against Honduras – which, in light of the fact that only seven home-based individuals have made it into the latest squad, can be considered  B-level encounters.

You Can’t Please Them All: Notable Absentees

Having endured this inauspicious start, La Vinotinto fans are no doubt mostly delighted – and rather relieved – that Sanvicente has this time been able to take with him to the Florida training base almost any player he desires. Though some may haved wished that he had selected the likes of the recently nationalised Jeffrén Suárez (Real Valladolid, ex-Barcelona) and Yonathan Del Valle (last seen scoring a stoppage-time winner for Rio Ave against Benfica), not to mention Fernando Aristeguieta and Miku (both of whom have received call-ups from Sanvicente but have been inactive at club level for much of this season, particularly the latter), he has only been denied two players this time around. Both had originally been included in this squad but succumbed to injuries. The first of whom, Metz striker Juan Falcón, Sanvicente knows well from his double title-winning spell at Zamora. The other is Caracas’ Rómulo Otero, the most promising attacking talent currently plying his trade in Venezuela. This 22-year-old set-piece maestro will be especially disappointed to miss out at this critical stage, rendering him unable to build on last month’s momentum when he was widely lauded as the catalyst in the first victory against Honduras.

Nevertheless, as neither of these two players has staked a durable claim for a regular starting berth, Sanvicente does have at his disposal the players to name in at least one of these games what could potentially be his first-choice XI come the opening Copa América clash against Colombia on 14 June. However, this is unlikely as, owing to the noted problems that he has so far faced, several places in the line-up are still up for grabs and he has already indicated that there will be some experimentation in these two games. Nevertheless, upon their conclusion, whatever transpires in Jamaica and the USA, some much-needed clarity should be added to the coach’s thoughts.

The Squad: Collective Aims and Key Call-Ups

A cursory glance of the list of players (see bottom of the page) called up to this 23-man squad should give everyone an idea of one of the key issues Sanvicente needs to resolve. While plenty have experience of playing together under previous regimes at club and international level, this group are nevertheless a disparate collection of individuals who play their domestic football in 13 different countries while representing 21 separate clubs. One of the noticeable characteristics of the games played so far in this new era has been a lack of attacking cohesion and fluency, something that could well be further complicated in these fixtures as it is anticipated that the manager will introduce new players and arrangements in the forward positions. Another glaring issue that requires urgent attention is the number of goals that have thus far been conceded in the six games played: 16 or, officially, 17, given FIFA’s retrospective decision pertaining to the game against Japan. With this in mind and moving on to the list of players announced this time around, Sanvicente will be hoping that two individuals in particular will be able to shore up his back-line.

Indeed, regarding the playing personnel (who are discussed in much greater depth in this article), the headlines when this squad was initially announced largely went to four players who have yet to play a single minute of the Sanvicente era. Two of these are primarily central defenders, the first of whom being Fernando Amorebieta, who just this week has completed a loan switch from Fulham to title-challenging Middlesbrough in the English second tier. During a two-year spell starting in late 2011, he was often Oswaldo Vizcarrondo’s partner at the back before injuries and a lack of game-time thwarted further call-ups. He has not played for his country since October 2013 whereas another returnee, erstwhile first-choice back-up Andrés Túñezwho has enjoyed much success with Thailand’s Buriram United after being forced out the door of his boyhood club Celta Vigo – has not featured since June of the same year.

One man who has gone even longer without a look-in is Ronald Vargas who, several years ago, was tipped by some to be the long-term successor to the majestic Juan Arango. Considerable excitement – albeit of the kind that is partially tempered by the pitfalls that experience knows are always lurking – has greeted the return of this winger/attacking midfielder, offering many a chance to recall his promising early career. Indeed, he made his international debut in February 2008 and not long afterwards in June scored the second goal in his nation’s first ever victory over Brazil (who on that day started with, amongst others, Robinho, Adriano, Dani Alves and Gilberto Silva). He continued to play for his country throughout this calendar year and shortly after his history-making exploits, he made his debut in Belgium for Club Brugge. Although not everything ran smoothly for him here, his performances gradually gained in consistency and following a superb third season in which he scored a remarkable 15 goals in 23 league games, he earned a move to the more prestigious Anderlecht. However, the three years he spent here were plagued by recurring injuries – as indeed, to a lesser extent, were the three seasons with his former club – which thus hindered his playing time and hampered his international career. Consequently, a transfer that could have solidified his place in the selección and bolstered his reputation in Europe ended on a sad note as he was released when his contract expired at the end of the 2013/14 season. Somewhat stigmatised as an injury-prone liability and having made barely a handful of international appearances since late 2008, he was subsequently picked up by Turkish Süper Lig new-boys Balıkesirspor. Although they currently prop up the division, looking well on course to head back from whence they came, the now 28-year-old Vargas has had a relatively prosperous time, scoring six goals in 21 league appearances and, perhaps most crucially, not suffering any serious injury setbacks. Five of these goals were bagged following the turn of the year and he will be hoping that not only will such form ensure that he is not condemned to follow his club down a level, but also that it will enable him to make a surprise late entry into Sanvicente’s Copa América plans.

In stark contrast to these three players, the last inclusion of note, Christian Santos, has never before played for his country. Indeed, the Venezuela-born 27-year-old was raised from a young age in Germany and has only recently acquired the relevant documentation that allows him to represent the country of his birth. This man, whose looks have drawn comparisons to those of none other than David Beckham, can play up front or anywhere across the supporting line of attackers, particularly towards the flanks as either an inside-forward or winger. He comes into the squad off the back of the season of his life in the Dutch second tier with Nijmegen’s NEC who, being 21 points clear with 7 games to spare, are virtually already promoted. The team has scored a staggering 87 goals, with Santos netting a highly commendable 18 of these in his 28 league appearances (21 of these starts). A significant proportion of his tally were headers which, with set-pieces being a regular source of goals for La Vinotinto, could well aid his case for future call-ups. Sanvicente spoke of his desire to try him out back in November and though logistical issues were to thwart these plans, it looks like this time around he will have his way.

Morale on the Line: Two Winnable Games

Old or new, stalwarts or relative whippersnappers, this group of players will be facing two nations who will also be contesting this year’s Copa América with their most realistic route of advancing from their respective groups being as one of the two best-performing third-placed sides.

Indeed, CONCACAF guests Jamaica have been allocated an unenviable group that includes Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. With this in mind, the Reggae Boyz will need all the preparation they can get and will follow up hosting La Vinotinto with another match at the Montego Bay Sports Complex against Cuba. Given that along with five players from their domestic league, their squad is largely comprised of representatives from the two highest divisions in USA/Canada (nine – eight from the MLS) and the three highest in England (six – two from each of the top three leagues), two wins does not seem out of reach for them.

This would certainly sow some seeds of doubt in the minds of all Venezuelans, though it is debatable if this would be more dispiriting for morale than a loss against CONMEBOL rivals Peru. Indeed, La Blanquirroja have recently appointed a new manager, Argentine Ricardo Gareca, whose first moves suggest he may be looking to the future with his relatively inexperienced squad that features 13 players from the domestic league. Regarding their exports, while Sporting’s André Carrillo is included, the majority of their most famous ambassadors are not: Fiorentina’s Juan Manuel Vargas, Schalke’s Jefferson Farfán (who is reportedly nursing a minor injury), Corinthians’ Paolo Guerrero (suspended) and Bayern Munich’s Claudio Pizarro (originally called up, but succumbed to an injury).

While the seemingly understrength nature of this squad would normally be reason enough for Venezuelans to expect a victory, another additional factor is the Copa América draw, which has pitted the two nations together in the rather daunting Group C alongside Brazil and Colombia. Though gaining a result against either of these teams is certainly not out of the question for Venezuela and Peru, the likeliest scenario sees the game on 18 June between the two nations having the most significant bearing on whether or not either can progress to the next stage.

As only the two best-performing third-placed teams can reach the knock-out stage, Venezuelans will be hoping here not only for a win but a much-improved defensive display in both games, as goal difference could well prove decisive in June.

Ultimately, though two victories in the upcoming days seems eminently attainable, there is the ever-weary possibility that these friendlies may descend into training match-level farces brought about by high numbers of substitutions. Nevertheless, though such games can never be relied upon to act as the most accurate barometers of a team’s progress and quality, all Venezuelan football fans will be excited to see what feels like the closest to a first-choice squad Sanvicente has had at his disposal since his appointment.

For a detailed position-by-position look at all the players Sanvicente has selected, as well as a peek at the probable line-up for the first game against Jamaica, please take a look at this article

Venezuela Squad for the Friendly Internationals Against Jamaica (27 March 2015) and Peru (31 March 2015)

Goalkeepers

Alain Baroja (Caracas FC)

Dani Hernández (Tenerife)

Defenders

Fernando Amorebieta (Middlesbrough, on loan from Fulham)

Gabriel Cichero (Mineros de Guayana)

Juan Fuenmayor (Deportivo Anzoátegui)

Alexander González (FC Thun)

Roberto Rosales (Málaga)

Andrés Túñez (Buriram United)

Oswaldo Vizcarrondo (Nantes)

Midfielders

Juan ‘Juanpi’ Pablo Añor (Málaga)

Juan Arango (Xolos de Tijuana)

Arquímedes Figuera (Deportivo La Guaira)

César González (Deportivo Táchira)

Alejandro Guerra (Atlético Nacional, on loan from Mineros de Guayana)

Franklin Lucena (Deportivo La Guaira)

Tomás Rincón (Genoa)

Christian Santos (N.E.C. Nijmegen)

Luis Manuel Seijas (Independiente Santa Fe)

Ronald Vargas (Balıkesirspor)

Forwards

Richard Blanco (Mineros de Guayana)

Josef Martínez (Torino)

Mario Rondón (Shijiazhuang Ever Bright)

Salomón Rondón (Zenit St. Petersburg)

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical