“It’s a marathon not a sprint,” said the sadist.
Conmebol Qualifying Stage for FIFA World Cup 2022
Tuesday 13 October 2022 — Estadio Metropolitano de Mérida, Mérida
Venezuela 0-1 Paraguay
Full Match Replay (YouTube)
Paraguay Punish Peseiro
A late goal consigned La Vinotinto to a second consecutive defeat, leading some to already cast doubts on their qualification prospects.
It could have been very different for José Peseiro’s men as they had a goal ruled out by VAR and also saw a stoppage-time penalty saved.
That said, even the manager has since confessed that the first half largely belonged to La Albirroja. They dominated possession and looked more likely to score, most notably in the 10th minute when Gastón Giménez tried his luck from outside the area, sweetly striking the top of the bar with a left-footed effort.
Although the hosts were largely subdued in the first 45 minutes, they did nevertheless have the most eye-catching attempt at goal: a spectacular 33rd-minute free-kick from Rómulo Otero that rattled the bar — the dip was such that the goalkeeper Antony Silva was rooted to the spot, praying that it would go over.
Throughout the match there were more than a few ill-tempered moments and cards dished out. No doubt this was mostly owing to what was at stake, but perhaps the less-than-ideal conditions that were allegedly endured pre-game also had an impact on its tone.
Two minutes into the second half, Eduardo Berizzo’s men were again making their attacking presence felt, as Wuilker Faríñez was forced to pull off a double save from first Andrés Cubas and then Ángel Romero.
The Venezuelan side, which had three changes from the one that was easily defeated by Colombia, continued to be largely toothless from open play — that is, until the 65th minute. Here, from a corner, Darwin Machís passed to Cristian Cásseres Jr, who nudged the ball to Otero; on the right byline, the Corinthians attacker then crossed over to the back post where Yangel Herrera headed home.
Virtually all the Venezuelan squad, including substitutes on the touchline, celebrated. Unfortunately for them, however, it was ruled out by VAR as replays showed that the Granada midfielder nodded the ball onto his arm before it hit the back of the net. It was undoubtedly an accident, but such nuances no longer hold any truck.
Possibly fired up by a sense of injustice, the home side did subsequently create more chances. First in the 78th minute when fresh substitute Yeferson Soteldo dinked in a cross that a defender only narrowed diverted away from Herrera’s head. From the resulting corner, the ball found its way to Machís, who swung in a ball that was heaven-sent for Sergio Córdova to make an international statement in the absence of Salomón Rondón. However, his header, although well-powered, was too close to Silva, who parried over.
Given these moments, it felt against the run of play when Paraguay took an 85th-minute lead. This mirrored both teams’ first qualifier in the last campaign nearly five years ago when La Albirroja also won 1-0 on Venezuelan soil via a Derlis González goal at the exact same point in the match.
This time around the hosts’ long-term aspirations took a bruising courtesy of Chicago Fire’s Giménez. His goal came after a measured touch from the right-sided Romero put the ball into the path of Alberto Espínola; then, from the right, the Cerro Porteño man burst into the area on the right to pull back for the MLS midfielder, who swept the ball past Faríñez.
Peseiro was left kicking the air in frustration and promptly made a couple of additional changes, as both sides ended up using all five. His team refused to give up the ghost and won a penalty in stoppage time; this arrived after Ronald Hernández’s hoisted ball was headed on by fellow substitute Fernando Aristeguieta towards Rolf Feltscher, who was nudged over from behind by captain Gustavo Gómez.
With Rondón in China, Herrera instead stepped up five minutes over the regulation 90, but his strike was far too close to Silva, who easily parried away. For the Granada man, this capped off a night that will make him shudder for some time yet, as not only did he also have a goal disallowed but the yellow card he picked up early on — his second in as many games — means he will be ruled out of the next qualifier. Conversely, Silva — the only visiting player to have also featured in that 2015 win — could leave the Mérida pitch feeling very much the hero.
Overall, although Venezuela’s performance certainly wasn’t as woeful as it had been in Barranquilla and the result could’ve been quite different, the bottom line is the scoreline. Perhaps aside from a couple of brief spells in the second half, they did not play like a home side who believed themselves to be viable contenders for a qualification spot.
Things aren’t likely to get any easier for Peseiro: next month’s qualifiers are against Brazil and Chile. No doubt for these he’ll have to deal with another round of Covid-related squabbles and scrambles. It’s a little premature to be too harsh with assessments of the Portuguese coach, but right now it doesn’t feel as if opinions are likely to become much more generous before at least next March, when the fifth and sixth qualifiers are scheduled to be played.
No wonder then that, rather than fly back to Europe, he has reportedly opted to stay in the country where he will confront the unenviable task of trying to fix things sooner rather than later.
Venezuela (4-2-1-2-1): W. Faríñez; R. Feltscher, W. Ángel, J. Chancellor, R. Rosales (R. Hernández, 77′); Y. Herrera, T. Rincón; C. Cásseres Jr (E. Ramírez, 89′); D. Machís (J. Murillo, 84′), R. Otero (Y. Soteldo, 77′); S. Córdova (F. Aristeguieta, 88′).
Note: Venezuela were predicted to set up in a 4-3-3. Maybe at times during the match their players were in that formation, but their shape mostly resembled a 4-2-1-2-1 and, perhaps at other times, a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-5-1.
Paraguay (4-3-3): A. Silva; A. Espínola, G. Gómez, J. Alonso, B. Riveros (O. Alderete, 90+3′); A. Cubas (Á. Cardozo Lucena, 77′), G. Giménez, M. Villasanti; A. Romero (F. Balbuena, 87′), D. Lezcano (A. Sanabria, 76′), M. Almirón (R. Rojas, 90+2′).