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:
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!