Tuesday 17 November 2022 — Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas
Venezuela 2-1 Chile
Now We’re Underway
Venezuela and their new boss José Peseiro gave themselves a huge boost as La Vinotinto picked up their first points in the qualifying stage for Qatar 2022.
Coming into the game with three consecutive defeats, as well as captain Tomás Rincón suspended and two defenders injured, the Portuguese coach must have felt some apprehension about his side’s prospects.
However, perhaps he could perceive something his detractors couldn’t. He was, after all, able to field the returning man-of-the-moment Yangel Herrera and managed to motivate his charges to go out with a more positive approach than they displayed in the 1-0 loss against Brazil.
Venezuela certainly had the better of the opening exchanges and surprised even many of their own fans when, in the ninth minute, they scored their first qualifying goal. This came after Darwin Machís crossed in a free-kick from the right that Herrera headed into the six-yard box for Chile-based Luis Mago — a beneficiary of the defensive injuries sustained in São Paulo — to nod home.
Their elation was short-lived, however, as Inter Milan’s Arturo Vidal equalised six minutes later. The visitors found space on Mago’s left-hand side, with Mauricio Isla’s dangerous low cross into the box only being diverted into the path of the veteran midfielder, who made it 1-1.
Despite this, Venezuela didn’t lose any drive or belief, and should’ve regained the lead five minutes later when a perfectly weighted pass by Jefferson Savarino — currently the top provider in Brazil — reached Machís. But, one-on-one with Claudio Bravo, the Granada attacker had his weak attempt easily blocked.
Even more gilt-edged was the chance skied by Salomón Rondón some twenty minutes later. Here, Herrera exquisitely headed on Machís’s ball into the area for the ex-Newcastle man; however, the Vinotinto‘s all-time top-scorer shaped to adjust his striking stance a little too much and ended up embarrassingly fluffing his lines.
The hosts had the better of the first half, but that could not really be said of much of the second period where genuine chances were in short supply for both nations.
So when the winner came in the 81st minute, it was a little unexpected. Substitute Yeferson Soteldo, who, until less than an hour before the team sheet was announced had been predicted to start, helped set it up. From the right, the Santos dribbler put in a cross that took a slight deflection, bypassing the out-of-sorts Bravo to reach Rondón, who beat his marker to knock home.
Subsequently, after seeing off some Roja scares, Venezuela, who felt comfortable enough to grant a late debut to 18-year-old Óscar Conde, held on until the final whistle to claim an impressive victory.
For the players and fans, these three points are an undeniable morale boost; for the manager, they provide some breathing space and — so long as no FVF shenanigans are afoot — something to build on.
Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Faríñez; A. González, Y. Osorio, W. Ángel, L. Mago (Ó. Conde (90+1′); Y. Herrera, J. Moreno, C. Cásseres Jr (R. Otero, 78′); J. Savarino (Y. Soteldo, 70′), D. Machís (J. Chancellor (90+1′); S. Rondón.
Chile (4-2-3-1): C. Bravo; M. Isla, P. Díaz, G. Maripán, J. Beausejour; E. Pulgar (A. Vilches, 89′); A. Vidal; C. Pinares (C. Baeza, 46′), A. Sánchez, J. Meneses; F. Mora (C. Palacios, 76′).
Friday 13 November 2020 — Estádio do Morumbi, São Paulo
Brazil vs Venezuela
Tuesday 17 November 2020 — Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas
Venezuela vs Chile
Soteldo Starts As Venezuela Seek Points
With two big tests on the horizon, Venezuela manager José Peseiro knows he’s got a job on his hands if he is to improve upon his team’s pointless start to World Cup qualifying.
The Portuguese gaffer got to work straight after last month’s dismal defeats against Colombia and Paraguay, forgoing a return to his European base to instead remain in the nation he now leads.
There, the domestic league kicked off on 14 October, so Peseiro has been able to meet with many club bosses as well as run the rule over the home-based talent.
This has resulted in a surprising six local call-ups initially featuring in the final squad, with each player belonging to a different team, as the courteous coach said he did not wish to cause too much disruption given that league action will continue throughout the international break.
However, this figure has since lowered to four as goalkeeper José Contreras and midfielder Christian Larotonda have unfortunately been struck down by the c-word. Even so, it’s still an eye-catching number, especially considering last month’s squad was entirely composed of overseas-based players.
Admittedly, the likelihood of any of this youthful quartet making it onto either pitch in the upcoming week are not generous, but if there is one individual to keep in mind then it is 19-year-old Caracas FC midfielder Anderson Contreras. He has played consistently for the 2019 champions over the past 18 months and projected himself into a higher stratosphere in September when he scored a sensational 30-yard free-kick in the Copa Libertadores against Colombia’s Independiente Medellín.
Moving on to the opening clash in São Paulo, these are the eleven players who are reportedly very likely to start (most likely in a 4-3-2-1 formation):
W. Faríñez; R. Rosales, Y. Osorio, W. Ángel, R. Feltscher; T. Rincón, J. Moreno, C. Cásseres Jr; D. Machís, Y. Soteldo; S. Rondón.
For many national team followers, the inclusion of Yeferson Soteldo leaps out as, to the dismay of many, the 23-year-old dribbler only featured last month as a late substitute against Paraguay. Since then, he’s certainly been in the headlines.
Indeed, to the horror of Santos and Vinotinto fans alike, his team actually agreed to sell him to Saudi Arabian outfit Al Hilal. This headturning deal was purportedly owing to the Brazilians’ financial difficulties, but the player was less enamoured by the prospect. It seemed like he might be forced out against his will but thankfully Huachipato, his erstwhile Chilean club who are owed money by Santos, stepped in and an agreement was reached to keep el enano put.
In the country where he plies his trade, he’s predicted to pair up behind the striker alongside Darwin Machís, arguably the most in-form attacker in the squad. This tandem will be an intriguing experiment, as some have voiced concerns that the pair may be incompatible because both are inclined to operate on the left flank.
Also standing out from that line-up are three players who were unable to join up last time around.
First, of course, there’s Salomón Rondón, whose Chinese side, Dalian Pro, refused to let him travel in October. Having narrowly avoided relegation, their season is now over, leaving Venezuela’s record top scorer free and at a loose end for the past few weeks.
He’ll certainly boost his country’s front line as Sergio Córdova — who was initially called up but was then prevented from travelling by his German team — can’t be said to have made the most of his two outings as lead man last month.
Barring an injury to Rondón, it’s unlikely any of the other forwards in the squad will see much action. That said, many supporters will be pleased that Jan Carlos Hurtado made the final cut; the promising 2017 U20 World Cup finalist recently bagged his first two goals for Brazilian side RB Bragantino.
Second, there’s Júnior Moreno, who has been permitted to travel after his club, DC United, failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs. He’ll return to his customary position in front of the back four alongside captain Tomás Rincón; this pair will be joined by the fresh-faced Cristian Cásseres Jr — one of few players to come away from the previous qualifiers with any credit.
Absent from this line of three is Yangel Herrera, who, together with Machís, has continued to reach new heights with Granada in La Liga and the Europa League. He is suspended for the Brazil game, but will be available against Chile.
The other welcome return is that of the nation’s most high-profile defender, Yordan Osorio, who recently made his Parma debut. The 26-year-old centre-back shone in last year’s 0-0 draw with the Seleção at Copa América and if Venezuela are to come away with anything on Friday, similar defensive heroics will be essential.
Anyone who witnessed last month’s qualifiers, particularly the 3-0 first-half pummelling meted out by Colombia, knows that won’t be easy. One of many things that is of concern in and around the Venezuelan goal is that rusty, underperforming goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez is still yet to make his Ligue 1 debut for Lens.
All this being said, despite the absence of Herrera, this feels like a slightly stronger Vinotinto side that is set to face Brazil. Perhaps some further optimism can be derived from the hosts being without the likes of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Casemiro; although, of course, they certainly have other talents in reserve.
Ultimately, given the calibre of the opposition, Peseiro knows there is a very real possibility that he could enter into the new year having lost his first four games in charge. It would be an understatement to say that a historic first-ever competitive victory against Brazil would certainly be one way to win over the legions of sceptics.
Perhaps more plausibly, at the very least his team just need to demonstrate more cohesion and purpose, particularly in Caracas against Chile; getting a measly point on the board wouldn’t hurt either, if only to allay fears that the campaign isn’t over before it has even begun.
Note: José Contreras, Christian Larotonda and Sergio Córdova have been removed owing to their withdrawals. Alain Baroja (not pictured) has been called up.
Wuilker Faríñez (Lens, France, on loan from Millonarios, Colombia), Alain Baroja (Delfín, Ecuador) & Joel Graterol (América de Cali, Colombia).
Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain), Alexander González (Dinamo București, Romania), Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Jhon Chancellor (Brescia, Italy), Luis Mago (Universidad de Chile, Chile), Yordan Osorio (Parma, Italy), Jean Fuentes (Deportivo La Guaira, Venezuela)& Óscar Conde (Academia Puerto Cabello, Venezuela).
Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy), Rómulo Otero (Corinthians, Brazil, on loan from Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), Darwin Machís (Granada, Spain), Juan Pablo Añor (Al-Ain, Saudi Arabia), Yangel Herrera (Granada, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England), Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil), Jefferson Savarino (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Bernaldo Manzano (Atlético Bucaramanga, Colombia, on loan from Deportivo Lara, Venezuela), Cristian Cásseres Jr (New York Red Bulls, USA), Júnior Moreno (DC United, USA), Anderson Contreras (Caracas FC, Venezuela) & Cristhian Rivas (Estudiantes de Mérida, Venezuela).
Fernando Aristeguieta (Mazatlán, Mexico), Jan Carlos Hurtado (RB Bragantino, Brazil, on loan from Boca Juniors, Argentina) & Salomón Rondón (Dalian Pro, China).
Although the hosts were largely subdued in the first 45 minutes, they did nevertheless have the most eye-catching attempt at goal: a spectacular 33rd-minute free-kick from Rómulo Otero that rattled the bar — the dip was such that the goalkeeper Antony Silva was rooted to the spot, praying that it would go over.
Two minutes into the second half, Eduardo Berizzo’s men were again making their attacking presence felt, as Wuilker Faríñez was forced to pull off a double save from first Andrés Cubas and then Ángel Romero.
The Venezuelan side, which had three changes from the one that was easily defeated by Colombia, continued to be largely toothless from open play — that is, until the 65th minute. Here, from a corner, Darwin Machís passed to Cristian Cásseres Jr, who nudged the ball to Otero; on the right byline, the Corinthians attacker then crossed over to the back post where Yangel Herrera headed home.
Virtually all the Venezuelan squad, including substitutes on the touchline, celebrated. Unfortunately for them, however, it was ruled out by VAR as replays showed that the Granada midfielder nodded the ball onto his arm before it hit the back of the net. It was undoubtedly an accident, but such nuances no longer hold any truck.
Possibly fired up by a sense of injustice, the home side did subsequently create more chances. First in the 78th minute when fresh substitute Yeferson Soteldo dinked in a cross that a defender only narrowed diverted away from Herrera’s head. From the resulting corner, the ball found its way to Machís, who swung in a ball that was heaven-sent for Sergio Córdova to make an international statement in the absence of Salomón Rondón. However, his header, although well-powered, was too close to Silva, who parried over.
This time around the hosts’ long-term aspirations took a bruising courtesy of Chicago Fire’s Giménez. His goal came after a measured touch from the right-sided Romero put the ball into the path of Alberto Espínola; then, from the right, the Cerro Porteño man burst into the area on the right to pull back for the MLS midfielder, who swept the ball past Faríñez.
Peseiro was left kicking the air in frustration and promptly made a couple of additional changes, as both sides ended up using all five. His team refused to give up the ghost and won a penalty in stoppage time; this arrived after Ronald Hernández’s hoisted ball was headed on by fellow substitute Fernando Aristeguieta towards Rolf Feltscher, who was nudged over from behind by captain Gustavo Gómez.
With Rondón in China, Herrera instead stepped up five minutes over the regulation 90, but his strike was far too close to Silva, who easily parried away. For the Granada man, this capped off a night that will make him shudder for some time yet, as not only did he also have a goal disallowed but the yellow card he picked up early on — his second in as many games — means he will be ruled out of the next qualifier. Conversely, Silva — the only visiting player to have also featured in that 2015 win — could leave the Mérida pitch feeling very much the hero.
Overall, although Venezuela’s performance certainly wasn’t as woeful as it had been in Barranquilla and the result could’ve been quite different, the bottom line is the scoreline. Perhaps aside from a couple of brief spells in the second half, they did not play like a home side who believed themselves to be viable contenders for a qualification spot.
Things aren’t likely to get any easier for Peseiro: next month’s qualifiers are against Brazil and Chile. No doubt for these he’ll have to deal with another round of Covid-related squabbles and scrambles. It’s a little premature to be too harsh with assessments of the Portuguese coach, but right now it doesn’t feel as if opinions are likely to become much more generous before at least next March, when the fifth and sixth qualifiers are scheduled to be played.
Venezuela (4-2-1-2-1): W. Faríñez; R. Feltscher, W. Ángel, J. Chancellor, R. Rosales (R. Hernández, 77′); Y. Herrera, T. Rincón; C. Cásseres Jr (E. Ramírez, 89′); D. Machís (J. Murillo, 84′), R. Otero (Y. Soteldo, 77′); S. Córdova (F. Aristeguieta, 88′).
Note: Venezuela were predicted to set up in a 4-3-3. Maybe at times during the match their players were in that formation, but their shape mostly resembled a 4-2-1-2-1 and, perhaps at other times, a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-5-1.
Paraguay (4-3-3):A. Silva; A. Espínola, G. Gómez, J. Alonso, B. Riveros (O. Alderete, 90+3′); A. Cubas (Á. Cardozo Lucena, 77′), G. Giménez, M. Villasanti; A. Romero (F. Balbuena, 87′), D. Lezcano (A. Sanabria, 76′), M. Almirón (R. Rojas, 90+2′).
It wasn’t much of a reprieve, though, as with 16 minutes on the clock the 11 men of Venezuela fell behind to a Duván Zapata tap-in. Carlos Queiroz’s charges took advantage of the visitors’ laissez-faire marking, with a well-worked move down the full length of the right channel resulting in a low Juan Cuadrado cross that was finished off by the sliding Atalanta forward.
Ten minutes later, the lead was doubled, and this time both Venezuelan full-backs were made to look silly. First, another Atalanta player, left-back Johan Mojica, dribbled into the area, leaving right-back Ronald Hernández flailing on the ground, before passing it to Luis Muriel; Vinotinto left-back Roberto Rosales was again all over the place as Mojica and Zapata’s Atalanta teammate Muriel was able to calmly place it in the back of the net.
On at least a few occasions in the game, Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez looked shaky and lacking in focus. Perhaps this was owing to a lack of first-team game time at his new French club, but it’s not the first time he has raised question marks and so post-match calls for Joel Graterol to instead be given a chance will only increase.
In the 35th minute, the Lens acquisition noticeably spilled a shot from Bournemouth’s Jefferson Lerma and was luckily saved by the post. Then, in stoppage time, he probably should have done better for Colombia’s third goal. Here, his counterpart at the other end, Camilo Vargas, threw the ball out to Muriel who, once again, was given the freedom of Junior’s spacious stadium. This time he ran from inside his own half up the left and into the area, where a bit of footwork easily shifted him away from Jhon Chancellor and allowed a strike at the near post. Faríñez made contact with the ball, but could only divert it into the roof of his net for 3-0.
Subsequently, the second half was a bit of a write-off, with a combined total of nine substitutions being made, one of which saw New York Bulls’ Cristian Casseres Jr., son of another international, gain his first cap.
To their credit, the Venezuelans did at least continue to try to get forward, but their attempts throughout the game were mostly from long range and the best one actually occurred in the first half: a fine 36th-minute arrow released by Rosales outside of the area that actually hit the side of the post. Even so, it was the hosts’ substitute Falcao who came the closest in the second period, striking a low effort on the turn that Faríñez was able to block.
Given the soporific offerings of the second half, fans of both nations probably couldn’t wait for the final whistle. When it was blown, Peseiro would have already had plenty of time to contemplate possible future changes, and in the aftermath he conceded that his 4-2-3-1 formation had been a mistake.
One wonders what he’ll have in mind for the upcoming clash in Mérida with Paraguay. It may only be the second game, but a considerable number of home victories will be essential for Venezuela if they are to have any chance of reaching Qatar in two years’ time. Some fans will be able to recall that this very same fixture was actually the first one in the last campaign five years ago; it ended in embarrassment owing to a late defensive mix-up, leaving many deflated upon the first puncture.
Although qualification certainly won’t be secured or squandered at this early stage, to at least quiet down some early discontent, Peseiro really needs to inject a clearer purpose into his team on Tuesday and, hopefully, gain a result.
Colombia (4-1-2-2-1): C. Vargas; S. Arias (S. Medina, 13′), Y. Mina, D. Sánchez, J. Mojica; W. Barrios; J. Cuadrado (A. Morelos, 59′), J. Lerma; J. Rodríguez (S. Alzate, 74′), L. Muriel (F. Fabra, 59′); D. Zapata (R. Falcao, 74′).
Venezuela (4-2-3-1): W. Faríñez; R. Hernández, W. Ángel, J. Chancellor, R. Rosales (R. Feltscher, 79′); T. Rincón, Y. Herrera; J. Murillo (Juanpi, 82′), J. Savarino (R. Otero, 67′), D. Machís (C. Cásseres Jr., 78′); S. Córdova (A. Ponce, 67′).
We all know things are far from what they could be and how we’ve landed in this situation. No doubt you’ve all got far more important things to worry about and it’s certainly understandable if you’ve lost interest. Nevertheless, some ambitious folk have been summoned to dream on a global scale — let’s hope we can all be able to do the same sooner rather than later.
Conmebol Qualifiers for FIFA World Cup 2022
Friday 9 October 2020 — Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez, Barranquilla.
Colombia vs Venezuela
Tuesday 13 October 2020 — Estadio Metropolitano de Mérida, Mérida.
Venezuela vs Paraguay
“This game is not between Peseiro and Queiroz; it is between Venezuela and Colombia” — tell that to this blogger, José.
In common with all other Conmebol nations, Venezuela belatedly begin their Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign after nearly 11 months of inaction.
Such a lengthy gap between matches is certainly not without precedent for La Vinotinto; after all, it was only two years ago that they returned from a 10-month hiatus to face the same country that they will first encounter this time around: neighbours Colombia. They’re also definitely not strangers to shambolic preparations, which, given all the hurdles the c-word has thrown at them in the run-up, is just as well.
Still, pity the new manager.
New manager? Ah yes, a bit of background may be in order: Rafael Dudamel, the man who led the under-20 side to second place at the 2017 World Cup, finally had enough. No more federation politics and restrictions to navigate for him, as he was instead lured away at the turn of the year by Brazilian giants Atlético Mineiro. There, he lasted less than two months, getting the boot after prematurely exiting the Copa Sudamericana and the Copa do Brasil. He was then promptly replaced at Mineirão by former Argentina, Chile and Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli, which brings us back to Dudamel’s successor at international level.
Well, it’s not Sampaoli, is it? No, but in early February many fans thought it was going to be as talks were reported to have reached a very advanced stage. In a swift and hazy turn of events, however, José Peseiro was instead announced as the new man at the Venezuela helm. Despite the Portuguese 60-year-old having previously managed the likes of Sporting Clube de Portugal and Porto, it would be fair to say his reception was underwhelming, with many confessing to have never heard of him. Perhaps they could be forgiven, as not only has he struggled to pick up much silverware but also in recent years he has rarely stayed anywhere long enough to be remembered: his last six appointments have each lasted a mere matter of months. This does not bode well for the long-term project he has landed himself, even if the pandemic has already allowed him to boost his longevity credentials.
Despite these reservations, maybe he’ll be able to command a greater level of authority within the dressing room, owing in part to having trained players of the highest calibre. Indeed, in a curious — he may prefer the word “irrelevant” — subplot, not only has he led top teams within his homeland, but during the 2003/04 season he was also the assistant manager at Galácticos-era Real Madrid. Who was he second in command to? Oh, only his compatriot and current Colombia coach, Carlos Queiroz.
Although many of the Venezuelan players may have also scratched their heads upon his appointment, he’s certainly had plenty of time to familiarise himself with them: pre-lockdown he got Josef Martínez back on board, embarked on a tour to meet various talents and then named a 40-man preliminary squad in March for the qualifiers that we’re now catching up with. Since then, he’s been in touch with many of the chaps and has no doubt watched countless videos. Despite this, he hasn’t had much time with them on the training ground, so he’s not expected to implement any radically new tactical schemes just yet.
Of the 29 players he has in his squad, all of them play their club football outside of their homeland — this is probably for the best, not least because the domestic league has yet to restart (scheduled return date: 14 October). Even so, although it is a strong crop, Peseiro will have to contend without several key individuals: talismanic striker Salomón Rondón and midfielder Júnior Moreno have both been prevented from joining up by their clubs and the country’s most high-profile defender, Parma new-boy Yordan Osorio, is also missing.
Facilitated by this latter absence, a starting position at centre-back had been on the cards for Mikel Villanueva (who has been enjoying a new lease of life in the Portuguese top flight), but injury the day before the opener has ruled him out. It’s too early to say whether he’ll recover in time to face Paraguay. Yeferson Soteldo and Fernando Aristeguieta are also currently in Colombia and had reportedly been part of Peseiro’s plan A, but their respective difficulties entering the country mean they are unlikely to be kicking off in Barranquilla.
With Aristeguieta probably exhausted, Rondón virtually incarcerated in a Chinese hotel and Josef Martínez nursing a long-term injury, it is set to be a big moment for Germany-based Sergio Córdova, who has been used as the sole striker in training.
Since this time last year, over half of the players in this squad have moved clubs. Goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez is one, having joined newly promoted Ligue 1 side Lens. However, as he has yet to play, there have been some calls to instead give the No. 1 shirt to his fellow U20 World Cup teammate Joel Graterol, who has been chalking up league and Libertadores appearances at Colombian side América de Cali. That said, for now at least, it’s still Faríñez who will be between the sticks.
Another player who has embarked on a new club life in 2020 is Jefferson Savarino, having been snapped up by Atlético Mineiro during Dudamel’s brief tenure; the attacking midfielder’s since put in some good performances and has won the state championships.
He is predicted to start behind Córdova in the line of three alongside Jhon Murillo and Darwin Machís. Regarding the latter, he and his Granada teammate Yangel Herrera (who is set to be in a holding midfield duo with captain Tomás Rincón) are arguably their nation’s top-performing players at the moment, having finished seventh in La Liga last season and recently qualified for the group stage of the Europa League.
Elsewhere, there are also some fresh faces in the squad, such as three of the four-man MLS contingent who will be hoping for their first caps, but the likely line-up is, once all caveats have been taken into account, very familiar. According to a reliable source, Peseiro will set up his men in a 4-2-3-1:
W. Faríñez; R. Hernández, W. Ángel, J. Chancellor, R. Rosales; T. Rincón, Y. Herrera; J. Murillo, J. Savarino, D. Machís; S. Córdova.
Wuilker Faríñez (Lens, France, on loan from Millonarios, Colombia), Alain Baroja (Delfín, Ecuador) & Joel Graterol (América de Cali, Colombia).
Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain), Alexander González (Dinamo București, Romania), Mikel Villanueva (Santa Clara, Portugal), Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Jhon Chancellor (Brescia, Italy), Ronald Hernández (Aberdeen, Scotland), Luis Mago (Universidad de Chile, Chile) & Miguel Navarro (Chicago Fire, USA).
Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy), Rómulo Otero (Corinthians, Brazil, on loan from Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), Darwin Machís (Granada, Spain), Juan Pablo Añor (No club, recently released by Málaga, Spain), Yangel Herrera (Granada, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England), Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil), Jefferson Savarino (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Bernaldo Manzano (Atlético Bucaramanga, Colombia, on loan from Deportivo Lara, Venezuela), Eduard Bello (Antofagasta, Chile), Cristian Cásseres Jr. (New York Red Bulls, USA), Arquímedes Figuera (César Vallejo, Peru, on loan from Deportivo La Guaira, Venezuela) & José Andrés Martínez (Philadelphia Union, USA).
Fernando Aristeguieta (Mazatlán, Mexico), Sergio Córdova (Arminia Bielefeld, Germany, on loan from Augsburg, Germany), Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia) & Eric Ramírez (DAC Dunajská Streda, Slovakia).
Okay, it was Bolivia not Brazil, but belt up, buddy: a beating’s a beating. Below, @DarrenSpherical recounts La Vinotinto‘s thumping home victory.
Thursday 10 October 2019 – Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuela 4-1 Bolivia
Video Highlights of Venezuela 4-1 Bolivia, International Friendly, 10 October 2019 (YouTube)
Triumphant Homecoming for La Vinotinto
Against a backdrop of media speculation following Josef Martínez’s refusal to participate in a Dudamel-led national team, Venezuela delivered a confident, winning performance in their first game in the capital for eight years.
A pre-match appearance from celebrated athlete Yulimar Rojas was part of the extensive build-up for this encounter with an entirely domestic league-based Bolivia led by ex-Vinotinto boss César Farías.
From the off, the game was more open than is customary with Venezuela largely the beneficiaries of the midfield gaps which enabled the likes of Darwin Machís and hometown hero Rómulo Otero to run menacingly at the Bolivian back-line. That said, for the opening third of the game, the goal attempts were ultimately rather tame, with the best of an underwhelming bunch being a low Machís shot that was easily stopped and a couple of much-anticipated Otero free-kicks which the wall took the sting out. However, in the 38th minute there was considerably more success when elEscorpión instead crossed in a dead ball which goalkeeper Jorge Araúz badly misread, making it easy for Yangel Herrera to head home for 1-0. Three minutes later, the lead was doubled after Tomás Rincón dinked a ball towards the right edge of the area where, with two effective touches, Ronald Hernández knocked it into the centre where the roaming Rincón nudged it on to the back post area where Machís could not miss the tap-in.
Thus, the players went in at the break with the majority of the UCV crowd in a buoyant, boisterous mood. When they returned for the second half, it took just five minutes to further augment the atmosphere. Once again, an Otero free-kick from the edge of the area hit the tip of the wall, yet this time when it eventually dipped back down from orbit it was met by Jhon Chancellor, whose nod-on was acrobatically struck home via an overhead-kick from Salomón Rondón.
Although the result now seemed in little doubt, five minutes later Bolivia did get one back, with a well-crafted goal that took advantage of some slack Venezuelan tracking. Juan Arce chipped a ball towards the right edge of the area where Gilbert Álvarez picked it up and slotted it through the legs of Wuilker Fariñez. Aside from this blot, the Millonarios goalkeeper had a rather quiet night and will no doubt be disappointed to not have added to his clean sheet tally.
Subsequently, as is frequently the case, the inevitable glut of personnel changes sucked a lot of momentum from this game, with chances of note rarer to come by. Nevertheless, late on following a Rincón pass in the 87th minute, two substitutions did manage to have an impact, as Yeferson Soteldo nudged the ball on to Jhon Murillo in the area, who was fouled. The penalty was duly converted by all-time record goalscorer Rondón, who gained his second of the night to make the final scoreline even more emphatic.
Dudamel conspicuously celebrated this spot-kick, which earned him some social media derision from his critics who accused him of playing up to the cameras. Yet, after all the doubts that have been raised about the internal harmony in the squad and the players’ relationship to their boss, maybe he was just pleased and relieved to cap off a deserved victory on an emotional night.
Surely he will have been impressed by the performances of Otero and Hernández, perhaps the two players to have most boosted their chances of gaining regular starts. However, two others players he will not be able to count for Monday’s clash with Trinidad and Tobago are Roberto Rosales and Bernardo Añor. The former had a prior agreement to return to his club whereas the latter picked up a knock which denied him the opportunity of playing with his brother Juanpi in his hometown at the stadium of his club side. In his place, Zulia’s Gabriel Benítez has been called up, ensuring that there is still at least one domestic league player in the squad.
If – as is anticipated – Venezuela defeat their Caribbean opponents at the UCV, it will be only the second time during Dudamel’s reign that his side have won two consecutive games. Perhaps to some there doesn’t seem to be much to gain from defeating the team ranked 100th by FIFA, but the coach will certainly be aware that if he doesn’t, esteem-wise, there is plenty to lose. He, like most of the fans, will surely be hoping for another assertive, attacking display.
Venezuela (4-2-3-1): W. Faríñez; R. Hernández, W. Ángel, J. Chancellor, R. Rosales (R. Feltscher, 77′); T. Rincón, Y. Herrera (J. Moreno, 87′); J. Savarino (J. Murillo, 78′), R. Otero (J. Añor, 68′), D. Machís (Y. Soteldo, 56′); S. Rondón (F. Aristeguieta, 88′).
Bolivia (4-2-3-1): J. Araúz; O. Ribera, A. Jusino, G. Justiniano, J. Sagredo; E. Sánchez (C. Melgar, 59′) (C. Áñez, 74′), C. Arano (C. Algarañaz, 77′); L. Justiniano, J. Arce (V. Castellón, 59′), E. Saavedra (L. Vaca, 70′); G. Álvarez (C. Saucedo, 68′).
Thursday 10 October 2019 – Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuela vs Bolivia
Monday 14 October 2019 – Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuela vs Trinidad and Tobago
Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela
Back in the Capital with Farías but without Martínez
The Venezuelan national team’s first game in the capital city for eight years will also see the return of a prominent compatriot who was then at the helm of La Vinotinto: current manager of Bolivia, César Farías.
It was he who led his homeland from 2007 to 2013, with his achievements including reaching the semi-finals of the 2011 Copa América, as well as taking the Under-20s to their first-ever World Cup (2009). Thus, on 10 October his adopted nation of entirely domestic league players will be duking it out with the country of his birth, now bossed by the man who led the same age category to their second-ever World Cup appearance two years ago.
However, although Rafael Dudamel has paid tribute to Farías in the build-up, there has been far more media interest in the resignation from national-team duty of striker Josef Martínez. Indeed, two weeks ago, the Atlanta United netbuster wrote an open letter in which, after casting doubt upon the motives and behaviour of others and airing personal grievances regarding mistreatment, he announced that he would no longer be available for La Vinotinto for as long as the current incumbent remains in situ. In response, Dudamel has defended himself against the charges of mishandling the relationship, suggesting instead that the player’s annoyance may really stem from not being the guaranteed regular that he is at club level, whilst stating that the door nevertheless remains open to him. In turn, any fear of a collective revolt has seemingly already subsided as at least six players including the returning senior trio of Salomón Rondón (Dalian Yifang, China), Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy) and Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain) have all commented that they disagree with Martínez’s decision.
As he has largely been relegated to cameo appearances from the bench and – for reasons of dubious legitimacy – excluded himself from some games in the past year, the 26-year-old MLS striker’s withdrawal may, to some, seem manageable in the short-term. However, as Venezuela frequently look toothless in attack, when things inevitably go awry, there will doubtlessly be no shortage of calls from the many champions of the MLS goal-machine for a change to this unhelpful state of affairs and, perhaps, to the Vinotinto status quo itself.
Nevertheless, as the boss evidently prefers just one man up top, there is no doubt that for this role he instead prefers 30-year-old China-dweller Rondón. Competition within the current crop comes from Fernando Aristeguieta (Monarcas Morelia, Mexico) as well as Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), although both men have got a lot of convincing to do, as neither could confidently call themselves the first-choice understudy. For some fans, more long-term hope is invested in the boots of 19-year-old Boca Juniors striker Jan Hurtado. However, this time he did not make the cut from the 30-man preliminary squad and has instead joined up with the U23s who are hoping to play at next year’s Olympic Games.
Otherwise, although Dudamel may be a tad unnerved by Martínez’s decision as well as his task of keeping the collective mentality healthy, he nevertheless has a strong squad to pick from. Indeed, along with Rondón, Rincón and Rosales, he also has central defender Yordan Osorio (Zenit Saint Petersburg, Russia, on loan from Porto, Portugal) back for selection, fresh from impressing in the UEFA Champions League. Also having impressed at club level in the past month are the Barcelona-slaying duo at Granada, Yangel Herrera and Darwin Machís, as well as Brazil-based pair Rómulo Otero (Atlético Mineiro) and Yeferson Soteldo (Santos). The latter was named his club’s player of the month and, after scoring against Fluminense, imitated Martínez’s goal celebration, stoking speculation that he was set to also depart the international scene – a claim that he has recently refuted.
Although Dudamel spoke at length at his customary press conference on the eve of the first match, he did not provide many hints regarding to his line-up plans. That said, most regular Vinotinto observers would surely agree that the attacking-midfield spots behind Rondón as well as the defence in general are where most of the healthy competition for places currently resides. Regarding the latter, Dudamel himself spoke of the wealth of options at centre-back, but one wonders if over at left-back, given the omission of Luis Mago, a start could be given to the man who replaced him before the hour-mark against Colombia: Bernardo Añor. Brother of Juanpi (Málaga, Spain) and son of an ex-international, he is the squad’s only representative from the domestic league, who not only plays for Caracas FC but was also born in the capital.
For the player, it would be an unforgettable way to mark the team’s return to the city. On the other hand, for the boss, whether he wishes for sentiment to enter into his thoughts or not, he knows that the best way to quash any more rumblings of player discontent will be for a double sweep over Farías’ Bolivia and Monday’s Caribbean opponents. On paper and according to the FIFA rankings, this is what is anticipated, yet during his tenure, Dudamel has only achieved consecutive victories once: a pair of 1-0 wins against Jamaica and then Uruguay at 2016’s Copa América Centenario.
Who did he field up front for both games? Yup, Salomón Rondón.
Oh, and Josef Martínez.
Both notched a goal each.
Indeed, there was once a time when this partnership was utilised to effect. Yet three-and-a-bit years later, the chances of it ever being witnessed again currently seem about as likely as Venezuela going more than a month without some internal drama.
To keep track of how things pan out, please continue to check this website as well as @DarrenSpherical for updates.
Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Bernardo Añor (Caracas FC), Jhon Chancellor (Brescia, Italy), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Ronald Hernández (Stabaek, Norway), Yordan Osorio (Zenit Saint Petersburg, Russia, on loan from Porto, Portugal), Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain) & Mikel Villanueva (Málaga, Spain).
Juan Pablo “Juanpi” Añor (Málaga, Spain),Yangel Herrera (Granada, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England), Darwin Machís (Granada, Spain), Júnior Moreno (DC United, USA), Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), Rómulo Otero (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy), Jefferson Savarino (Real Salt Lake, USA), Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil) & Renzo Zambrano (Portland Timbers, USA).
Fernando Aristeguieta (Monarcas Morelia, Mexico), Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia) & Salomón Rondón (Dalian Yifang, China).