Tag Archives: Giancarlo Maldonado

Referee for Uruguay-Venezuela (U20s) Reverses Late Goal Decision Following Player Pressure

23 January 2015
2015 South American Youth Championship Group B
Uruguay 0-1 Venezuela

The final group game of the first stage of the prestigious South American Youth Championship between host nation Uruguay and Venezuela ended with some shady and unsavoury scenes that combined the playground with the pub league as La Celeste were denied a legitimate goal. 

Deep into stoppage-time, the referee committed a shameless U-turn following several minutes of vociferous Venezuelan protests, revoking from Uruguay what would have been an equaliser despite having previously signalled for the goal.

What follows beneath the video of the events is a recounting of this farcical episode. 

Stoppage-time Fiasco at Uruguay vs Venezuela (U20s), 23 January 2015 (Video courtesy of YouTube user Elite Player).

Venezuela went into the game having lost their three previous games and were already out of the competition, whereas their opponents possessed a 100% record and had arguably been the best side on display in either of the two groups. However, in a game contested largely by each nations’ second-string, La Vinotinto had been leading 1-0 courtesy of a first-half Jaime Moreno strike when they appeared to concede a late equaliser four minutes into stoppage-time. Their goalkeeper, Deportivo Petare’s Keiner Escorcia – who had up until that point been earning plaudits for his performance – completely misjudged a high, hanging cross, thus allowing Agustín Ale to nod the ball in.

After conceding, Escorcia remained face down on the ground and so initial Uruguayan celebrations were put on ice as the referee, Bolivia’s Alejandro Mancilla, darted over to his assistant on the far touchline, where he soon found himself crowded by members of both teams. After some brief consultation, he signalled towards the half-way line with the universally understood gesticulation confirming the awarding of a goal. Unsurprisingly, this was met with jubilation by the Uruguayans close by, relieved as a loss in front of their compatriots appeared to have been averted.

Murillo

Referee Alejandro Mancilla confronted by Jhon Murillo and his Venezuelan team-mates (Image courtesy of Reuters).

However, literally within a second the referee was furiously confronted by Venezuela’s Jhon Murillo, a man who has been nicknamed ‘Balotelli’ by his compatriots and not only for his appearance. The talented, if temperamental, livewire – who had been one of his team’s best performers – physically blocked the official’s atttempt to run back to the centre of the pitch for the restart, nearly clashing heads in the process. The Zamora FC forward then aggressively intimidated the referee Mancilla, incensed as he wildly gestured with his arms while releasing a seemingly relentless verbal diatribe. Two other officials soon also found themselves in a claustrophobic position in between the advertising hoardings and what was now nearly all of Venezuela’s outfield players, with Murillo as the ringleader. Some of his team-mates such as Rubén Ramírez, Franko Díaz and Carlos Sosa made attempts of varying conviction to restrain him though it never took long for him to find a way through the burgundy-bedecked bodies and back into the officials’ faces. However, though he was the leading protagonist, he was not alone in his actions, so riot police eventually had to step in to quell the situation and stop it from getting any uglier than it already was.

In all, this segment of this elongated episode that took place by the far touchline lasted around three minutes, before the referee had managed to find a police-aided pathway through to the penalty area where he could inspect the origins of the Venezuelan players’ complaints. Here, Escorcia was still down with two of the backroom staff crouching over him. It had no doubt been alleged that he had been fouled by Ale before the Uruguayan’s header hit the back of the net and so the referee appeared to be checking on the goalkeeper’s condition. It did not take long for Venezuelan players to again surround him, though they appeared to have cooled down a few degrees. One, erstwhile peacemaker Ramírez, could be seen communicating with him with his hands over his mouth, though whether this is of any significance is impossible to tell at this stage.

Two further minutes elapsed, at which point Escorcia had been gradually helped to his feet and, astoundingly, handed the ball by the referee to resume the game. The tone of the crowd’s noise suddenly changed and as soon as what must have been a free-kick was taken, the game was abruptly ended. Immediately, Uruguayans took their turn to encircle the referee, understandably angry as well as confused as everyone in the stadium and at home was at what the official scoreboard soon confirmed to be a barefaced reversal by a referee who had caved in under pressure. An increasingly volatile situation threatened to erupt, so it was to his credit that Uruguayan captain Gastón Faber opted against joining the rabble and instead stepped in to ensure that his team-mates did not completely lose their heads. Whilst the Danubio midfielder no doubt had an eye on avoiding suspensions for the final stage of the competition – something the Venezuelans had no reason to worry about – he nevertheless did an admirable job of taking some sting out of a potentially poisonous atmosphere and ensuring none of his compatriots descended to Murillo-levels of intimidation.

Nevertheless, Uruguay can feel justifiably aggrieved as replays show beyond dispute that, rather than being fouled, Escorcia completely misjudged the dipping cross that Ale rose to head in. Whether or not he was seriously hurt on his way down is a separate issue, though it seems unlikely.

Thus, it remains to be seen what, if any, punishments will be meted out on the Venezuelan players and the officials, though it would be a considerable surprise if at least Jhon Murillo and the referee avoid any disciplinary action.

Ultimately, from a Venezuelan perspective, this fiasco did take some gloss off what was a much-improved performance following three straight defeats. However, coming at the end of their participation in a tournament in which they had received four red cards in as many games and frequently allowed ill-discipline to overshadow their talents, it was in many ways fitting.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuelans Abroad in Mexico – Recap of the Past Week

As this is a recap of the varying fortunes of two separate players in different leagues over the last week, rather than organising this summary chronologically, it will be easier to cover the individuals one after the other, starting with…

Juan Arango

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Copa MX

Xolos de Tijuana 1-1 Deportivo Tepic

Cesar Farías put out a virtually full-strength side against the leaders of Mexico’s second tier and yet, despite having opportunities to seal a victory, ended up drawing this game and, following last week’s 0-0 draw, losing the tie on away goals.  Juan Arango himself scored the home side’s goal after 69 minutes, bravely getting on to a low bouncing ball from the right and evading the sliding lunge of a defender to elegantly place it into the net with his cultured left boot. Arango was substituted within three minutes, yet Xolos soon had a golden chance to double their lead from the penalty spot but the effort of Argentine Alfredo Moreno was hit too close to the goalkeeper who made what was an easy parry – Moreno is now without a goal in eight appearances since returning to Xolos. His side were punished soon after when in the 76th minute Jorge Mora got the equaliser, knocking in a rebound from a Cirilo Saucedo save, whose right leg had denied a low shot from Michael Pérez. Xolos hit the post from a header towards the end, but Tepic held on for the draw and the extra point that is gained in the cup group stage from victories in ‘ties’.

For those who need a refresher on the Copa MX group stage rules: each of the seven groups has four teams who play each other twice just as they would in, say, the UEFA Champions League but a key difference is that after the home and away matches against each side are played, the aggregate score of these games is taken into consideration and an additional point is allocated to the winners. Thus, Xolos de Tijuana find themselves second in Group 3 with 6 points from 4 games despite a solitary win and a couple of draws as the additional point came from the aggregate victory over Zacatepec in the first set of matches. Xolos now go into their final two games against leaders CD Guadalajara (10 points) really needing to win both games to be absolutely sure of progressing to the knock-out phase as there is only one ‘Best Runners-up’ slot available and they currently have two points fewer than the side most likely to take that particular berth. Given that the winner of the competition outright enters the Copa Libertadores, this state of affairs really highlights how critical Moreno’s penalty miss could prove to be as had he converted it and Xolos hung on for victory, then they would be just a point behind the Chivas of CD Guadalajara.  

As a brief addendum, this was the second cup game that Xolos placed youthful 20 year-old goalkeeper Dilan Nicoletti on the bench, which would be of little significance were it not for the fact that he has been handed the Number 112 squad number. Needless to say, his side do not have over 99 players and it would be remarkable in most countries that anyone, let alone a youngster who has never played a first-team game in his life, could be granted a shirt with three digits on it. However, while there is a lack of clarity regarding the rules regarding three digits, it appears that Mexico has some form in this area and are arguably pioneers, with CD Guadalajara playing a prominent role. Indeed, back in their centenary year of 2006, they were allowed to give striker Adolfo Bautista – erstwhile Mexican international and now of Deportivo Tepic – the number 100 shirt, which he then personalised with his name printed as ‘Bofo My Angel’, a nickname and term of endearment used by his then-recently deceased mother. Also, in the 2012-13 season, Guadalajara were also allowed to provide two youngsters who have since left, Víctor Perales and Luis Ángel Morales, with the numbers 143 and 163 respectively. These are not the only instances of three digits but the phenomenon is far from common so if anyone has any extra information feel free to get in contact through the usual channels. If you have an abundance of time on your hands, why not add any predictions regarding how long you feel it will be before agents demand that their clients be allowed to have birthdays, marriage dates and/or their representatives’ phone numbers printed on the backs of their shirts?

Image Source: Diario Futbol

Friday 29 August 2014

Liga MX

Xolos de Tijuana 1-1 Leones Negros 

After 22 minutes, Arango scored an absolute scorcher from the very top-drawer as he lashed in one of his trademark thunderbastards from nearly 40 yards out that roared in off the underside of the crossbar. Yet, once again, his side were unable to build on a lead and drew for the fourth time in seven games as former Xolos striker, the Ecuadorian international Fidel Martínez, scored in his third consecutive game with a left-footed strike into the top corner after 77 minutes.

This result against lowly opposition leaves Xolos 13th with 7 points – 3 off the Liguilla (‘little league’/play-off) positions and 5 points above bottom. This state of affairs has been deemed by the board to be as intolerable as the fans have found it for weeks and thus, consequently, announced the sacking of manager Cesar Farías earlier this week. As Farías was in charge of Venezuela from 2008-13, he is believed by some (though not all) to have been integral in securing the services of Arango and so without him, questions marks have inevitably been raised about the player’s future. Former Mexican international striker Daniel Guzmán has already been installed to take the reins; he possesses over a decade’s worth of managerial experience in Mexico at ten different teams, which may give you an indication of how long he is likely to last in this position. The last time he managed was over a year ago with Atlante, a side currently in the second tier and where attention will now be turned.

 Giancarlo Maldonado

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Copa MX

Atlante 0-3 Toluca

Edgar Benítez, a man who will be familiar to many Venezuelans from last October’s final World Cup Qualifying match in which he scored the opening goal for his native Paraguay in a 1-1 draw, scored a hat-trick for the Liga MX side as they secured a comfortable victory. Atlante’s priority is very much promotion hence why the prolific Giancarlo Maldonado, an ever-present in the league, did not play and has only made one appearance in a competition that his side now has no chance of progressing further in.

Friday 29 August 2014

Ascenso MX

Atlante 1-1 Atlético San Luis

Maldonado returned to the line-up against fellow promotion-chasers San Luis as Atlante went down to an early goal from Orlando Pineda, who took advantage of a very weak defensive clearance on the edge of the box to strike home into the far corner. Maldonado had a prominent role in his side’s second-half comeback and things could have been different had he managed to convert a penalty just before the hour mark but instead he hit a rather weak effort low down the middle that the goalkeeper Fabián Villaseñor saved with his trailing feet. However, around ten minutes later he did score a goal that, were it not for Arango, in almost any other week would be celebrated as the finest goal from a Venezuelan. Indeed, after 68 minutes, he expertly curled a 25-yard free-kick over the wall into the left-hand corner, leaving Villaseñor rooted to his spot in the middle. This goal marked Maldonado’s sixth in his opening seven league games for Atlante, making him the leading scorer in the league, with Celaya’s experienced Argentine, Patricio Gómez, and Alebrijes de Oaxaca’s more sprightly Colombian, Danny Santoya, both trailing him with five. With Salomón Rondón being really the only other Venezuelan striker who is playing abroad and scoring regularly, would it be such a surprise to see Maldonado recalled to the national side? 

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!

Venezuelans Abroad – 5/8/14 Weekend Round-up

One day there will be proper headlines as well as embedded images and videos in these updates but for now, given the time-constraints, minor health problems and other excuses nobody wishes to hear about, readers will have to settle for these rudimentary dispatches. Bear with this for the time being and rewards will be reaped in the long-term as we will all blossom with knowledge and experience together. Thus, rampaging forward we shall go with the last few days’ worth of news and highlights relating to the the prominent Venezuelan players who make their livings away from their homeland:

Asia

In the last update, the exploits of Buriram United’s Andres Túñez in Thailand were bumped up the running order and owing to the increased recognition of his achievements over the weekend, he is afforded the privilege of kicking off this week’s column. Indeed, Marca, the internationally renowned Madrid-based football newspaper, ran a feature on the former Celta Vigo man that detailed how since leaving Galicia in the summer, his reputation has attained almost stratospheric levels – at least within Thailand. The article keenly reports his accomplishments on the field, as since his arrival less than two months ago, Buriram have gone undefeated and are now two points clear at the top of the table, not to mention in the League Cup final (thanks in no small part to two semi-final goals from El Gladiador). Local fans have really taken to him, bestowing upon him an iconic status that has been aided by the face-mask that he has worn since he broke his nose in his first match in the country. Remarkably, 5,233 replicas of this mask have been purchased by supporters to show their appreciation. Regarding his on-field contribution at the weekend, Túñez played the full 90 minutes and, needless to say, Buriram United ran out comfortable winners as they defeated Suphanburi 4-0. He can be in little doubt that Sanvicente is keeping note of such performances.

Europe

The latest league of relevance to be inaugurated in the Old Continent was the Russian Premier League, where Zenit St. Petersburg were one of four teams to dish out thrashings by a four-goal margin. AVB’s men delivered their particular pummelling away to Arsenal Tula, with Venezuela’s finest finisher Salomón Rondón returning to the line-up and scoring the second goal after 18 minutes. He confidently lashed home a low cross from Hulk, who deserves praise for his driving charge up the inside-right and then running onto Danny’s one-two that allowed him the space to provide the service for Rondón – not to mention for this venomous firecracker that put his side 3-0 up. Rondón was later taken off for Alexander Kerzhakov, the man who started ahead of him in the first leg of the Champions League Qualifier against AEL Limassol – but who will get the nod for this week’s crucial return leg?

Elsewhere in competitive action, Alexander González was the only one of the Switzerland-based contingent to make it onto the field over the weekend as his side, FC Thun, lost to a late goal in a 3-2 home defeat to Paulo Sousa’s Basle. González started the game but was withdrawn with just over an hour played as Thun were chasing the game with the score at 2-1. Whilst he was on the pitch, he played in an advanced position on the left of midfield and almost netted for the first time this season as a giddy rampage into the area culminated in a left-footed strike that hit the underside of the bar and bounced just the wrong side of the goal-line.

Moving on to the summary of friendlies, there can be no more triumphant place to start than with Málaga, home of summer signing Roberto Rosales and youth product Juan Pablo Añor. However their respective seasons pan out, nobody can take away from them the silverware they deservedly earned in the two-day Schalke 04 Cup tournament that occurred this weekend. Indeed, irrespective of the timing and perceived nature of these matches, there can be no doubt that Málaga were comfortably the best team of the four, as they made light work of both Newcastle United (3-1) and then West Ham United (2-0). Añor came on as a second-half substitute in both games and while he may have largely been subdued in what amounted to a water-carrying role as he played many short and safe midfield passes, he did this with a certain grace, poise and confidence that spoke of a man who did not look daunted by the step up in quality. Nevertheless, this competition certainly exhibited Málaga’s strength in depth, so however many minutes on the pitch he manages to enjoy with the first-team this year, he can certainly be proud of every single one of them. Regarding Rosales, he missed the first game but played the entirety of the West Ham match from the right-back position. It has to be said that his day will give he and his manager cause for reflection as while he may have helped to keep a clean sheet and played a part in the second goal with an attacking run, he faced problems from winger Matt Jarvis throughout the match. Indeed, on the British television coverage, commentator John Roder remarked on several occasions that Jarvis ‘has the beating of Rosales all day long’, as the former Gillingham man repeatedly outpaced him on the outside to put in crosses and force his way into the box. With a better target man – say, a fit Andy Carroll – the outcome may have been somewhat different. However, while this may be reading too much into one performance, Rosales can nevertheless take heart from the incontrovertible fact that were he to prove more convincing in his offensive play than his defensive, this alone would certainly be no barrier to success in La Liga (see Marcelo and Dani Alves).

Moving on to a rapid recap of the remaining friendlies: Oswaldo Vizcarrondo played the majority of Nantes’ 0-0 draw with Atalanta (penalties were played – the Italians won), though Fernando Aristeguieta missed out again through injury and it is unknown whether he will be fit for the start of the season this weekend. Tomás Rincón put on the Genoa shirt for the first time, coming off the bench with 18 minutes remaining in a 1-0 defeat against Bastia – former Tottenham man Iago Falque also made his non-competitive debut. For the second game in a row, Juan Falcón came on as a half-time substitute for FC Metz, this time proving pivotal to the outcome as he set up an 89th-minute winner against Evian. Franco Signorelli, another man hoping to make an impact in his debut season in the top-flight of a major European league, featured in the first-half of Empoli’s 0-0 draw with Ponsacco, last year’s Serie D champions. Both Jeffrén Suárez and Dani Hernández played in the first half of Real Valladolid’s 1-0 defeat to Real Oviedo, which will be particularly beneficial to the latter, whose future at the club has appeared uncertain at times over the summer. Darwin Machís and Josmar Zambrano played on opposing sides in Granada’s 2-0 away victory over Recreativo de Huelva, with Machís scoring the second goal just before the break and helping to boost his case for a regular place in the match-day squad. Zambrano may or may not take heart from the fact that he emerged onto the field in the second half, after which no further goals were conceded. Fernando Amorebieta played the opening hour of Fulham’s late 1-0 victory over Çaykur Rizespor of the Turkish top-flight, which appears to have quietened – for the time being, at least – the rumours of an alleged imminent departure.

On a related note, this section ends with some transfer news. Rafael Romo, who only recently turned up somewhat unannounced in a friendly outing for Spanish side CD Leganés, has today finalised a deal to take him back to Venezuela to be reunited at Mineros de Guayana with former national manager Richard Páez. This move has been rumoured for a while and is believed to be a loan from Udinese.

South America

Emilio Rentería has hit the headlines again, putting in another stellar performance as he scored the first from a rebound and assisted the second with a cross in San Marcos’s 2-1 victory over Unión Española. He has since been speaking to the press stating, amongst other things, that he would relish the opportunity to return to the national side and prove himself, particularly to Noel Sanvicente, who managed him at Caracas FC. The other two players in this region who took to the field over the weekend were the Colombia-based pair of Alejandro Guerra and Luis Manuel Seijas. Guerra played the remaining 25 minutes of Atlético Nacional’s 1-1 away draw with Alianza Petrolera, whereas Seijas played on the left of midfield for Santa Fe in the entirety of their 0-0 away draw with Patriotas FC. Despite this point earned, he may feel that his side should have picked up all three points as just after the hour mark his Argentine team-mate Omar Pérez hit a poor penalty that was easily saved down the middle.

North America

News from this continent is shorter than usual this week as Juan Arango played on Friday in a game that has been covered in the preceding update and Bernardo Añor did not feature at all in Columbus Crew’s 1-1 draw with Chicago Fire. Giancarlo Maldonado did, however, play the entirety of Atlante’s game at the weekend, though could not prevent them from being defeated 4-2 by Alebrijes. If you feel starved of Vinotinto action in this particular region then the best that can be offered to you is a resigned shrug along with the fleeting footage of Maldonado urgently bundling over the opposition goalkeeper when attempting to retrieve the ball after Atlante pull a goal back to make it 2-1.

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!