Tag Archives: Emilio Rentería

Preview for Venezuela’s February 2015 Friendly Double-Header with Honduras

Friendly International Double-Header

4 February 2015

Honduras vs Venezuela

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano, San Pedro Sula 

11 February 2015 

Venezuela vs Honduras

Estadio Agustín Tovar, Barinas 

Less Prestigious Than Friendlies?

This international double-header between two nations represented by players from their respective domestic leagues (plus three MLS stars, in the case of Honduras) would be more accurately defined as a pair of ‘B’ internationals. Indeed, approximately three-quarters of a typical, fully fit Venezuela squad tends to consist of players based overseas. Even from the pool of home players, coach Noel Sanvicente has been partially thwarted in his attempt to watch the best local talent at close-quarters as the dates of these two matches coincide with Deportivo Táchira’s two Copa Libertadores play-off games against Paraguayan giants Cerro Porteño. From the side from San Cristóbal, he would have likely called up young centre-back Wilker Ángel (who scored on his debut against Bolivia in November), jinking midfielder Yohandry Orozco (who also featured against El Verde), as well as Gelmin Rivas (the highest scoring Venezuelan in the domestic league). Consequently, as these games are going to be contested by players who are largely unlikely to even feature again on the same field together for their country, it is a struggle, at least from tactical and team-building perspectives, to justify their arrangement.

The Managers:

Any Preparation Time is Invaluable

It may well prove that what the respective managers gain from proceedings will not be readily discernible to the majority of spectactors, as this may consist of learning who they feel they can trust, who are most receptive to their ideas and/or who shows the most potential in training.

For Honduras, these will be the first two games under the stewardship of Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto, last seen in the dugout by a mass audience guiding Costa Rica to a remarkable Quarter-Final finish in the 2014 World Cup. It remains to be seen whether he opts for the defence-minded counter-attacking approach that he utilised with Los Ticos when leading this particular Central American nation who generated some headlines of their own in Brazil – though largely for their rather physical play on and off the ball. With both squads mostly containing home-based players he does, arguably, have an advantage over his opposite number as he possesses some first-hand insights into Venezuelan football. Indeed, for almost a year and a half prior to taking the Costa Rica job, he was the coach of Deportivo Táchira and ended his reign with great success by winning the 2010-11 championship. Thus, as neither nation has called upon any of their emerging prospects from their U20 contingents – both of which having been recently preoccupied with their respective regional tournaments – he should have some familiarity with the majority of the Venezuelan side.

That is not to say his counterpart Sanvicente is completely in the dark regarding his opponents, as eight of the World Cup squad remain, including the MLS trio of Luis Garrido, Jorge Claros and Óscar Boniek García. Although attaining positive results may not be the primary purpose of such games, he will, however, surely be looking to gain at least one victory from the double-header. The man they call ‘Chita’ may have received much goodwill upon taking the job in July but, even though he has encountered some bad luck with injuries, having lost all four of the games he has overseen* he has certainly not been without criticism. A win then, irrespective of the personnel and methods used to achieve it, would give him some breathing space and surely boost morale amongst both the playing and coaching staff.

Venezuela’s Players

A Rare Opportunity for the Majority

In all, Venezuela have officially lost their last five games, with the first in this dismal sequence coming last March against Honduras in the same ground the first game will be played this time around. From this 2-1 defeat that featured many squad regulars, only Rómulo Otero – who started and scored a fine free-kick – and Arquímedes Figuera – who came on for little more than five minutes –  have been selected in the current crop.

Thus, it seems that Venezuela’s players, at least, will be very unfamiliar with their Honduran counterparts (and, depending on how much insight Pinto can impart, vice versa), not to mention somewhat unacquainted with one another. Indeed, this 20-man, largely makeshift, squad has been chosen from 10 different teams and the majority of these players have only really been together for a three-day series of training modules (from 19-21 January). Unless several players have an abnormal telepathic understanding, one thing that should not be expected from the Venezuelan players is free-flowing passing movements and creativity.

Nevertheless, while in this squad there are players who have little hope of a call-up to June’s Copa América squad and others who are frankly making up the numbers, approximately one-third have been previously selected at some point in the Sanvicente era. The majority of these are not regular starters but will most probably find themselves in the line-up next to players who they are unlikely to ever begin a competitive international with. Though their interplay and partnerships with most of their team-mates will not be utilised in future matches, they will nevertheless be under scrutiny with regards to their performances and how faithfully they carry out the coach’s instructions.

Thus, with all these caveats out of the way, what follows is a brief look at some aspects of La Vinotinto‘s side to look out for in these two games:

What to Look out for in the Venezuelan Side

How the Goalkeepers Perform

With Rafael Romo and Alain Baroja in the squad, both will likely feature at some point and, quite probably, receive 90 minutes each. With number one choice Dani Hernández having recently moved from the Real Valladolid substitutes’ bench to the Tenerife first team, seemingly only a severe loss of form on his part could see either of these men take his place between the sticks on a regular basis. However, it is not entirely clear who is the favoured stand-in, as neither have played in this new era. Although Romo – unlike Baroja – received a call-up to the last squad in November, he has been known to make the odd glaring error (as most recently witnessed at the weekend for his club side, Mineros de Guayana). His rival from Caracas FC perhaps benefits from playing for a more in-form club though he has himself made some impressive saves lately, yet in terms of goals conceded this season, there is little to separate the two men. The argument is unlikely to be settled by these two games, though they may go some way to suppressing it for the foreseeable future.

How the Defence Copes

This consideration may well be included in every Venezuela preview until at least when the upcoming World Cup Qualifying campaign ends. While Romo and/or Baroja will do well to avoid making any of the handling and positioning errors of Hernández, it is more the back four and the defensive-midfield partnerships that have been at fault in recent matches.

In Sanvicente’s four games as manager, his side have conceded 13 goals (*14 officially – see footnote), being frequently bypassed with ease in midfield and slow, not to mention disorganised, when dealing with through-balls and crosses. Left-back Gabriel Cichero – who is the only player in this squad to have faced Costa Rica under Pinto in a 2-0 loss back in December 2011 – has the unfortunate distinction of having started all of these games. He was not alone in his errors, but many fans did reserve for him their sternest opprobrium. Yet Sanvicente may well find his experience and know-how at this level invaluable, as he will likely be lining up with three other defenders who have little chance of playing much competitive international football. One possible defensive colleague, Juan Fuenmayor, who can operate at either left-back or in central defence, may have a couple-dozen caps to his name but the last of these came as a last-minute substitute four years ago and, more to the point, at 35 years old, age is not on his side. Cichero’s organisational and leadership capacities may be especially required when, as is likely, he finds himself in a back-line with Francisco CarabalíAndrés Sánchez and/or Jhon Chancellor who, between them, have a mixture of little and no senior international experience.

In front of the back four, when everyone is fit and available, Sanvicente appears to favour a defensive-midfield partnership of converted Málaga right-back, Roberto Rosales, and new captain, Tomás Rincón of Genoa. Although he has only ever been able to field this pairing once, when both men are available, the players in the current set-up have no chance of dislodging them. Indeed, when two players from the domestic league – Édgar Jiménez and Rafael Acosta – began the 5-0 thrashing meted out by Chile in November, both were hopelessly and repeatedly left for dead, unable to cope with the pace and movement of players from vastly superior leagues. Acosta also started but was to fare little better in the subsequent 3-2 defeat by Bolivia and so it was readily apparent, if it was not already, that the players who are used to competing in Europe’s top leagues were far better suited to these positions. Nevertheless, Acosta survives to live another day and is in this squad, though rather than looking to push for a regular first-team place, he should be more concerned with preserving his status as a fringe player in the squad. Franklin Lucena, who came on as a substitute for Acosta against Chile and replaced Jiménez in the line-up for the Bolivia game, would appear to be his most likely competitor from this pool of players to be first-choice stand-by, though again, turning 34 later this month, he does not appear to have much of a long-term future.

Rómulo Otero’s Role as an Attacking Threat

In the Sanvicente era, a recurring theme has been the inability of the attacking players to effectively and consistently link up and create chances. While this may be partly explained away by the changes in personnel that have occurred from game-to-game in these positions, it is nevertheless a concern. From their overseas contingent, Venezuela do not lack players of considerable talent who can play in the line behind the forward(s), with talents at their disposal including Luis Manuel Seijas, Juan Arango, Alejandro Guerra, rising star Juanpi and even, if required, Mario Rondón (who has been more accustomed to playing further forward). Thus again, the players in the current squad have quite a job on their hands with regards to attempting to gain a first-team place, though if anyone can do it, Rómulo Otero is surely the man. The Caracas FC starlet made substitute appearances against Chile and Bolivia, impressively assisting Alexander González’s goal against the latter with a swiftly executed lofted diagonal ball. With teams from abroad interested in him for some time now, and at the age of just 22 being the most internationally experienced attacking midfielder in this particular side, there should be some onus on him to impose himself in the games and be the catalyst going forward.

Elsewhere in this area, it will be interesting to see what Luis Vargas can offer, having played a key role in Zamora FC’s resurgence in form and subsequent ascent to the top of the Torneo Clausura.

How the Forwards Fare

At the very top of the field, not one of the forwards called up in previous match squads has come from the domestic league and the highest-scoring Venezuelan at home – Gelmin Rivas – is not even available for this clash. So what hope do this crop have of even being in with a chance of a place in a future squad for a competitive match?

Some focus will be on Jesús Lugo, a one-club man of only 23, who has been impressive creating and scoring chances in Aragua FC’s ascent to the outskirts of the title race and has U20 international experience. Despite being classified as a forward, he does tend to play a deeper role, offering support for the main goalscorer(s) and often finding himself in more of an attacking midfield position – an already highly competitive area in the selección, as noted.

When it comes to more traditional goal-getters, though Caracas FC’s Edder Farías has a respectable scoring record, he will turn 27 in the spring and yet has less than ten caps to his name. More long-term potential may come from taking a chance on Manuel Arteaga, a 20-year-old who has already scored twice in the Clausura for his new club Zulia FC, demonstrating strong composure when presented with one-on-one opportunities. He has previously had trials with Liverpool and Fiorentina, as well as a non-playing stint with Parma, so if his good form continues at club level, he may well earn a move abroad and find himself more in contention for future call-ups.

Ultimately, with the likes of Salomón Rondón, Mario Rondón, Josef Martínez, Miku and Juan Falcón all playing in strong European leagues, it will not be easy for any domestic forwards to find a spot in the first-choice squad, an issue faced by most players in this crop, irrespective of position. With so many reserves (and reserves to the reserves) on display, it is undeniable that these two meetings have the feel of being of less significance than even regular friendly games are generaly perceived. Nevertheless, as the games were hastily arranged at short-notice to give the managers some much-needed preparation time ahead of their respective continent-wide tournaments in June/July, it can be safely assumed that Sanvicente and Pinto view them as far from pointless.

20-man Venezuela Squad for the double-header against Honduras

Goalkeepers

Alain Baroja (Caracas FC)

Rafael Romo (Mineros de Guayana)

Defenders

Francisco Carabalí (Caracas FC)

Jhon Chancellor (Deportivo Lara)

Gabriel Cichero (Mineros de Guayana)

Juan Fuenmayor (Deportivo Anzoátegui)

Andrés Sánchez (Caracas FC)

Midfielders

Rafael Acosta (Mineros de Guayana)

Arquímedes Figuera (Deportivo La Guaira)

Argenis Gómez (Trujillanos FC)

Luis González (Deportivo La Guaira)

Óscar González (Deportivo La Guaira)

Franklin Lucena (Deportivo La Guaira)

Rómulo Otero (Caracas FC)

Luis Vargas (Zamora FC)

Forwards 

Manuel Arteaga (Zulia FC)

Richard Blanco (Mineros de Guayana)

Edder Farías (Caracas FC)

Jesús Lugo (Aragua FC)

Aquiles Ocanto (Carabobo FC)

*Venezuela’s match with Japan on 9 September 2014 ended 2-2 on the day but was later awarded as a 3-0 victory to Japan. Read more about it here.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuela’s Friendly Internationals – November 2014 Preview

14 November 2014 – Estadio CAP, Talcahuano.

Chile vs Venezuela

18 November 2014 – Estadio Hernando Siles, La Paz.

Bolivia vs Venezuela 

How the Teams Rank

FifaRankings

FIFA Rankings Comparison Graph for October 2013-October 2014 (FIFA.com)

Venezuela come into this friendly double-header having been demoted in the FIFA rankings from August’s record-high 29th to a lowly 85th in the space of a mere two months. During this period, they played away in September to two Asian nations that featured at the World Cup, losing 3-1 to South Korea and drawing 2-2 with Japan.* A largely overseas-based contingent then spent October’s break at the Ciudad del Fútbol de Las Roza training complex in Madrid, after a total of four friendly matches had been scheduled and then cancelled for varying reasons (though presumed to be primarily financial in nature).

Given the lack of games played by the national side, it is certainly tempting to dismiss the rankings. Indeed, some Venezuelans – not least Noel Sanvicente, the new coach installed in July – may even glance at them with a wry smile, acknowledging that the historical placing of 29th was somewhat dubious, given that two months prior they were 40th and had only played one game in the entire year – a 2-1 away loss to Honduras.

Yet, however misrepresentative these rankings may be, they can not be ignored as the current placements were recently used to determine the seeding of the sides competing for next summer’s Copa América ahead of the upcoming draw. Venezuela, despite finishing 4th in 2011’s tournament and 6th out of the nine CONMEBOL sides in the 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign, found themselves ranked 10th out of 12 sides, thus consigning them to the fourth and lowest-seeded pot with Bolivia and CONCACAF-invitees, Jamaica. Consequently, a slightly more difficult group than may have been anticipated looks to be on the cards for La Vinotinto.

Defensive bulwark Oswaldo Vizcarrondo as well as Sanvicente himself have both publicly criticised these organisational methods and their raw sense of injustice may well be harnessed by El Chita to instil a siege mentality into his troops ahead of their upcoming games against Chile and Bolivia.

Squad News: Absentees and Opportunities

Playing to, and galvanising, the emotions of his squad may be necessary for Sanvicente as much of his long-term tactical plans have been adversely affected by a long list of absentees, all of whom play outside of Venezuela and thus, it is not too disrepectful to say, are amongst their most important players.

Two key individuals to have succumbed to injuries are converted right-back Roberto Rosales (Málaga) and new captain Tomás Rincón (Genoa), both components of Sanvicente’s planned defensive-midfield pairing that was first given its debut against Japan. Also sidelined are Fernando Amorebieta (Fulham), Vizcarrondo’s regular partner in central defence under former coach César Farías, as well as Alejandro Guerra (Atlético Nacional). Furthermore, though Guerra’s fellow Colombia-based midfield colleague Luis Manuel Seijas (Santa Fe) will be reporting for duty, he is unlikely to play in the Chile game, having played less than 48 hours prior in his side’s Copa Colombia final defeat to Deportes Tolima.

Another player not making the trip is forward Juan Falcón (Metz) who has had a promising start in Ligue 1 (4 goals in 8 games) and would have hoped to quickly establish himself as a more common fixture of the national side with his former Zamora manager now at the helm. Following on with the problems in attack, perhaps the most internationally renowned player not joining up with his compariots is striker Salomón Rondón (Zenit St. Petersburg), who is suspended following a straight red card he received while on the bench against South Korea. In his absence, young prospect Darwin Machís (Granada), who has had several chances with the first team in La Liga this season, will unfortunately not be able to demonstrate what he can do up front, having picked up a lengthy injury in October that will likely rule him out until next year. Sanvicente’s attempts to find someone to partner Mario Rondón (C.D. Nacional) have been further thwarted as Germany-raised Christian Santos (NEC Nijmegen), the man the coach said he wanted to trial in this role, has been temporarily unable to join up with the national side due to documentation issues. Indeed, this is a similar situation former Barcelona and Spain Under-21 international Jeffrén Suárez (Real Valladolid) finds himself in, having finally agreed to commit himself to La Vinotinto last month.

With so many players unavaible, Sanvicente has called up a squad that while not lacking in quality, features more players from the domestic league than would ideally be the case (9 out of 23) as well as several who have been languishing on the bench of overseas clubs (i.e. of the five forwards, only Mario Rondón can be said to be a regular starter for his club). However, one morale-boosting inclusion is the return of the iconic Juan Arango (Xolos de Tijuana) who had asked not to be called up for Sanvicente’s first two squads as he attempted to settle in Mexico’s Liga MX.

Nevertheless, with several regular starters missing and a coach still attempting to implement his ideas on the squad, Venezuela can certainly expect some tough encounters against a largely full-strength Chile, followed by Bolivia and the altitude of La Paz. Thus, what is detailed next are several things to look out for from a Venezuelan perspective in these two games.

What to Look Out For

How the Team Copes Defensively

Early reports suggest that the probable starting line-up for the Chile game will feature five out of the seven defence-minded players (goalkeeper, four defenders and two defensive-midfielders) who began against South Korea. In this 3-1 reversal, La Vinotinto at times looked porous, being repeatedly overran in the middle with their left side also offering weak resistance and the organisation in the middle often disintegrating into chaos (as can be witnessed on the third goal).

Édgar Jiménez (Mineros de Guayana), who made a rare start partnering Rincón in front of the defence, came in for some criticism for allowing the likes of Son Heung-Min to routinely bypass him and was one of only two players to be dropped for the Japan game. Given the noted injuries in this position, he is said to be likely to be paired with club team-mate Rafael Acosta (Mineros de Guayana) and both men, along with the defence behind them, will surely have their work cut out in the first game against the direct, rapid attacks of Sánchez, Aránguiz, Vargas, Vidal and the Venezuela-born Valdivia. Indeed, they may well be best advised to try to force them wide at all opportunities and goalkeeper Dani Hernández (Real Valladolid) – another player to come in for some criticism, largely due to some questionable handling and decision-making – will be anticipating a busy night. Time will tell how he copes with such activity, following a season largely playing second fiddle in Spain’s Segunda División. Ultimately, the defence will want to come out of this game having conceded fewer than the five goals that South Korea and Japan collectively managed to get past them.

The Role of Juan Arango

It was noted last month that he has sometimes been allocated a less advanced role for Xolos in the centre, as opposed to the position he is more accustomed to further upfield either in the middle or, more commonly, on the left. It will be interesting to see if the 34 year-old will still be able to impose himself with as much attacking threat as he used to as, with the noted absences in the forward line, many will be counting on his his set-pieces, defence-splitting passes and/or long-range screamers. Given his advanced years (in footballing terms, at least) it is also common for him to complete less than 70 minutes for his club so he may well be withdrawn after a similar amount of time in these two games. If this proves to be the case, expect to see an injection of youthful pace and creativity from the likes of either Yohandry Orozco (Deportivo Táchira) or Rómulo Otero (Caracas FC), the latter of whom will be especially eager to take over set-piece duties.

The Role of Mario Rondón

Having not featured a great deal under César Farías, Mario Rondón was unquestionably the most notable performer on September’s Asian tour, having scored two goals and showing some potential in a future forward partnership with Salomón Rondón. Now the only Rondón in the side, he will be in the curious position of either playing in an attacking partnership with someone he is unlikely to feature regularly alongside in a competitive match or being moved back to one of the flanks, where he sometimes plays at club level. Either way, as his goals came from first a goalkeeping error (though was rather well-taken) and then a penalty, he will want to prove that he can be just as effective in regular open play and maintain the momentum he has built up.

Injuries

All Venezuelans will be hoping to avoid witnessing any more of these!

Surprises?

Ultimately, there will doubtless be plenty more aspects in these two games to look out for and yet with all the pessimism that has certainly prevailed in many quarters, this is just the right backdrop for La Vinotinto to spring a surprise or two. Indeed, irrespective of the Chile result, expect changes in the Bolivia game as this is still very much an experimental phase in the Sanvicente reign and with so many players receiving unexpected chances who knows what these new on-field partnerships and combinations will bring?

Whatever happens, Sanvicente will be eager for his Venezuela side to show the entire continent of South America that they can compete with the likes of Chile and have also moved on from being lumped in with the likes of Bolivia, regardless of what the rankings currently say.

Venezuela Squad

Goalkeepers

Dani Hernández (Real Valladolid) & Rafael Romo (Mineros de Guayana).

Defenders

Wilker Ángel (Deportivo Táchira), Francisco Carabalí (Caracas FC), Gabriel Cichero (Mineros de Guayana), Alexander González (FC Thun), Grenddy Perozo (Ajaccio) & Oswaldo Vizcarrondo (Nantes).

Midfielders

Rafael Acosta (Mineros de Guayana), Juan Pablo ‘Juanpi’ Añor (Málaga), Juan Arango (Xolos de Tijuana), Frank Feltscher (Aarau), Édgar Jiménez (Mineros de Guayana), Franklin Lucena (Deportivo La Guaira), Yohandry Orozco (Deportivo Táchira), Rómulo Otero (Caracas FC), Luis Manuel Seijas (Santa Fe) & Franco Signorelli (Empoli).

Forwards

Fernando Aristeguieta (Nantes), Nicolás ‘Miku’ Fedor (Al-Gharafa), Josef Martínez (Torino), Emilio Rentería (San Marcos de Arica) & Mario Rondón (C.D. Nacional).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

*UPDATE: 15 November 2014 – The 2-2 friendly draw with Japan has since been changed by FIFA to a 3-0 victory for Japan due to Venezuela illegally fielding Salomón Rondón, despite having been sent off in the previous game. This fact went completely unreported in the Venezuelan media and was actually first reported on this site’s Twitter account.

Venezuelans Abroad in Chile – Recap of the Past Week

Chile

As neither of these players are likely to be called up to the Venezuelan national side and one rarely plays for his club side, coverage of their progress will most likely be diminished from now on, but if anyone has any questions regarding them, feel free to get in contact.

Friday 29 August 2014

Primera División

San Marcos de Arica 1-0 Palestino

Emilio Rentería‘s San Marcos de Arica won for the second time this season with a goal at the death, this time from Kevin Harbottle in the fifth minute of stoppage time with what was virtually the last kick of the game. His side had been attempting to force a way through against ten men for over 35 minutes following Germán Lanaro’s dismissal and when Harbottle’s left-footed strike finally broke the deadlock, he put San Marcos 7th with 11 points. Rentería has received considerable praise for his performance in this match as well as in the season so far and was the subject of a lengthy interview in Chilean publication, La Tercera, which you can here if you speak Spanish. 

Sunday 31 August 2014

Primera División

Audax Italiano 0-1 Ñublense

Javier González again did not play as his side won the game with a 33rd-minute header by the Uruguayan Mathías Riquero, leaving them comfortably in mid-table with 11 points from 7 games. 

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Copa Chile

Ñublense 1-0 Iberia

Despite it being a cup game, González did not play as his side confirmed their progression to the Second Round against their second-tier opponents with a last-minute goal from another Uruguayan, this time Gonzalo Godoy. Ñublense are level on 10 points with Curicó Unido but have a chance to win the group outright if they at least get a draw in their final match away to Iberia, with Curicó having already played their six games. 

 

Venezuelans Abroad – 26 Aug 2014 Weekend Round-up (Rest of the World)

This is the second part of the weekend update of Venezuelans Abroad, focusing on everywhere major Venezuelan players ply the Great Trade except Europe, which was covered in the first article that you can find on this website. Minimal messing about now, let’s crack on:

South America

Colombia

Luis Manuel Seijas played all of Santa Fe’s 0-0 disappointing home draw against Alianza Petrolera, a game in which his side had to play all of the second half with ten men due to Dairon Mosquera’s dismissal. Despite having a mere 8 points after 5 games, they are only 4 points off the leaders Deportes Tolima with a game in hand.

Elsewhere in the same league, fellow midfielder Alejandro Guerra was not named in the squad for Atlético Nacional’s 1-0 home defeat to Envigado, possibly due to having played in Venezuela in the Copa Sudamericana just two days prior. Losing to Envigado would traditionally not be tolerated, but this season the away side have been flying high and are now 3rd in the league, just one point behind Tolima, whereas Nacional are 11th, with no games in hand. 

Chile

Ñublense were on-message with this weekend’s recurring theme of squads featuring Venezuelans having to struggle on with ten men for long periods of time, as at the beginning of the second half Sebastian Montesinos was dismissed for blocking a shot on the line, which led to a penalty that O’Higgins’ Octavio Rivero converted. This equalled up the score as Juan Lorca had given Ñublense the early lead but the home side did at least manage to keep the score even for the remaining 45 minutes that followed the penalty. However, perhaps unsurprisingly to regular readers of this column, Javier González was left on the bench throughout this match, as indeed he has been for most of the league games this season. 

Emilio Rentería certainly started for his side San Marcos in their 0-0 away draw against Cobresal. It was a match of few clear chances that leaves his side drifting around mid-table in 10th with Ñublense 11th; both sides have 8 points but San Marcos have the superior goal difference. 

North America

Mexico

Juan Arango played all of Xolos de Tijuana’s 1-1 draw against Pumas, traditionally one of the stronger and more popular teams in the league but who currently find themselves third from bottom on 4 points, though Arango will not be feeling much more content as his side are a mere two points ahead in 13th. Xolos went a goal down in the 40th minute but responded a few minutes later with a goal that Arango had a small role in as he played Dario Benedetto into some space on the left and he did well to put in a loss cross that Richard Ruíz got onto the end of and did well to take the ball away from the defenders with his first touch before firing high into the net.

Down one level to the Ascenso MX, Giancarlo Maldonado‘s Atlante had an opportunity to go top in the game against leaders Deportivo Tepic and nearly took it, with the well-travelled Venezuelan putting them a goal to the good with a confident first-half penalty. However, Tepic got back into the game and turned things around thanks to two goals midway through the second half, leaving them top of the league with 16 points, 5 points ahead of their nearest rivals and 6 in front of Atlante. 

United States of America 

Bernardo Añor is still recovering from his injury and so did not feature in Columbus Crew’s 3-0 victory over Houston Dynamo. His side are now third in the Eastern Conference, albeit having played a game or two more than some of their rivals. 

Asia

Thailand

Having recently beaten Muang Thong United and maintained a 3-point lead at the top of the table over Chonburi, it seemed as if Buriram United could well see out their remaining games comfortably, but this weekend they were held at home by Army United, who are now 8th and who cut Buriram’s lead to just a point. The Army got off to a great start within two minutes, with an exceptional shot that looped over the goalkeeper from outside the area (check it out). Buriram got back on level terms after 15 minutes but for the rest of the game both teams certainly had chances without getting a winner; a Buriram header from a cross going against the bar and Andres Túñez himself heading just wide after the break were amongst the highlights for the home side.

Qatar

The Qatar Stars League got underway last Friday, though not for Miku (Nicolas Fedor to his parents) as he was left on the bench for Al-Gharafa’s narrow opening-day win over Umm Salal, a team who also finished last season in mid-table. To give an idea of the quality that resides in this league, Australian veteran Marc Bresciano who featured in this summer’s World Cup, lined up for Miku’s team and it was former Lyon and Argentine forward Lisandro López who scored the game’s winning goal. 

That concludes the round-up of the weekend’s action from outside Europe involving Venezuelans but if you have any further questions about events discussed or any players that have been neglected, please leave a comment below and you can be sure to get a relatively swift response!

Venezuelans Abroad – 22 Aug 2014 Weekend and Midweek Round-up

Apologies for the delay with the delivery of this dispatch – life’s not always reassuringly straightforward, is it? With more and more leagues kicking off, it is becoming increasingly apparent that there are too many Venezuelans playing abroad for one person to adequately cover in a single article every few days. Consequently, some of you will be relieved to read that this may be the last caffeine-charged update of undergraduate essay length to be posted in this column. Instead from the next article onwards, though time-constraints may complicate matters from time to time, there should be a higher number of shorter articles that summarise the highlights no more than a day or two after they have occurred so that they still appear relatively fresh when published on this site. With the future emphasis being more on the leading players of La Vinotinto, there can be no promises that every last footballer who could legally qualify for the national side will receive the coverage here that their play merits, but if anyone feels certain players are being neglected please either contact the site by leaving a comment or follow the Twitter account (Hispanospherical), which will always feature additional and fresher news and highlights. Whether they receive a mention or not, you can be sure that their progress is being tracked.

Lastly, before the intercontinental Venezuelan rampage gets breathlessly underway, a large thank you is in order to all of you who have taken an interest in this site so far. As you all no doubt have multiple sources to aid seeking out information on these disparate players, it is hoped that by now you will be well-acquainted enough with their whereabouts (if you were not already) to know which overseas-based Venezuelans are currently in contention to earn call-ups and thus, given the availability of alternative sources, not be too disappointed should they be omitted from any future updates.

No doubt some readers will be grateful for the diminished and snappier lengths of future articles but before we get to that stage, feel free to allow one more dissertation to be inflicted upon you:

 Europe

Russia

Four wins out of four for Russian table-toppers Zenit St Petersburg who, again in a near-empty ground, defeated new-boys FC Ufa at the weekend by the slender margin of 1-0 with a penalty from Hulk after half an hour. André Villas-Boas’s men may have had a sly eye on their midweek Champions League qualifier away to Belgium’s Standard Liège, as leading target man Salomón Rondón was largely rested though did make a brief appearance with five minutes remaining to unintentionally tarnish his impressive goals-to-games scoring ratio.

On Wednesday, Rondón received the nod over Kerzhakov for the first leg in Liège, though despite Zenit’s dominance for at least two-thirds of the game giving them a crucial 1-0 victory, he may have boarded the plane back to Saint Petersburg feeling frustrated. In Zenit attacks, he was often peripheral with service to him not as forthcoming as he would have hoped, though when he did receive the ball in the final third his first touch sometimes let him down. On the one rare occasion that he was provided with a clear opportunity he could have put the tie out of sight when, at the end of the first half, he ran onto Danny’s through-ball but poked the ball against the crossbar. That particular outcome may have been a little unfortunate but it will be curious to see whether he starts this weekend’s game against Amkar Perm; if AVB instead goes with the ageing Kerzhakov and the side’s all-time top-scorer reels back the years with a magisterial performance, then a starting place in the forward line for next week’s second leg will surely be up for grabs.

France

France’s Ligue 1 hosted the weekend’s most anticipated game of Venezuelan interest as Fernando Aristeguieta and Oswaldo Vizcarrondo lined up for Nantes at home to Juan Falcón‘s Metz in a 1-1 draw.  Falcón has come in for some criticism for his roles in both goals, with some feeling that he should have been tracking Jordan Veretout who fired in a loose ball for the early Nantes opener and that he tripped himself up – unintentionally or not – to win Metz a penalty on 12 minutes that Yeni  N’Gbakoto converted. Irrespective of the merits of these claims, Falcón was certainly a more threatening figure than he was allowed to be in his side’s 0-0 draw away with Lille, providing optimism to Metz fans still coming to terms with the departure of Diafra Sakho to West Ham earlier in the week. On the home side, Fernando Aristeguieta was substituted off again two-thirds into the game for last week’s provider of football’s latest Roy of the Rovers fairytale, Yacine Bammou. However, the former Paris St. Germain club shop employee was unable to provide another match-winner and so Aristeguieta can rest assured for the time-being at least that he is the man fans will be counting on to fill the boots of Filip Đorđević. As he experienced an injury in pre-season that ruled him out for at least a couple of weeks, it is possible that he is not fully fit at the moment.

Moving briefly down to Ligue 2 for the derby match in Corsica, Grenddy Perozo‘s Ajaccio comfortably defeated Gazélec Ajaccio 2-0 away from home, keeping a rare clean sheet against the commune’s poor-relations who were playing with ten men for over an hour.  This was Ajaccio’s first win of the season though will be facing sterner opposition in the league at the weekend against second-placed Tours and next midweek in the Coupe de la Ligue away to current league-leaders Troyes.

Portugal

The Portuguese Primeira Liga was inaugurated over the weekend, with two Venezuelans in action. 1770 people on the island of Madeira turned out to watch last season’s fifth-placed side CD Nacional, featuring Mario Rondón, lose 1-0 at home to last season’s Segunda Liga winners Moreirense. Rondón played the entirety of the game but though he was involved in some attacking opportunities that were soundtracked to some Thunderbirds-esque drumming by the home fans, his side were undone by an 80th minute header by Paraguayan substitute Ramón Cardozo. Over on the north coast of the mainland, Rio Ave went some way to moving on from the disappointment of losing the previous week’s Portuguese Super Cup match on penalties to Benfica by defeating Vitória Setúbal 2-0. However, whereas last week forward Yonathan Del Valle was ordered to run his socks off for over 120 minutes and chase every frantically hoofed clearance, here he was sacrificed for midfielder Pedro Moreira at half-time as Rio Ave were reduced to ten men following Filipe’s dismissal. Despite the man disadvantage, the home side showed character and opened the scoring after 53 minutes through Diego Lopes; they were further boosted when Zequinha was sent off for the opposition on 71 minutes, who actually finished the match with nine men as Manu received two bookings in the last ten minutes – in between these two events, the Brazilian Marcelo headed home the second for Rio Ave.

Del Valle and Rondón both started their sides’ Europa League games on Thursday as they sought to gain a first-leg advantage to earn group stage spots, but the Venezuelan pair again experienced more personal disappointment. Del Valle was again withdrawn by Rio Ave at half-time in Sweden against Elfsborg, this time along with fellow-starter Pedro Moreira, as the Portuguese side were trailing 2-0; the changes arguably made some difference as the deficit was eventually halved to 2-1 with Marcelo again scoring and there were opportunities to get on level terms. As for Rondón, he again played the full 90 minutes for Nacional but they were undone in the Belarusian capital by a goal in each half in a 2-0 defeat by Dinamo Minsk. Rondón had a European experience not entirely dissimilar to his Zenit namesake in that he received the ball several times in and around the box but rarely in potentially punishing positions, instead often ending moves by blasting half-hearted shots at crowds of defenders who could then clear. It will probably be Del Valle, not Rondón, who will feel more confident going into next week’s second legs, though whether he will be permitted to play more than one half remains to be seen.

Before moving on from Portugal, one final piece of brief news: 20 year-old defender Víctor García, fresh from earning the number 50 shirt for the season, did not feature in Porto’s 2-0 opening day win over Marítimo nor their impressive midweek Champions League victory away to Lille. Still, plenty of time yet.

Switzerland

Over in the erstwhile land of passive neutrality (who said this column is out-of-date and living in the past?), Alexander González enjoyed another full 90 minutes as FC Thun came from a goal down against St. Gallen to record an impressive 3-1 win to go third in the league. As this win came against the only side to take any points – never mind beat 2-0 away – the league-leaders Basel this season, Thun can feel especially pleased with themselves. Speaking of whom, further south the league’s sole Champions League representatives won 3-2 away to Pedro Ramírez‘s Sion in a very entertaining match that was only taken out of the home side’s grasp in the last ten minutes. However, the former Zamora starlet continued his run of negligible contributions as he was only substituted on for the last few minutes of the match and so unsurprisingly was unable to demonstrate to the fans why he was purchased in the summer.

Regarding the Feltscher brothers, Frank is still injured but interesting news regarding his younger sibling Rolf who, following his summer release from Lausanne-Sport, has finally found a club to allow him to get his career back on track. Despite repeated rumours of a move to Deportivo Táchira, he has instead made the move north to the German third division to sign for MSV Duisburg. While this move has been met with some bemusement by Venezuelan commentators, it could well prove to be a rewarding move in the long run. Duisburg are down in the third-tier not due to relegation but rather problems relating to their license documents (please, no questions about this in this comments). They are a team with the resources to gain at least one promotion, having been in the Bundesliga just six years ago playing in a stadium that holds over 30,000 people (still often half full) and as an indication of their potential, just this weekend they enjoyed dumping Nürnberg out of the DFB Pokal Cup.

England

Fernando Amorebieta has continued to be frozen out of Fulham’s match-day squads, not featuring in any of their opening three defeats in the Championship as manager Felix Magath appears to be alienating fans and players alike with his team selection and general approach. However with Amorebieta, it is possible that his allegedly high wages and feelings towards playing for a second-tier team mean that his days at the club have always been numbered since relegation so his exclusion is understandable if Magath is expecting him to leave. As reported in previous columns, various sides have been linked with a move for him though in the past week there has been some new rumours. Firstly and perhaps lacking in substance is the story regarding Dynamo Kyiv’s interest, but more credible is the interest of Granada, whose sporting director has made some enquiries but admits his wages may be a stumbling block.

Italy

Torino were another team of Venezuelan interest to be vying for a place in the Europa League group stage as Josef Martínez‘s side played out a 0-0 draw away to RNK Split in Croatia. Torino will undoubtedly be favourites in next week’s leg and given the stalemate may well offer an opportunity to Martínez, who remained on the bench through the first leg.

Looking ahead, while the Serie A does not get underway until 30 August, this upcoming weekend sees the introduction of some of the top-flight teams to the Third Round of the Coppa Italia. Tomás ‘Gattuso 2.0’ Rincón‘s Genoa will be making the journey south to Serie B’s Virtus Lanciano and Franco Signorelli‘s Empoli shall host third-tier L’Aquila, who beat Bologna, recently relegated from Serie A, in the last round.

Spain

Excitingly, the Spanish leagues will be commencing this weekend and so, given the scope and name of this website, readers can look forward to some more detailed coverage from the Primera and Segunda Divisións. Málaga will kick-off the top-flight with their difficult home match against the Basque side Athletic Bilbao; Roberto Rosales is an almost definite starter at right-back for Los Boquerones despite the recent acquisition of Miguel Torres and the youngster Juan Pablo Añor will be pushing for a place in the match-day squad after being given regular chances in pre-season and handed the number 28 shirt for the season. Another player with similar circumstances – albeit with more first-team experience – and who scored some goals in pre-season is Darwin Machís; his side Granada will be looking to get off to a winning start at home against the newly promoted former league champions Deportivo La Coruña.

In the Segunda División, Real Valladolid will begin their attempt to bounce straight back to the top-flight with a home match against Mallorca. Former Barcelona man Jeffrén  Suárez, now 26 and who has been in talks with representing Venezuela for the first time, has got an opportunity to play consistently for the first time over the course of an entire season and in a league that could well prove to be beneath him. His team-mate and international goalkeeper, Dani Hernández, who seemed to be certain to exit the club in the summer, is likely to start at the weekend as he has done  so all throughout pre-season as the club have failed so far in their attempts to buy a replacement. Elsewhere, Josmar Zambrano will be in contention for Recreativo Huelva as they start their bid to improve upon narrowly missing out on a play-off place last year with a home game against Real Zaragoza. Finally, if he makes an unlikely recovery by the weekend, then the creative playmaker Julio Álvarez could feature for Numancia at home to Sporting Gijón, though don’t bank on it as he has not featured at all in pre-season.

Cyprus

AEL Limassol nearly caused an upset against Tottenham Hotspur in the home leg of their Europa League tie, taking a first-half lead only to be undone by goals from Roberto Soldado and Harry Kane in the last quarter of the game. Jonathan España sat on the bench throughout this game though as ever, the whereabouts of his compatriot Jaime Moreno is unknown.

Turkey

Though thankfully pre-season is coming to an end and coverage here has recently been kept to a minimum, it would be churlish not to mention Ronald Vargas‘s free-kick winner for Balıkesirspor at home to AEL Kallonis last weekend. He did also score in a 3-1 friendly win on Thursday against Somaspor and if footage of that becomes available, you can be sure it will be posted both here and on the Twitter page. Vargas is a man who showed a lot of promise in his early days in Europe with Club Brugge but has had countless injury setbacks that have hampered his progress. 28 in December, he will be hoping to get his career back on track as he enters what should be his prime and will begin his season on 29 August with a home game against Akhisar Belediyespor.

Asia

Thailand

Last time we were with Andrés Túñez, his impressive start to his career at Buriram United was painfully interrupted by a last-minute goal against title-challengers Chonburi, thus narrowing the race. However, instead of wilting it appears that Buriram, and Túñez in particular, have reacted impeccably to the threat. Firstly, at the weekend they kept a clean sheet and comfortably defeated relegation-threatened Air Force United 2-0 and then in midweek earned a vital victory away to opposition who, before the match at least, were very much in with a chance of winning the league. Had Muangthong United won, they would have been one point behind Buriram (who would have been level with Chonburi) but thanks to a first-half goal from Túñez himself, seven points now separate the two sides (with Chonburi three behind).  After a Muangthong corner was cleared and then picked up by a Buriram player, Túñez (now unmasked) could see that the home side had over-committed and charged forward from his own area to receive a pass and then slot it home for a moment of glorious euphoria. However, Buriram certainly did not have it all their own way, as Muangthong had a penalty saved at the end of the first half and then, following Theeraton Bunmathan’s dismissal, the away side had to repel attack after attack with ten men for over 30 minutes. If you have an opportunity to view the highlights please do as the game was a great advertisement for the league. With seven league games left and having already faced the two closest title challengers, Buriram United are definitely favourites to win the Thai Premier League.

Qatar

Later on today, Friday 22 August, Miku should be beginning his season with Al Gharafa at home to Umm Salal, a team who also finished in a mid-table position last year, albeit two points above Miku’s side. The Venezuelan hitman has been somewhat neglected so far in this column due to the lack of news from his part of the world but no doubt once the season is up and running, there will be regular reports on his goals.

North America

Mexico 

Last week’s Friday night league game of Juan Arango‘s Xolos de Tijuana was mentioned in the last update and he did not feature in his side’s midweek 0-0 away draw with Deportivo Tepic in the Copa MX, which leaves them 2nd in their group behind Guadalajara. In the league below, Giancarlo Maldonado has been scoring again, this time the second goal – a header from a cross – for Atlante in their big 4-2 away win against Mérida, which leaves them second in the table. Maldonado, along with seven of his team-mates, was not selected for the midweek cup defeat against top-tier Toluca; such changes show where Atlante’s priorities lie and, along with the strength of their group, accounts for them currently being last with just one point from three games.

United States of America

Bernardo Añor is still out with a hamstring injury and thus sadly missed Columbus Crew’s 4-1 thrashing of LA Galaxy, a side which featured both Robbie Keane and Landon Donavan. The Crew are back in the play-off positions in the Eastern Conference.

South America 

Colombia

Alejandro Guerra did not feature in Atlético Nacional’s 1-1 away draw against Deportes Tolima in the league over the weekend, but he did make the journey back home to Venezuela to play in another 1-1 away draw, this time in the Copa Sudamericana First Round against Deportivo La Guaira. Guerra played just under an hour of this first leg, with the goals coming after his departure, first for La Guaira with a bullet-header from Framber Villegas after 66 minutes and then for Nacional from an Edwin Cardona penalty with 7 minutes remaining. Remarkably, Atlético Nacional fielded a completely different squad on the same night to fulfil domestic cup obligations against Jaguares de Córdoba and achieved a 1-1 draw thanks to a stoppage-time goal from former Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Ángel. Moving on to Santa Fe, Luis Manuel Seijas‘s side lost ground in the league last weekend as they were defeated 2-0 by Deportivo Cali. Seijas played the entire game and his team now find themselves 9th in the league, albeit with a game in hand which, were they to play tomorrow and win, would put them level on points with 2nd. Santa Fe, minus Seijas and most other first-team regulars, played midweek in the cup achieving a late turnaround with two goals in the last ten minutes to beat Expreso Rojo 2-1 away. Santa Fe have already won their group with an impressive record of 8 wins in 9 games and will play their remaining game against Bogotá next week.

Chile

This weekend just gone, Emilio Rentería‘s San Marcos had to wait until the 90th minute to make the decisive breakthrough against Antofagasta, with the goal coming from a Renato González free-kick, for which Rentería was also standing over providing a decoy. This win leaves San Marcos 9th and Antofagasta last, but in the reverse midweek cup fixture, San Marcos made wholesale changes, leaving no place for Rentería and ended up on the wrong side of a 4-0 hammering. Both teams now have the most points (10) in their group, but perhaps unsurprisingly, Antofagasta now have the edge on goal difference. Despite making a rare return to first-team football last midweek in the cup, Javier González was again sidelined to the bench once the more prestigious matters of league football returned, as Ñublense were defeated 3-2 by Unión La Calera, leaving them 11th with 7 points. 

Mercifully for us all, that concludes the round-up of the last several days of action but if you have any further questions about events discussed or any players that have been neglected, please leave a comment below and you can be sure to get a relatively swift response!

 

Venezuelans Abroad – 12 Aug 2014 Weekend Round-up

Another long weekend over and more competitive football is now underway, particularly in Europe. If you follow this site’s Twitter page (Hispanospherical) then you will already be aware of what our many disparate Venezuelans have been up to, but if not then here follows a substantial summary of the highlights:

Europe

Who better to start with than Salomón Rondón? He is Venezuela’s most lethal finisher, will no doubt become their all-time top scorer within the next five years and, more to the point, has been spanking in the goals again for the rampant Zenit St. Petersburg. Indeed, Zenit, having been one of four sides to win by a four-goal margin on the opening day, now enjoy some daylight over their nearest rivals at the top of the Russian Premier League following an 8-1 home steamrolling over Torpedo Moscow that was played in front of empty stands due to certain incidents that occurred late last season. In a game reminiscent of a pre-season pasting delivered to a group of fourth division amateurs in a secluded Swiss retreat, Rondón started once again and got on the scoresheet twice, as did the rampaging colossus that is Hulk as well as the Brazilian’s replacement, Alexandr Kerzhakov – Smolnikov and Shatov were responsible for the other two. Rondón scored Zenit’s second –  an acrobatic bicycle-kick that matched in quality Hulk’s preceding stepover and dinked ball from the right – as well as their fourth, a rebound that fell into his path after Shatov’s shot was parried and which was stabbed into an unguarded net. At this point, Torpedo’s defence already looked like they were reconsidering their career choices and Rondón soon helped inflict further misery with his quick return-ball to Hulk who burst into the box and rounded the keeper for the fifth. Hulk was very much the catalyst in this performance and if there were any relieved sighs in the Torpedo ranks when he was taken off just before the hour, his replacement Alexandr Kerzhakov ensured that there would be no reprieve. 

Moving on from a goalfeast to a stalemate, the first weekend of France’s Ligue 1 got underway, with Juan Falcón making his debut for Metz in a creditable goalless draw away to last season’s third-placed side, Lille. Falcón has been handed the coveted No. 9 shirt and played for 78 minutes but failed to get a clear shot on Vincent Enyeama’s goal as he was often reduced to chasing long balls and attempting to hold the ball up as Metz were largely set up to frustrate the likes of Ryan Mendes and Divock Origi. It was the Liverpool-loanee Origi who nearly put Lille 1-up in the first half with a header that was well-saved with an outstretched glove of Johann Carrasso, who certainly kept Metz within the game on more than one occasion. Next weekend, Falcón will be hoping to have more freedom to show what he can do as Metz host Nantes, a game which national team boss Noel Sanvicente will surely be watching as it will feature two more Venezuelans who also started over the weekend. Oswaldo Vizcarrondo and Fernando Aristeguieta featured in the 1-0 victory for Nantes at home to Lens in a closely fought match, the outcome of which may have brought more satisfaction to the centre-back Vizcarrondo. Indeed, whereas he can be pleased with his role in his team’s clean-sheet, Aristeguieta may have mixed emotions about his team’s match-winner being scored from a close-range volley less than a minute after he was substituted in the 63rd minute by his replacement, Yacine Bammou. This hitherto unknown forward was actually making his debut, not only for Les Canaris but also as a Ligue 1 player, having not long previously been combining lower-league football with a job in Paris St. Germain’s club shop. Bammou’s rise is quite a story in itself and while it may prove to be too much too soon, he can be forgiven for having an eye on regularly replacing Aristeguieta as Nante’s lead man after Filip Đorđević’s summer departure to Lazio. The one remaining Venezuelan who played in France this weekend was Grenddy Perozo who made his first appearance of the season for Ajaccio in their second game in Ligue 2 as they were defeated 2-0 at home by another relegated side, Sochaux. A quick glance at the highlights will not allay any fears regarding their defence, which was the most porous in Ligue 1 last season, conceding at a rate of nearly two per game.  

Over in Switzerland, two of our men featured for their clubs. Firstly, starting in an advanced position behind the forward, Pedro Ramírez played 54 minutes of Sion’s 1-0 home victory against Vaduz, though in events not entirely dissimilar to those befalling Aristeguieta, his substitution also came a minute before his team scored. However, as the match-winner Vilmos Vanczák was a fellow starter, Ramírez will probably not feel that there is an instant threat to his position and may just be grateful to have started for only the second time this season for what is now the third-placed team in the league. The other Venezuelan who made it onto the pitch in the Super League was Alexander González of Thun who again played in an advanced position on the left of midfield as his side took an early lead and held on to a 1-1 draw with Young Boys for a respectable point that leaves them fourth in the league, one point behind Sion. Touching briefly upon the matter of the two Feltscher brothers, whilst Frank is still injured and has thus not been able to serve fifth-placed Aarau, unattached younger brother Rolf is being strongly linked to a move to Deportivo Táchira in Venezuela, though is believed to be hesitant about taking a perceived backwards career move. 

The last competitive match in Europe this weekend featuring one of La Vinotinto‘s finest occurred in Portugal as Yonathan Del Valle‘s Rio Ave put up a valiant fight to frustrate Champions and Cup-winners Benfica in the Portuguese Super Cup, known as the Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira. Rio Ave qualified for this match by virtue of being runners-up to their opponents in May’s Taça de Portugal, a game in which Del Valle did not play. However, while on sunday his side were often on the backfoot attempting to repel attacks, there was more than one occasion when they could have caused an upset. Perhaps most significantly for this column was an unexpected chance at the end of the first-half when a ball was played back to Artur in the Benfica goal and he dithered; with the ball not under his full control, Del Valle sensed an opportunity and slid in, nearly making enough contact to embarrass the goalkeeper, who ultimately recovered. The double-winners came even closer to gifting the opposition the match after 117 minutes of a goalless – though eventful – game in which Benfica’s chances at goal outnumbered Rio Ave’s by a ratio of over 5:1, when Jardel nervously attempted to hook a ball in the box clear and ended up striking his own crossbar. Nevertheless, the game went to the limit without a goal. Thus, penalties were required and despite Rio Ave taking an early lead, Benfica did manage to recover and won the Super Cup by the narrowest of margins, 3-2 on spot-kicks.

Moving on to two Venezuelans who were not involved in their teams’ competitive games, starting in England’s second-tier with centre-back Fernando Amorebieta. The future of the former Bilbao man has been subject to speculation throughout the summer and as there has been no official word regarding an injury, his exclusion from the match-day squad for Fulham’s opening-day Championship loss to Ipswich has only reignited some old rumours, with an alleged move to Málaga being the most popular. Secondly, defender Victor García was not part of the match-day squad for Porto II’s opening day defeat at home to UD Oliveirense in the Portuguese Segunda Liga. Having featured regularly last season and in pre-season, it is likely that he was not match-fit and possibly carrying a knock.

Bringing this section to a close with some mercifully brief news on players who are still in their pre-season, this column can report that eleven players that are regularly tracked featured in friendlies these past few days. If you wish to know more about the matches involving Roberto RosalesJuan Pablo AñorJosmar ZambranoTomás Rincón, Franco SignorelliRonald Vargas Jonathan EspañaJaime MorenoJeffrén SuárezDani Hernández and/or  Darwin Machís, feel free to leave a comment and you will receive a response as soon as possible. For now, the most significant news regarding those players relates to the last two as both Hernández and Machís appear to have bolstered their positions at their respective clubs. Regarding Hernández, despite seemingly being on his way out of Real Valladolid at the beginning of the summer, Venezuela’s first-choice goalkeeper has been a consistent starter in pre-season games. While this may in part be due to his team’s lack of success in bringing in a new shot-stopper – Javi Varas of Sevilla is an ongoing target – Hernández may well find he has a future at the club even if they do. As for the young Granada forward Machís, regular readers of this column will know that at the very end of July his agent Sebastian Cano had said that he felt the following fortnight would be crucial regarding his client’s prospects of gaining a place in the first-team squad for the upcoming season. A fortnight on, he has still featured regularly in pre-season matches – the last two games coming against strong German opposition – and Granada’s Sporting Director Juan Carlos Cordero has stated that Machís will indeed be retained within the squad

Asia

Andres Túñez maintained his immaculate iconic status in Thailand and his side’s unbeaten streak as Buriram United took an early lead and ran out 2-0 winners at home to Singhtarua to extend their lead at the top of the table to four points. 

South America

In Colombia, Luis Manuel Seijas played the full 90 minutes of Santa Fe’s 2-1 victory over Independiente Medellín, which leaves them on seven points with four other teams. On five points having played a game more than Santa Fe is Alejandro Guerra‘s Atlético Nacional who gleefully romped to a 5-0 Clásico thrashing against Millonarios, scoring a cracker or two along the way. Sadly, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Guerra was not part of the squad for this pounding. 

Moving south to Chile Javier González, who has not featured since his side’s opening day 3-0 defeat, was again absent as Ñublense recorded a 2-1 home victory against Universidad Católica to increase their points tally to seven – only three other teams have more points at this early stage. Elsewhere, Emilio Rentería was unable to continue his impressive goalscoring start to this season as he played the entirety of San Marcos 1-0 defeat away to a previously pointless Barnechea, which leaves his side with a mere four points. 

North America

As the two Mexican league games of relevance were played on Friday, they were featured in the last update but feel free to revisit them if you wish to see a pearl of a free-kick by Atlante’s Giancarlo Maldonado. Furthermore, in the aftermath of Xolos de Tijuana’s draw with Morelia – leaving them with a paltry two points from four games – there have been some calls on social networks to remove Juan Arango‘s manager, former Venezuela boss César Farías, from his position. Also, regarding Arango, there has been further confirmation that he will not join the national team for their matches in Asia but national coach Sanvicente has said that the door is still open for him to return.

Lastly, up north in the USA, Bernardo Añor was again absent for Columbus Crew’s entertaining 3-2 home reversal against a Defoe-less Toronto FC, with the match-winner scored by another Englishman, Luke Moore. That narrow defeat leaves the Crew just one place off the play-off positions in the Eastern Conference. 

That concludes the round-up of the last few days of action but if you have any further questions about events discussed or any players that have been neglected, please leave a comment below and you can be sure to get a relatively swift response!

Venezuelans Abroad – 9 Aug 2014 Midweek Round-up

It has been quite an eventful and successful week for Venezuelans, particularly in European competition. With increasingly more leagues and cups being contested, this column will be compelled to become focused on competitive football and selective about which players are featured, though if there are any questions about players who have not been covered, please post a message in the Comments section below and you can be sure that you will receive a prompt response. If you follow this site’s Twitter page (Hispanospherical) or have understandably been keeping an eye out for this week’s matches, then you will be familiar with much of what is about to follow, though hopefully you find it helpful to have it all collated into an article and with a few extra details. Here goes:

Europe

The second legs of the penultimate qualifying stages of the two leading continental club competitions were played this midweek. In the Third Qualifying Round of the UEFA Champions League Salomón Rondón, building on a strong start to the Russian Premier League at the weekend, received the nod over Aleksandr Kerzhakov and scored the opening goal in Zenit St. Petersburg’s 3-0 victory over AEL Limassol of Cyprus to overturn the 1-0 reversal from last week. The Witsel-less Zenit were aided in their mission by the early bath for the Brazilian Danielzinho, who received two yellow cards in a matter of seconds after just 26 minutes, which led to an even greater attacking impetus for the home side, with Kerzhakov coming on as a half-time substitute for the defensive Igor Smolnikov. Rondón’s goal came after 55 minutes from a header from Igor Shatov’s cross from the left and he nearly became the tie-winner on more than one occasion, most notably with just two minutes to go when his header from an identical position was saved by an outstretched hand, but fell to the feet of Danny who tucked it away. Not long after, Kerzhakov converted a penalty to ensure Zenit St Petersburg’s name would be in the following day’s draw, in which they received Standard Liège of Belgium, who they will play on 20 and 26 August for a place in the group stage.

Jonathan España was an unused substitute for the opposition against Zenit and he and his compatriot Jaime Moreno may be comforted that AEL Limassol have been given a consolation prize of sorts as they were in the draw for the final Qualifying Round of the UEFA Europa League and will play Tottenham Hotspur for a place in the group stage of that tournament. Backtracking a little, the Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League was played this week, with two Venezuelans in action. Josef Martínez came off the bench after just over an hour to score a powerful header from Molinaro’s cross at the death for his first competitive goal for Torino in their 4-0 (7-0 on aggregate) home thrashing of Brommapojkarna. A great moment for Martínez, though considering the standard of the opposition was lower than much of what he faced in the Swiss Super League last season as well as the attacking options Torino have at their disposal, judgement regarding his applicability at this level will have to be withheld until Serie A gets underway. Standing in the way of a place in the group stage for Torino will be Croatia’s RNK Split. The other Venezuelan who played in the competition this week was Rio Ave’s Yonathan Del Valle, who looked threatening as he bustled his way through and had several shots in his side’s 0-0 home draw with Gothenburg, which allowed them to progress 1-0 on aggregate. Del Valle can consider this match a warm-up for this sunday’s Super Cup clash against Benfica, his team having qualified for this match due to Benfica achieving the domestic double last year and defeating Rio Ave in the  Taça de Portugal (Portuguese Cup). Regarding the draw, in the final Qualifying Round, Rio Ave will again face Swedish opposition in the form of Elfsborg and all of these Venezuelans will be joined at this stage by Mario Rondón of C.D. Nacional, whose side will enter the competition and have been drawn against Dinamo Minsk of Belarus. All of these ties should be played on the Thursdays over the same two weeks as the Champions League Qualifiers, 21 and 28 August.

Moving on to domestic action, while none that concerns us was played this midweek, there will certainly be some at the weekend as, joining those that are already underway will be France’s Ligue 1. Nantes will be starting their campaign at home to Lens and while Oswaldo Vizcarrondo will surely be in the squad, there are doubts over Fernando Aristeguieta as he has been missing from pre-season action over recent weeks with an injury. Juan Falcón, new to the league following two successful seasons at Zamora FC, will be hoping to line-up for promoted FC Metz as they face a stern trip to Lille, home to World Cup players such as Divock Origi, Salomon Kalou and, the man he will be hoping to put one or two past, Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama. Another league that will kick-off is England’s second-tier, The Championship, where it will be curious to see whether Fernando Amorebieta plays for Fulham away to Ipswich Town after much summer speculation over his future.

There will be other Venezuelans in competitive action in Europe this weekend and there have been several that have played in friendlies during this midweek, if you would like to hear more about these, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom.

South America

The latest round of the group stage of the Colombian Cup was contested in midweek, with Alejandro Guerra playing the full 90 minutes of Atlético Nacional’s dramatic 3-2 away win against Deportivo Rionegro. Luis Manuel Seijas was not part of Santa Fe’s squad as they lost their 100% record away to Llaneros in a 3-1 defeat, though with such a record they are still comfortably top of their group and Seijas’s exclusion should be considered a rest rather than a reflection of his performances, which have been receiving some acclaim.

Cup football was also played in Chile as San Marcos lost 4-1 away to Cobreloa but Emilio Rentería can not be held accountable for this as he was not part of the squad. San Marcos are still top of their group with 10 points but with Cobreloa on 9 points (albeit having played an extra game) and Antofagasta on 7, they will perhaps not be feeling as assured as Santa Fe.

North America

Over in Mexico, Juan Arango has been in action twice this week. Firstly in Cup action as he appeared as a substitute with just under 20 minutes left as Xolos were defeated 2-1 by Zacatepec (having beaten then 3-1 last week, aided by Arango’s assists) and also last night in the league. Indeed, Arango was clearly being rested in midweek as he played the full 90 minutes of a 0-0 draw away to Morelia, which gives César Farías’s side just two points from four games. Giancarlo Maldonado also played in two games this week and will be feeling the better of the two all-time joint top-scorers for La Vinotinto. In the cup in midweek, he started and may have been disappointed that his side, the second-tier Atlante, lost 3-2 at home to the mighty Pumas, having held them to a 1-1 away draw last week. However, he returned to scoring form in the league last night, curling in an 8th-minute free-kick as Atlante waited until a last-minute Paul Uscanga goal to defeat Irapuato 2-1. That victory leaves Atlante 3rd in the table with 7 points.

Briefly turning north to the USA, Bernardo Añor is rumoured to be suffering from a hamstring injury and is a doubt for Columbus Crew’s weekend MLS game against Toronto FC.

Asia

Finally, having been featured prominently in the previous column of Venezuelans Abroad, Andrés Túñez, the masked Gladiador, though no doubt stopped in the street repeatedly by his growing band of fans, has otherwise had a quiet week. However, his team, the Thai Premier League leaders Buriram United, will return to competitive action on Sunday and will be expecting a relatively comfortable victory as they host 9th-placed Singhtaura. Regarding the other player making a living within this continent, Miku, rest assured that this column has not forgotten about him, but there has not even been dribs or drabs of news regarding the Al-Gharafa striker, though this state of affairs will thankfully change when the Qatar Stars League kicks off in just under two weeks from now.

That concludes the round-up of the last few days of action but if you have any further questions about events discussed or any players that have been neglected, please leave a comment below and you can be sure to get a relatively swift response!