Tag Archives: Fernando Aristeguieta

Venezuela’s Conmebol Qualifying Campaign for Fifa World Cup 2022 — November 2020 Preview

The campaign relaunches…

Conmebol Qualifiers for FIFA World Cup 2022

Friday 13 November 2020 — Estádio do Morumbi, São Paulo

Brazil vs Venezuela

Tuesday 17 November 2020 — Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas

Venezuela vs Chile

Soteldo Starts As Venezuela Seek Points

With two big tests on the horizon, Venezuela manager José Peseiro knows he’s got a job on his hands if he is to improve upon his team’s pointless start to World Cup qualifying.

The Portuguese gaffer got to work straight after last month’s dismal defeats against Colombia and Paraguay, forgoing a return to his European base to instead remain in the nation he now leads.

There, the domestic league kicked off on 14 October, so Peseiro has been able to meet with many club bosses as well as run the rule over the home-based talent.

This has resulted in a surprising six local call-ups initially featuring in the final squad, with each player belonging to a different team, as the courteous coach said he did not wish to cause too much disruption given that league action will continue throughout the international break.

However, this figure has since lowered to four as goalkeeper José Contreras and midfielder Christian Larotonda have unfortunately been struck down by the c-word. Even so, it’s still an eye-catching number, especially considering last month’s squad was entirely composed of overseas-based players.

Admittedly, the likelihood of any of this youthful quartet making it onto either pitch in the upcoming week are not generous, but if there is one individual to keep in mind then it is 19-year-old Caracas FC midfielder Anderson Contreras. He has played consistently for the 2019 champions over the past 18 months and projected himself into a higher stratosphere in September when he scored a sensational 30-yard free-kick in the Copa Libertadores against Colombia’s Independiente Medellín.

Moving on to the opening clash in São Paulo, these are the eleven players who are reportedly very likely to start (most likely in a 4-3-2-1 formation):

W. Faríñez; R. Rosales, Y. Osorio, W. Ángel, R. Feltscher; T. Rincón, J. Moreno, C. Cásseres Jr; D. Machís, Y. Soteldo; S. Rondón.

For many national team followers, the inclusion of Yeferson Soteldo leaps out as, to the dismay of many, the 23-year-old dribbler only featured last month as a late substitute against Paraguay. Since then, he’s certainly been in the headlines.

Indeed, to the horror of Santos and Vinotinto fans alike, his team actually agreed to sell him to Saudi Arabian outfit Al Hilal. This headturning deal was purportedly owing to the Brazilians’ financial difficulties, but the player was less enamoured by the prospect. It seemed like he might be forced out against his will but thankfully Huachipato, his erstwhile Chilean club who are owed money by Santos, stepped in and an agreement was reached to keep el enano put.

In the country where he plies his trade, he’s predicted to pair up behind the striker alongside Darwin Machís, arguably the most in-form attacker in the squad. This tandem will be an intriguing experiment, as some have voiced concerns that the pair may be incompatible because both are inclined to operate on the left flank.

Also standing out from that line-up are three players who were unable to join up last time around.

First, of course, there’s Salomón Rondón, whose Chinese side, Dalian Pro, refused to let him travel in October. Having narrowly avoided relegation, their season is now over, leaving Venezuela’s record top scorer free and at a loose end for the past few weeks.

He’ll certainly boost his country’s front line as Sergio Córdova — who was initially called up but was then prevented from travelling by his German team — can’t be said to have made the most of his two outings as lead man last month.

Barring an injury to Rondón, it’s unlikely any of the other forwards in the squad will see much action. That said, many supporters will be pleased that Jan Carlos Hurtado made the final cut; the promising 2017 U20 World Cup finalist recently bagged his first two goals for Brazilian side RB Bragantino.

Second, there’s Júnior Moreno, who has been permitted to travel after his club, DC United, failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs. He’ll return to his customary position in front of the back four alongside captain Tomás Rincón; this pair will be joined by the fresh-faced Cristian Cásseres Jr — one of few players to come away from the previous qualifiers with any credit.

Absent from this line of three is Yangel Herrera, who, together with Machís, has continued to reach new heights with Granada in La Liga and the Europa League. He is suspended for the Brazil game, but will be available against Chile.

The other welcome return is that of the nation’s most high-profile defender, Yordan Osorio, who recently made his Parma debut. The 26-year-old centre-back shone in last year’s 0-0 draw with the Seleção at Copa América and if Venezuela are to come away with anything on Friday, similar defensive heroics will be essential.

Anyone who witnessed last month’s qualifiers, particularly the 3-0 first-half pummelling meted out by Colombia, knows that won’t be easy. One of many things that is of concern in and around the Venezuelan goal is that rusty, underperforming goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez is still yet to make his Ligue 1 debut for Lens.

All this being said, despite the absence of Herrera, this feels like a slightly stronger Vinotinto side that is set to face Brazil. Perhaps some further optimism can be derived from the hosts being without the likes of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Casemiro; although, of course, they certainly have other talents in reserve.

Ultimately, given the calibre of the opposition, Peseiro knows there is a very real possibility that he could enter into the new year having lost his first four games in charge. It would be an understatement to say that a historic first-ever competitive victory against Brazil would certainly be one way to win over the legions of sceptics.

Perhaps more plausibly, at the very least his team just need to demonstrate more cohesion and purpose, particularly in Caracas against Chile; getting a measly point on the board wouldn’t hurt either, if only to allay fears that the campaign isn’t over before it has even begun.

Venezuela Squad

Note: José Contreras, Christian Larotonda and Sergio Córdova have been removed owing to their withdrawals. Alain Baroja (not pictured) has been called up.

(@SeleVinotinto)

Goalkeepers

Wuilker Faríñez (Lens, France, on loan from Millonarios, Colombia), Alain Baroja (Delfín, Ecuador) & Joel Graterol (América de Cali, Colombia).

Defenders

Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain), Alexander González (Dinamo București, Romania), Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Jhon Chancellor (Brescia, Italy), Luis Mago (Universidad de Chile, Chile), Yordan Osorio (Parma, Italy), Jean Fuentes (Deportivo La Guaira, Venezuela) & Óscar Conde (Academia Puerto Cabello, Venezuela).

Midfielders

Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy), Rómulo Otero (Corinthians, Brazil, on loan from Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), Darwin Machís (Granada, Spain), Juan Pablo Añor (Al-Ain, Saudi Arabia), Yangel Herrera (Granada, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England), Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil), Jefferson Savarino (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Bernaldo Manzano (Atlético Bucaramanga, Colombia, on loan from Deportivo Lara, Venezuela), Cristian Cásseres Jr (New York Red Bulls, USA), Júnior Moreno (DC United, USA), Anderson Contreras (Caracas FC, Venezuela) & Cristhian Rivas (Estudiantes de Mérida, Venezuela).

Forwards

Fernando Aristeguieta (Mazatlán, Mexico), Jan Carlos Hurtado (RB Bragantino, Brazil, on loan from Boca Juniors, Argentina) & Salomón Rondón (Dalian Pro, China).

Darren

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuela’s Conmebol Qualifying Campaign for Fifa World Cup 2022 — October 2020 Preview

We all know things are far from what they could be and how we’ve landed in this situation. No doubt you’ve all got far more important things to worry about and it’s certainly understandable if you’ve lost interest. Nevertheless, some ambitious folk have been summoned to dream on a global scale — let’s hope we can all be able to do the same sooner rather than later.

Conmebol Qualifiers for FIFA World Cup 2022

Friday 9 October 2020 — Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez, Barranquilla.

Colombia vs Venezuela

Tuesday 13 October 2020 — Estadio Metropolitano de Mérida, Mérida.

Venezuela vs Paraguay

Image

“This game is not between Peseiro and Queiroz; it is between Venezuela and Colombia” — tell that to this blogger, José.

Quote from AS; image from Marca.

Come On Then, If We Must

In common with all other Conmebol nations, Venezuela belatedly begin their Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign after nearly 11 months of inaction.

Such a lengthy gap between matches is certainly not without precedent for La Vinotinto; after all, it was only two years ago that they returned from a 10-month hiatus to face the same country that they will first encounter this time around: neighbours Colombia. They’re also definitely not strangers to shambolic preparations, which, given all the hurdles the c-word has thrown at them in the run-up, is just as well.

Still, pity the new manager.

New manager? Ah yes, a bit of background may be in order: Rafael Dudamel, the man who led the under-20 side to second place at the 2017 World Cup, finally had enough. No more federation politics and restrictions to navigate for him, as he was instead lured away at the turn of the year by Brazilian giants Atlético Mineiro. There, he lasted less than two months, getting the boot after prematurely exiting the Copa Sudamericana and the Copa do Brasil. He was then promptly replaced at Mineirão by former Argentina, Chile and Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli, which brings us back to Dudamel’s successor at international level.

Well, it’s not Sampaoli, is it? No, but in early February many fans thought it was going to be as talks were reported to have reached a very advanced stage. In a swift and hazy turn of events, however, José Peseiro was instead announced as the new man at the Venezuela helm. Despite the Portuguese 60-year-old having previously managed the likes of Sporting Clube de Portugal and Porto, it would be fair to say his reception was underwhelming, with many confessing to have never heard of him. Perhaps they could be forgiven, as not only has he struggled to pick up much silverware but also in recent years he has rarely stayed anywhere long enough to be remembered: his last six appointments have each lasted a mere matter of months. This does not bode well for the long-term project he has landed himself, even if the pandemic has already allowed him to boost his longevity credentials.

Despite these reservations, maybe he’ll be able to command a greater level of authority within the dressing room, owing in part to having trained players of the highest calibre. Indeed, in a curious — he may prefer the word “irrelevant” — subplot, not only has he led top teams within his homeland, but during the 2003/04 season he was also the assistant manager at Galácticos-era Real Madrid. Who was he second in command to? Oh, only his compatriot and current Colombia coach, Carlos Queiroz.

Although many of the Venezuelan players may have also scratched their heads upon his appointment, he’s certainly had plenty of time to familiarise himself with them: pre-lockdown he got Josef Martínez back on board, embarked on a tour to meet various talents and then named a 40-man preliminary squad in March for the qualifiers that we’re now catching up with. Since then, he’s been in touch with many of the chaps and has no doubt watched countless videos. Despite this, he hasn’t had much time with them on the training ground, so he’s not expected to implement any radically new tactical schemes just yet.

Of the 29 players he has in his squad, all of them play their club football outside of their homeland — this is probably for the best, not least because the domestic league has yet to restart (scheduled return date: 14 October). Even so, although it is a strong crop, Peseiro will have to contend without several key individuals: talismanic striker Salomón Rondón and midfielder Júnior Moreno have both been prevented from joining up by their clubs and the country’s most high-profile defender, Parma new-boy Yordan Osorio, is also missing.

Facilitated by this latter absence, a starting position at centre-back had been on the cards for Mikel Villanueva (who has been enjoying a new lease of life in the Portuguese top flight), but injury the day before the opener has ruled him out. It’s too early to say whether he’ll recover in time to face Paraguay. Yeferson Soteldo and Fernando Aristeguieta are also currently in Colombia and had reportedly been part of Peseiro’s plan A, but their respective difficulties entering the country mean they are unlikely to be kicking off in Barranquilla.

With Aristeguieta probably exhausted, Rondón virtually incarcerated in a Chinese hotel and Josef Martínez nursing a long-term injury, it is set to be a big moment for Germany-based Sergio Córdova, who has been used as the sole striker in training.

Since this time last year, over half of the players in this squad have moved clubs. Goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez is one, having joined newly promoted Ligue 1 side Lens. However, as he has yet to play, there have been some calls to instead give the No. 1 shirt to his fellow U20 World Cup teammate Joel Graterol, who has been chalking up league and Libertadores appearances at Colombian side América de Cali. That said, for now at least, it’s still Faríñez who will be between the sticks.

Another player who has embarked on a new club life in 2020 is Jefferson Savarino, having been snapped up by Atlético Mineiro during Dudamel’s brief tenure; the attacking midfielder’s since put in some good performances and has won the state championships.

He is predicted to start behind Córdova in the line of three alongside Jhon Murillo and Darwin Machís. Regarding the latter, he and his Granada teammate Yangel Herrera (who is set to be in a holding midfield duo with captain Tomás Rincón) are arguably their nation’s top-performing players at the moment, having finished seventh in La Liga last season and recently qualified for the group stage of the Europa League.

Elsewhere, there are also some fresh faces in the squad, such as three of the four-man MLS contingent who will be hoping for their first caps, but the likely line-up is, once all caveats have been taken into account, very familiar. According to a reliable source, Peseiro will set up his men in a 4-2-3-1:

W. Faríñez; R. Hernández, W. Ángel, J. Chancellor, R. Rosales; T. Rincón, Y. Herrera; J. Murillo, J. Savarino, D. Machís; S. Córdova.

Venezuela haven’t actually beaten Colombia for five years, but when they do play them, the result is usually close. As for Paraguay, the last time the two nations squared off was a memorable encounter three years ago on the final matchday of the last qualifying campaign: a goal by 19-year-old Yangel Herrera in Asunción simultaneously ended the hosts’ dreams, while allowing the youthful visitors to envisage a much more prosperous future.

The circumstances may not be ideal, but the time has come for them to start delivering on their promise.

Venezuela Squad

(@SeleVinotinto)

Goalkeepers

Wuilker Faríñez (Lens, France, on loan from Millonarios, Colombia), Alain Baroja (Delfín, Ecuador) & Joel Graterol (América de Cali, Colombia).

Defenders

Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain), Alexander González (Dinamo București, Romania), Mikel Villanueva (Santa Clara, Portugal), Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Jhon Chancellor (Brescia, Italy), Ronald Hernández (Aberdeen, Scotland), Luis Mago (Universidad de Chile, Chile) & Miguel Navarro (Chicago Fire, USA).

Midfielders

Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy), Rómulo Otero (Corinthians, Brazil, on loan from Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), Darwin Machís (Granada, Spain), Juan Pablo Añor (No club, recently released by Málaga, Spain), Yangel Herrera (Granada, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England), Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil), Jefferson Savarino (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Bernaldo Manzano (Atlético Bucaramanga, Colombia, on loan from Deportivo Lara, Venezuela), Eduard Bello (Antofagasta, Chile), Cristian Cásseres Jr. (New York Red Bulls, USA), Arquímedes Figuera (César Vallejo, Peru, on loan from Deportivo La Guaira, Venezuela) & José Andrés Martínez (Philadelphia Union, USA).

Forwards

Fernando Aristeguieta (Mazatlán, Mexico), Sergio Córdova (Arminia Bielefeld, Germany, on loan from Augsburg, Germany), Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia) & Eric Ramírez (DAC Dunajská Streda, Slovakia).

Darren

@DarrenSpherical

Japan 1-4 Venezuela – International Friendly (19 November 2019)

With La Vinotinto, winning is now the order of the day. Below, @DarrenSpherical recounts the national team’s demolition of World Cup regulars Japan.

International Friendly

Tuesday 19 November 2019 – Panasonic Stadium Suita, Osaka, Japan

Japan 1-4 Venezuela

Video Highlights of Japan 1-4 Venezuela, International Friendly, 19 November 2019 (YouTube)

Venezuela Smash the Samurai Blue

A first-half goal-blitz spearheaded by a hat-trick-bagging Salomón Rondón gave Venezuela their third consecutive victory for the first time since 2007.

Posterity will surely gloss over the experimental composition of their hosts’ line-up and instead highlight this promising run of form from Rafael Dudamel’s men ahead of the commencement of their World Cup qualifying campaign in March.

The manager reverted to an ostensibly more cautious 4-3-2-1 formation, with Bernaldo Manzano stepping in for Júnior Moreno, yet from the off his side took the game to their opponents. Asia-based Rondón got the scoring underway in the eighth minute after he headed in a cross exquisitely supplied by jinking Yeferson Soteldo, who really made the most of his rare start.

In the 22nd minute, Wuilker Fariñez parried a close-range header to maintain the advantage and eight minutes later Rondón doubled it. This time, with a dinked pass he played through Darwin Machís and then received the ball back in the centre to finish to make it 2-0. Barely three minutes later, two became three as Yangel Herrera headed a deep cross into the path of his nation’s all-time top-scorer, who finished off a breath-taking hat-trick – his first-ever for La Vinotinto.

If Japan thought this may cause the Southern hemispherians to calm down, they were sorely mistaken: in the 37th-minute, Soteldo made it four after driving forward, playing a one-two with Machís and prodding home. Shortly afterwards, it was nearly five as Herrera cracked the post with a fine strike.

As is often the way after a side takes a commanding lead into the break, the second half bore little resemblance to the first. In this, Venezuela barely managed another shot of note, with Japan instead making most of the running. Fariñez occasionally saw his goal under threat, although he was equal to the efforts struck at him, with the solitary exception being Hotaru Yamaguchi’s 69th-minute shot from outside the area which took a huge deflection off Roberto Rosales and wrong-footed the goalkeeper to make it 1-4.

Subsequently, the hosts pressed to add more respectability to the scoreline but their efforts ultimately went unrewarded. Thus, Venezuela emerged with an impressive victory to add to their recent collection. A lot can change in four months but right now, in stark contrast to the Russia 2018 campaign, Rafael Dudamel’s men look like they will be more of a match for their South American rivals when the long road to Qatar 2022 begins in March.

Team Selections

Japan (4-4-2): E. Kawashima; S. Muroya, N. Ueda (G. Miura, 46′), S. Hatanaka, S. Sasaki; G. Haraguchi (Y. Ideguchi, 82′), G. Shibasaki, K. Hashimoto (H. Yamaguchi, 65′), S. Nakajima; M. Suzuki (K. Furuhashi, 46′) & T. Asano (K. Nagai, 65′).

Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Fariñez; R. Hernández, Y. Osorio, M. Villanueva, R. Rosales; Y. Herrera (J. Añor, 90+2′), B. Manzano (R. Zambrano, 82′), T. Rincón;  D. Machís (R. Otero, 61′), Y. Soteldo (J. Murillo, 77′); S. Rondón (F. Aristeguieta, 90′).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuela’s Friendly International – November 2019 Preview

Venezuela are set to close out their year with a solitary friendly on Asian soil. Here, @DarrenSpherical provides a preview of this little-anticipated encounter.

International Friendly

Tuesday 19 November 2019 – Panasonic Stadium Suita, Osaka, Japan

Japan vs Venezuela

japanstadiumnov2019

Tuesday’s Venue (FIFAUTeam)

To the Far East for Three in a Row

2019 ends for La Vinotinto with an opportunity to win three games on the trot for the first time since 2007.

They face relatively familiar foes in Japan, a team with whom they normally share the friendly spoils and this will be the burgundy boys’ only game in this international break, after arrangements for a scheduled game in Bangladesh against Paraguay collapsed.

Curiously, the build-up to this match has so far been rather muted, with barely a word said by the players to the media and the official comments of manager Rafael Dudamel comprising of little more than a few lines of platitudes. If this is all symptomatic of another breakdown in the squad-media relationship, then the hacks have been uncharacteristically quiet on the matter. Perhaps more likely a cause is the game’s kick-off: 6:25am Venezuelan time.

Thus, although the contest is being televised, no-one will be anticipating record viewing figures. Nevertheless, as the team’s next scheduled encounters will be a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March, the players know that even if not many of their compatriots back home observe them, their manager certainly will.

He seems to have an increasingly clear idea of his preferred personnel as the 24-man squad for this game offers no surprise omissions, with the absences of Júnior Moreno (DC United, USA) and Jhon Chancellor (Brescia, Italy) explicable owing to visa-related matters and injury, respectively. They have been replaced in the selección by Bernaldo Manzano (Tolima, Colombia, on loan from Deportivo Lara) and Williams Velásquez (JEF United, Japan, on loan from Watford, England). Zulia’s Gabriel Benítez is also present, increasing his standing following his last-minute call-up and subsequent debut against Trinidad & Tobago last month.

At the other end of the pitch, as Josef Martínez (Atlanta United, USA) has excommunicated himself from Dudamel’s regime, once again Fernando Aristeguieta (Monarcas Morelia, Mexico) and Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia) are competing to grapple with the unenviable task of trying to knock Salomón Rondón (Dalian Yifang, China) off his perch. Also, as was the case last month, Boca Juniors’ striker Jan Hurtado has instead been sent to the Under-23 squad who, this weekend just gone, have prepared for January’s 2020 Olympics qualifying tournament with two defeats against Paraguay (3-1 and 3-0).

Otherwise, following on from some impressive recent performances, Rómulo Otero (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil) will be hoping to cement his place in the line-up. The chances of this occurring will be greatly increased if his manager continues with the more attack-minded 4-2-3-1 formation that was utilised to effect against Bolivia and Trinidad & Tobago last month. Away against World Cup-qualifying Japan, however, he may well revert to his more cautious and customary 4-3-2-1.

Ultimately, either way, if a rare trio of consecutive wins can be achieved, the smattering of dedicated early-risers won’t mind too much about the means by which it is attained.

To keep track of how things pan out, please continue to check this website as well as @DarrenSpherical for updates.

Venezuela Squad

VinotintoNov2019

(@SeleVinotinto)

Goalkeepers

Wuilker Faríñez (Millonarios FC, Colombia) & Rafael Romo (Silkeborg IF, Denmark).

Defenders

Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Gabriel Benítez (Zulia), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Nahuel Ferraresi (Porto B, Portugal, Club Atlético Torque, Uruguay), Ronald Hernández (Stabaek, Norway), Yordan Osorio (Zenit Saint Petersburg, Russia, on loan from Porto, Portugal), Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain), Mikel Villanueva (Málaga, Spain) & Williams Velásquez (JEF United, Japan, on loan from Watford, England).

Midfielders

Juan Pablo “Juanpi” Añor (Málaga, Spain), Yangel Herrera (Granada, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England), Darwin Machís (Granada, Spain), Bernaldo Manzano (Tolima, Colombia, on loan from Deportivo Lara),  Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), Rómulo Otero (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy), Jefferson Savarino (Real Salt Lake, USA), Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil) & Renzo Zambrano (Portland Timbers, USA).

Forwards

Fernando Aristeguieta (Monarcas Morelia, Mexico), Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia) & Salomón Rondón (Dalian Yifang, China).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuela 4-1 Bolivia – International Friendly (10 October 2019)

Okay, it was Bolivia not Brazil, but belt up, buddy: a beating’s a beating. Below, @DarrenSpherical recounts La Vinotinto‘s thumping home victory.

International Friendly

Thursday 10 October 2019 – Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela

Venezuela 4-1 Bolivia

Video Highlights of Venezuela 4-1 Bolivia, International Friendly, 10 October 2019 (YouTube)

Triumphant Homecoming for La Vinotinto

Against a backdrop of media speculation following Josef Martínez’s refusal to participate in a Dudamel-led national team, Venezuela delivered a confident, winning performance in their first game in the capital for eight years.

A pre-match appearance from celebrated athlete Yulimar Rojas was part of the extensive build-up for this encounter with an entirely domestic league-based Bolivia led by ex-Vinotinto boss César Farías.

Having already dispatched a stronger version of La Verde less than four months ago at Copa América, Rafael Dudamel must not have hesitated in opting for a more attack-minded 4-2-3-1 formation.

From the off, the game was more open than is customary with Venezuela largely the beneficiaries of the midfield gaps which enabled the likes of Darwin Machís and hometown hero Rómulo Otero to run menacingly at the Bolivian back-line. That said, for the opening third of the game, the goal attempts were ultimately rather tame, with the best of an underwhelming bunch being a low Machís shot that was easily stopped and a couple of much-anticipated Otero free-kicks which the wall took the sting out. However, in the 38th minute there was considerably more success when el Escorpión instead crossed in a dead ball which goalkeeper Jorge Araúz badly misread, making it easy for Yangel Herrera to head home for 1-0. Three minutes later, the lead was doubled after Tomás Rincón dinked a ball towards the right edge of the area where, with two effective touches, Ronald Hernández knocked it into the centre where the roaming Rincón nudged it on to the back post area where Machís could not miss the tap-in.

Thus, the players went in at the break with the majority of the UCV crowd in a buoyant, boisterous mood. When they returned for the second half, it took just five minutes to further augment the atmosphere. Once again, an Otero free-kick from the edge of the area hit the tip of the wall, yet this time when it eventually dipped back down from orbit it was met by Jhon Chancellor, whose nod-on was acrobatically struck home via an overhead-kick from Salomón Rondón.

Although the result now seemed in little doubt, five minutes later Bolivia did get one back, with a well-crafted goal that took advantage of some slack Venezuelan tracking. Juan Arce chipped a ball towards the right edge of the area where Gilbert Álvarez picked it up and slotted it through the legs of Wuilker Fariñez. Aside from this blot, the Millonarios goalkeeper had a rather quiet night and will no doubt be disappointed to not have added to his clean sheet tally.

Subsequently, as is frequently the case, the inevitable glut of personnel changes sucked a lot of momentum from this game, with chances of note rarer to come by. Nevertheless, late on following a Rincón pass in the 87th minute, two substitutions did manage to have an impact, as Yeferson Soteldo nudged the ball on to Jhon Murillo in the area, who was fouled. The penalty was duly converted by all-time record goalscorer Rondón, who gained his second of the night to make the final scoreline even more emphatic.

Dudamel conspicuously celebrated this spot-kick, which earned him some social media derision from his critics who accused him of playing up to the cameras. Yet, after all the doubts that have been raised about the internal harmony in the squad and the players’ relationship to their boss, maybe he was just pleased and relieved to cap off a deserved victory on an emotional night.

Surely he will have been impressed by the performances of Otero and Hernández, perhaps the two players to have most boosted their chances of gaining regular starts. However, two others players he will not be able to count for Monday’s clash with Trinidad and Tobago are Roberto Rosales and Bernardo Añor. The former had a prior agreement to return to his club whereas the latter picked up a knock which denied him the opportunity of playing with his brother Juanpi in his hometown at the stadium of his club side. In his place, Zulia’s Gabriel Benítez has been called up, ensuring that there is still at least one domestic league player in the squad.

If – as is anticipated – Venezuela defeat their Caribbean opponents at the UCV, it will be only the second time during Dudamel’s reign that his side have won two consecutive games. Perhaps to some there doesn’t seem to be much to gain from defeating the team ranked 100th by FIFA, but the coach will certainly be aware that if he doesn’t, esteem-wise, there is plenty to lose. He, like most of the fans, will surely be hoping for another assertive, attacking display.

Team Selections

Venezuela (4-2-3-1): W. Faríñez; R. Hernández, W. Ángel, J. Chancellor, R. Rosales (R. Feltscher, 77′); T. Rincón, Y. Herrera (J. Moreno, 87′); J. Savarino (J. Murillo, 78′), R. Otero (J. Añor, 68′), D. Machís (Y. Soteldo, 56′); S. Rondón (F. Aristeguieta, 88′).

Bolivia (4-2-3-1): J. Araúz; O. Ribera, A. Jusino, G. Justiniano, J. Sagredo; E. Sánchez (C. Melgar, 59′) (C. Áñez, 74′), C. Arano (C. Algarañaz, 77′); L. Justiniano, J. Arce (V. Castellón, 59′), E. Saavedra (L. Vaca, 70′); G. Álvarez (C. Saucedo, 68′).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuela’s Friendly Internationals – October 2019 Preview

Following on from last month’s dreary draw with neighbours Colombia, Venezuela are back in action with two rare home friendlies. What’s more, they find themselves in the jarring position of being the favourites to emerge victorious from both. Ahead of these, @DarrenSpherical provides a glimpse into the Vinotinto orbit.

International Friendlies

Thursday 10 October 2019 – Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela

Venezuela vs Bolivia

Monday 14 October 2019 – Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela

Venezuela vs Trinidad and Tobago

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Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela

Back in the Capital with Farías but without Martínez

The Venezuelan national team’s first game in the capital city for eight years will also see the return of a prominent compatriot who was then at the helm of La Vinotinto: current manager of Bolivia, César Farías.

It was he who led his homeland from 2007 to 2013, with his achievements including reaching the semi-finals of the 2011 Copa América, as well as taking the Under-20s to their first-ever World Cup (2009). Thus, on 10 October his adopted nation of entirely domestic league players will be duking it out with the country of his birth, now bossed by the man who led the same age category to their second-ever World Cup appearance two years ago.

However, although Rafael Dudamel has paid tribute to Farías in the build-up, there has been far more media interest in the resignation from national-team duty of striker Josef Martínez. Indeed, two weeks ago, the Atlanta United netbuster wrote an open letter in which, after casting doubt upon the motives and behaviour of others and airing personal grievances regarding mistreatment, he announced that he would no longer be available for La Vinotinto for as long as the current incumbent remains in situ. In response, Dudamel has defended himself against the charges of mishandling the relationship, suggesting instead that the player’s annoyance may really stem from not being the guaranteed regular that he is at club level, whilst stating that the door nevertheless remains open to him. In turn, any fear of a collective revolt has seemingly already subsided as at least six players including the returning senior trio of Salomón Rondón (Dalian Yifang, China), Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy) and Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain) have all commented that they disagree with Martínez’s decision.

As he has largely been relegated to cameo appearances from the bench and – for reasons of dubious legitimacy – excluded himself from some games in the past year, the 26-year-old MLS striker’s withdrawal may, to some, seem manageable in the short-term. However, as Venezuela frequently look toothless in attack, when things inevitably go awry, there will doubtlessly be no shortage of calls from the many champions of the MLS goal-machine for a change to this unhelpful state of affairs and, perhaps, to the Vinotinto status quo itself.

Nevertheless, as the boss evidently prefers just one man up top, there is no doubt that for this role he instead prefers 30-year-old China-dweller Rondón. Competition within the current crop comes from Fernando Aristeguieta (Monarcas Morelia, Mexico) as well as Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), although both men have got a lot of convincing to do, as neither could confidently call themselves the first-choice understudy. For some fans, more long-term hope is invested in the boots of 19-year-old Boca Juniors striker Jan Hurtado. However, this time he did not make the cut from the 30-man preliminary squad and has instead joined up with the U23s who are hoping to play at next year’s Olympic Games.

Otherwise, although Dudamel may be a tad unnerved by Martínez’s decision as well  as his task of keeping the collective mentality healthy, he nevertheless has a strong squad to pick from. Indeed, along with Rondón, Rincón and Rosales, he also has central defender Yordan Osorio (Zenit Saint Petersburg, Russia, on loan from Porto, Portugal) back for selection, fresh from impressing in the UEFA Champions League. Also having impressed at club level in the past month are the Barcelona-slaying duo at Granada, Yangel Herrera and Darwin Machís, as well as Brazil-based pair Rómulo Otero (Atlético Mineiro) and Yeferson Soteldo (Santos). The latter was named his club’s player of the month and, after scoring against Fluminense, imitated Martínez’s goal celebration, stoking speculation that he was set to also depart the international scene – a claim that he has recently refuted.

Although Dudamel spoke at length at his customary press conference on the eve of the first match, he did not provide many hints regarding to his line-up plans. That said, most regular Vinotinto observers would surely agree that the attacking-midfield spots behind Rondón as well as the defence in general are where most of the healthy competition for places currently resides. Regarding the latter, Dudamel himself spoke of the wealth of options at centre-back, but one wonders if over at left-back, given the omission of Luis Mago, a start could be given to the man who replaced him before the hour-mark against Colombia: Bernardo Añor. Brother of Juanpi (Málaga, Spain) and son of an ex-international, he is the squad’s only representative from the domestic league, who not only plays for Caracas FC but was also born in the capital.

For the player, it would be an unforgettable way to mark the team’s return to the city. On the other hand, for the boss, whether he wishes for sentiment to enter into his thoughts or not, he knows that the best way to quash any more rumblings of player discontent will be for a double sweep over Farías’ Bolivia and Monday’s Caribbean opponents. On paper and according to the FIFA rankings, this is what is anticipated, yet during his tenure, Dudamel has only achieved consecutive victories once: a pair of 1-0 wins against Jamaica and then Uruguay at 2016’s Copa América Centenario.

Who did he field up front for both games? Yup, Salomón Rondón.

Oh, and Josef Martínez.

Both notched a goal each.

Indeed, there was once a time when this partnership was utilised to effect. Yet three-and-a-bit years later, the chances of it ever being witnessed again currently seem about as likely as Venezuela going more than a month without some internal drama.

To keep track of how things pan out, please continue to check this website as well as @DarrenSpherical for updates.

Venezuela Squad

VinotintoOctober2019Squad

(@SeleVinotinto)

Goalkeepers

Wuilker Faríñez (Millonarios FC, Colombia) & Rafael Romo (Silkeborg IF, Denmark).

Defenders

Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Bernardo Añor (Caracas FC), Jhon Chancellor (Brescia, Italy), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Ronald Hernández (Stabaek, Norway), Yordan Osorio (Zenit Saint Petersburg, Russia, on loan from Porto, Portugal), Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain) & Mikel Villanueva (Málaga, Spain).

Midfielders

Juan Pablo “Juanpi” Añor (Málaga, Spain), Yangel Herrera (Granada, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England), Darwin Machís (Granada, Spain), Júnior Moreno (DC United, USA), Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), Rómulo Otero (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy), Jefferson Savarino (Real Salt Lake, USA), Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil) & Renzo Zambrano (Portland Timbers, USA).

Forwards

Fernando Aristeguieta (Monarcas Morelia, Mexico), Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia) & Salomón Rondón (Dalian Yifang, China).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuela – Copa América 2019 Preview

It’s here! Nothing else matters, least of all your sanity or “career”! The rest of civilisation can take a running jump because the Copa América is set to kick-off! Below, @DarrenSpherical provides an overview of Venezuela’s build-up as well as which players to look out for.

Copa América 2019

Saturday 15 June 2019 – Arena do Grêmio, Porto Alegre.

Peru vs Venezuela

Tuesday 18 June 2019 – Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador.

Brazil vs Venezuela

Saturday 22 June 2019 – Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte.

Bolivia vs Venezuela

groupacopa2019

Who Are You Kidding Getting Dressed This Morning? TV. Now.

Venezuela head into the 46th edition of South America’s flagship international tournament with a better build-up than in the past two competitions.

That is not saying a great deal and nor can it be taken as an indicator of anything.

You’re welcome and hello. After all, in 2015 the selección then managed by Noel Sanvicente arrived in Chile with nine months of largely forgettable displays and no friendlies in the weeks leading up to kick-off. This did not prevent them from beating neighbours Colombia 1-0 in a passionate-yet-disciplined performance. However, they followed that up by crashing out at the first hurdle after losses in their two other group games. Subsequently, less than ten months later, languishing bottom of the World Cup Qualifying table, Sanvicente was out of a job and in came his replacement, Rafael Dudamel.

Prior to 2016’s Copa América Centenario, the ex-international goalkeeper failed to win in any of his four tightly-scheduled pre-tournament warm-ups, yet managed to turn heads by vanquishing both Jamaica and Uruguay before emerging from the group undefeated after a draw against Mexico. Acclaim soon turned to derision for the burgundy boys, however, when Argentina hammered them 4-1 in the quarter-finals and, in the eyes of some, equilibrium was restored to the natural footballing order.

Over the following 16 months, amidst ever-worsening domestic problems, Dudamel proved unable to lift La Vinotinto from last place in the Russia 2018 qualifying standings. However, speculation that the FVF may look elsewhere died down after the coach led the Under-20s to the extraordinary feat of becoming World Cup runners-up in 2017. Bolstered by a new, exciting generation, he was then able to say with considerable justification that the senior side was planning for the future and backed this up by seeing out the remaining four qualifiers without defeat. Yet of course, no momentum could be allowed to just organically build obstacle-free. Thus, after playing a solitary friendly in November 2017, financial difficulties was the stated FVF explanation behind the national team going on international hiatus and not contesting another game until September of last year. Little was helped by this except the team’s official FIFA ranking, which counter-intuitively rose from 52nd to 31st in the barren ten-month period.

However, credit where it is due: since returning to action in September 2018 they have made use of every single FIFA-designated date (as well as one that wasn’t). In all, they have faced 11, often weighty, opponents: three each from their own confederation, CONCACAF and Asia as well as two non-recognised sides stuffed full of La Liga talent.

Results have been better than in the run-ups to 2015 and 2016, if somewhat mixed: four wins, four defeats and three draws. Most spectacular of the victories was March’s 3-1 humbling of Argentina at the Wanda Metropolitano. Yet casual observers who project from this that Venezuela are therefore serious contenders for the Copa may wish to temper their prognostications by first reviewing three of the reversals: the 2-1 against Catalonia just three days after mauling Messi’s mob, the 4-2 versus Basque Country last October and, most pertinently of all, the 3-1 education meted out by a star-lite Mexico against a full-strength Venezuela barely a week ago.

Dudamel himself has been somewhat sheepish about his team’s prospects, instead placing more emphasis on the tournament serving as good build-up for the true goal: qualification to Qatar 2022. Perhaps he has been chastened from earlier this year when, after many from the Venezuelan camp proclaimed their desire to win the Under-20 South American Championship, his 2019 crop failed to even qualify for the soon-to-be-concluded World Cup.

All that being said, most would back Venezuela to achieve the minimum expectation at Brazil 2019: qualifying from Group A. The opening game against Peru is largely justified as being billed as crucial, even if losing to Los Incas plus the hosts – who La Vinotinto have never beaten in a competitive game – yet pulverising atrocious-travellers Bolivia could theoretically still be enough to see them advance as one of the two best third-place teams.

Not that anyone wishes to be cornered into such a scenario. If the team does progress to the quarter-finals then, in a tournament with a healthy history of surprises – not least Venezuela’s record-best run to the semi-finals in 2011 – they could be forgiven for daydreaming about extending their stay.

After all, what the preceding nine months have produced is a relatively settled way of playing. Indeed, Dudamel evidently intends to utilise a 4-3-2-1 formation, with the defence being covered by a midfield trio of ball-winners and the striker supported by rapid transitions, particularly from the two attackers in tow. Furthermore, regarding the personnel, even if the three recent warm-up friendlies have caused some slight re-thinks – mostly in the defence – there are not likely to be any significant line-ups surprises for Saturday’s opener.

Of those nailed-on to be fielded, four players stand out as being fundamental to Venezuela’s campaign: Fledgling Faríñez and the Three R’s of Experience.

A teenager on the bench in the last two Copas, the 21-year-old sprightly shot-stopper Wuilker Faríñez (Millonarios FC, Colombia) has a big chance to further enhance his already glowing reputation and will doubtless be called upon to make up for the defence’s shortcomings. In front, whether on the left or his more-favoured right side, will be the rejuvenated Roberto Rosales (Espanyol, on loan from Málaga, Spain), who last October was brought back into the fold following a curious two-year absence and will be vitally important tenaciously tracking opponents and contributing to attacks. As ever, captain Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy) will also endeavour to be assiduous in his primary task of closing down attackers and reinforcing the defence, as well kickstarting and sometimes contributing to the forward play. Lastly, at the very top of the pitch will be recently-crowned all-time leading goalscorer Salomón Rondón (Newcastle United, on loan from West Bromwich Albion, England), who has also netted at all three Copas he’s been involved in and will be on the prowl to wound defenders’ egos with his muscular hold-up play, supreme leaping and wearying workrate.

Some of the individuals he is likely to combine with the most are amongst a secondary group of five within the squad. These are talented players with less-celebrated reputations who nevertheless possess the potential to assert themselves as indispensable assets during the tournament. In this batch are included three fleet-footed attacking-midfielders: Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), a near-certain starter against Peru who is likely to be paired with either Darwin Machís (Cádiz, Spain, on loan from Udinese, Italy) or Jefferson Savarino (Real Salt Lake, USA). The former appeared to have the nod up until the Mexico friendly but after being dropped from the subsequent line-up, the latter, having flourished in the 3-0 win over the USA last Sunday, has more than an outside chance. Either way, both will undoubtedly see action in Brazil.

The two other players who could rise to prominence are the pair pencilled in to aid Rincón in front of the back four: Júnior Moreno (DC United, USA) and Yangel Herrera (Huesca, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England). If only due to his greater propensity to get forward, the latter has perhaps a higher chance of garnering attention, but both will certainly be wholly absorbed in their largely unglamorous roles.

Herrera, as well as Faríñez, are the two definite starters out of the five players from 2017’s Under-20 squad who have also been convened here. However, moving onto the dubious defence, if Dudamel opts to place Rosales at left-back then, with Alexander González having been omitted, the 21-year-old apprentice Ronald Hernández (Stabaek, Norway) could make that three by taking up the right-back mantle. Alternatively, if Rosales is placed in his natural position – as he was against the USA – then Luis Mago (Palestino, Chile) would appear to be the front-runner for the left flank. That said, as Mago is far from an established fixture, he is vulnerable to being overlooked in favour of the versatile Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), who has not played in the warm-ups owing to a minor injury.

As for the centre-backs, Mikel Villanueva (Gimnàstic de Tarragona, on loan from Málaga, Spain) and Yordan Osorio (Vitória Guimarães, on loan from Porto, Portugal) seem the likeliest initial partnership, what with the former playing the final two friendlies and the latter having enjoyed an encouraging club season. However, this is not a niche bet that anyone would place with confidence as Jhon Chancellor (Al-Ahli, Qatar) was instead selected after Osorio’s poor showing against Mexico and he also started in the first warm-up against Ecuador.

So, to summarise the Venezuelan defensive quagmire succinctly: there is every chance that all seven defenders will make it onto the pitch during the tournament.

Still, despite this uncertainty as well as their tendency to get exposed, Vinotinto defences, in tandem with the midfielders, have, over the years, also occasionally shown themselves to be capable of collectively rising to be greater than the sum of their parts. This happened in the opening game of Copa América 2015, in virtually all of 2016’s group stage and also in the final four games of World Cup qualification in 2017. Admittedly, they can also ride their luck a little, although at least they now possess a highly-rated goalkeeper to save them from themselves.

Lastly, some MLS-watchers may be wondering where hotshot Josef Martínez (Atlanta United, USA) fits into the scheme of things. Well, although a partnership with Rondón is not completely out of the question as it was deployed at the 2016 Copa and may be used if Venezuela are chasing a game late on, it was never tried in any of the most recent friendlies. Instead, with Dudamel preferring a lone forward, Martínez is more likely to make regular appearances from the bench, whether as a replacement for Rondón or, quite plausibly, in one of the two attacking positions behind. However, for these spots he will not only be competing with Murillo, Machís and Savarino, but also with pint-sized Class of ’17 graduate Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil). The dribbler extraordinaire beloved of many talent-spotters has only played 26 minutes for the national team since last September but he has been called up as an eleventh-hour replacement for the injured Adalberto Peñaranda. His initial omission – allegedly due to a problem processing his visa for the warm-up tour in the USA – as well as that of Rómulo Otero was not greeted favourably by a considerable number of fans, but now, having met up with the side in the country where he plies his trade, he’s good to go.

As, mercifully, is yours truly. ¡Vamos chamos!

To keep track of how things pan out, please keep checking back to this website as well as @DarrenSpherical for updates.

Venezuela Squad for Copa América 2019

Ven2019CopaAmerica

Note: Owing to an injury, Yeferson Soteldo has replaced Adalberto Peñaranda.

(@SeleVinotinto)

Goalkeepers

Wuilker Faríñez (Millonarios FC, Colombia), Joel Graterol (Zamora FC) & Rafael Romo (APOEL FC, Cyprus).

Defenders

Jhon Chancellor (Al-Ahli, Qatar), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Ronald Hernández (Stabaek, Norway), Luis Mago (Palestino, Chile), Yordan Osorio (Vitória Guimarães, on loan from Porto, Portugal), Roberto Rosales (Espanyol, on loan from Málaga, Spain) & Mikel Villanueva (Gimnàstic de Tarragona, on loan from Málaga, Spain).

Midfielders

Juan Pablo “Juanpi” Añor (Huesca, on loan from Málaga, Spain), Arquímedes Figuera (Deportivo La Guaira), Yangel Herrera (Huesca, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England), Darwin Machís (Cádiz, Spain, on loan from Udinese, Italy), Júnior Moreno (DC United, USA), Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy), Jefferson Savarino (Real Salt Lake, USA), Luis Manuel Seijas (Santa Fe, Colombia) & Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil).

Forwards

Fernando Aristeguieta (Monarcas Morelia, Mexico), Josef Martínez (Atlanta United, USA), Salomón Rondón (Newcastle United, on loan from West Bromwich Albion, England).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical