Tag Archives: Josmar Zambrano

Venezuelans Abroad – 26 Aug 2014 Weekend Round-up (Europe)

Much as this column is attempting to be dedicated to shorter and more timely updates there is not a great deal that can be done to avoid lengthy articles when a near-full programme of fixtures is played in numerous time zones over a weekend. As always, following Hispanospherical on Twitter will give you fresher news on our disparate band of Venezuelans (and much more, including coverage of the Spanish leagues that kicked-off this weekend) but for those who prefer a more extensive article to read, please allow 10-15 minutes to wade through the weekend action from Europe (a second Rest of the World article for the Venezuelans playing elsewhere will soon appear on this page):

Europe

Spain

The Primera and Segunda Divisiones were inaugurated this weekend, with the very first match in the top-flight to be played coming at La Rosaleda with an incident-filled victory for Málaga at home to Athletic Bilbao. While youth-team graduate Juan Pablo Añor will have to wait a little longer to feature in a match-day squad, right-back Roberto Rosales made his competitive debut for Los Boquerones following his summer move from FC Twente. Málaga won a penalty in the 35th minute following an error from the usually dependable Gurpegi, who misjudged the flight of a ball he should have headed away, allowing Roque Santa Cruz to run onto it and then draw a foul from the onrushing goalkeeper, Gorka Iraizoz. Liverpool-loanee Luis Alberto stepped up, shooting slightly left-of-centre which drew a comfortable parry from Iraizoz but only straight back to Alberto who tapped it home to give his side the lead. Both teams continued to attack amidst a lively atmosphere but it was in the last several minutes that the game really commanded the spectators’ attention with a succession of incidents. Firstly, Málaga’s resident hot-head, the veteran Duda, came off the bench in the 70th minute only to be sent off 18 minutes later for ludicrously attempting to blast the ball at Bilbao’s Iker Muniain (who had just been fouled) and then pushing him over in full-sight of the referee. Two minutes later, Vitorino Antunes, left-back and Portuguese compatriot of Duda, cynically hacked down an opposition player who looked to be making a breakthrough in midfield, thus reducing the home side to nine men. Six minutes of stoppage time were played and Málaga as well as every Spanish football fan appears to still be unsure as to how they managed to survive without conceding as Bilbao’s goalkeeper Iraizoz sensationally headed home a magnificent bullet-header from a free-kick and yet, for reasons unknown, saw it chalked off by the referee. Soon after at the death, the Basque side were further incensed when Málaga’s Cameroonian goalkeeper Carlos Kameni – receiving the nod over Mexico’s World Cup hero Guillermo Ochoa – appeared to haul down Aritz Aduriz amidst a frantic goalmouth scramble. Nevertheless, Málaga held on for what was a rather impressive victory, though how they will cope with two suspended players and less fortuitous refereeing decisions remains to be seen. Although Roberto Rosales should gain some satisfaction over the clean sheet his team somehow kept, he was not tested a great deal down his right-hand side, though did sometimes stand off players, thus allowing them to put crosses in. From this game and the friendly matches he has played in, it does seem that while he possesses pace and certainly likes to get forward, he can be rather impulsive and to his side’s detriment when doing so, as his instinctive rapid passes regularly get intercepted and leave his team-mates on the back foot. We will see over the course of the season if this is merely due to a lack of collective cohesiveness in the side as well as a personal combination of hesitancy and eagerness to impress brought about by the professional step-up that he needs to get accustomed to.

Staying in Andalusia but moving over to Los Cármenes, Darwin Machís will have been delighted to have played the full 90 minutes for Granada in their 2-1 win over the returning Deportivo La Coruna. Overall, the Nazaríes put in an impressive performance that will give them hope that the end to their season will not be as tense as it was last year, but due to a goalkeeping error it was they who conceded first. Indeed, Depor’s new signing from Benfica, Ivan Carvaleiro, bustled his way into space on the right side within the area and his shot was embarrassingly fumbled over the line by Stole Dimitrievski. Fans of trivia for trivia’s sake will be posting on message boards left, right and centre upon learning that the last competitive game that these two 20 year-olds played in also saw them on opposite sides as Macedonia faced Portugal in an Under-21 European Championships Qualifier back in May. It is unknown whether Granada’s players were aware that Dimitrievski lost that match 1-0, but in the unlikely case that there are some fatalistic doom-mongers in their ranks, there were not any tinfoil hats on show upon their re-emergence for the second half as they instead composed themselves to reverse the scoreline. The fightback began on 54 minutes when former Blackburn player Rubén Rochina drove through the middle and, aided by the space granted to him by Youssef El-Arabi blocking off a defender, lashed a low worm-murdering firecracker into the bottom left-hand corner. The winner followed just over 20 minutes later when, in a move that replicated an earlier attempt with more success, Fran Rico curled a 45-yard free-kick on the left into the area and, in considerable space back-to-goal, Martinique international Jean-Sylvain Babin flicked a memorable header on his debut over Germán Lux. Machís was a sporadic attacking threat throughout this victory and though he did not manage any clear shots on goal, he should nevertheless feel confident of keeping his place next weekend away to Elche.

Moving on swiftly to the second-tier, relegated Real Valladolid began their promotion push with a 2-1 victory at home to Mallorca, thanks in no small part to two corners by Jeffrén Suárez. The first of these after 24 minutes was back-flicked into his own net by Mallorca’s Pau Cendrós in a manner that most fancy Dans (and Gianfrancos)  would have been proud of. The second was an inswinger after 52 minutes that was headed/shouldered by Roger Marti on to the post and rebounded for Óscar to knock home. Just over ten minutes later, unintentional trickster Cendrós scored at the right end after making a late run in the box to volley home a cross; in response, Suárez was withdrawn to be replaced by defender Johan Mojica in what appeared to be a tactical switch that ultimately just about paid off as Valladolid held on to victory. International goalkeeper Dani Hernández was between the sticks for the home side, though this could well prove to be his last league appearance for the club as earlier this week marked the long-awaited arrival of Sevilla’s Javi Varas.

Elsewhere, Josmar Zambrano came on to play the last 15 minutes of Recreativo Huelva’s eventful 0-0 draw at home to Real Zaragoza which, due to injury setbacks and loan spells, was actually his first appearance for the team despite joining over 18 months ago. Julio Álvarez is still out injured and so missed Numancia struggling to hold on to a lead with ten men and ultimately conceding two late goals in the last seven minutes to lose 2-1 at home to Sporting Gijón.

France

Nantes played at home to last year’s big-spenders Monaco who, before the game, were rooted at the bottom of the table, undergoing a period of transition following the arrival of the Venezuela-born manager Leonardo Jardim and the loss of James Rodríguez as well as attempting to deal with the ongoing instability caused by the daily speculation over the future of the latter’s compatriot, Radamel Falcao. However, the Principality boys recorded their first win at the Stade de la Beaujoire, thanks to a header late in the first half from the Colombian hitman that was actually his side’s first attempt on target in what was, for the majority of the game, a rather drab encounter lacking in clear chances. Oswaldo Vizcarrondo played all of the game and can not be faulted for the space granted to Falcao for his header but his fellow Venezuelan Fernando Aristeguieta was left out, with opening-day sensation Yacine Bammou instead starting up front. Bammou is certainly staking a strong claim to regularly keep Aristeguieta warming the bench and it was he who earned a penalty for Nantes halfway into the first half after drawing a foul from Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subašić. However, Serge Gakpé could not convert as Subašić redeemed himself with a low save to his right that resulted in a bit of goalmouth ping-ball as the ball was rapidly fizzed back-and-forth between the six-yard box and the left byline several times before going out of play. That was Nantes’ first attempt of the game but they did have a few more from open play towards the latter stages of the second half, Bammou again having one of the more notable opportunities with a snatched shot that swerved just wide of the post in the 80th minute. Immediately afterwards he was substituted off for Aristeguieta who, as has been the case so far this season, found himself in the midst of promising attacks without really being on the end of anything, with Kian Hansen providing the closest Nantes chance – a close-range volley from a corner that rattled off the crossbar. Thus it ended 1-0 to the away side, leaving Nantes with a record of one win, one draw and one defeat this season and next up for them will be a home game against Montpellier; Aristeguieta and Vizcarrondo may well learn a thing or two about their opposition from a certain compatriot of theirs.

Indeed, Juan Falcón played all of Metz’s 2-0 away defeat at Montpellier this weekend. The outcome could have been different, however, if his side had managed in the first half to convert their second penalty in as many games. In contrast to the game against Nantes, Kevin Lejeune rather than Yeni N’Gbakoto took the spot-kick – despite both men having been on the field at the same time in both games – and his shot cannoned off the post, coming straight back for him to chest and then strike on the volley but this was well-saved by the goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren. Subsequently, Montpellier’s two goals came from a Siaka Tiéné free-kick at the end of the first half and fellow African Souleymane Camara made sure of the three points by heading home at the end of the second half. Falcón did have one notable half-chance in the second half as a corner was whipped into the box and flicked on just in front of his path; the Venezuelan thrust his body towards the ball but could only make rather tame contact with the top of his thigh and his effort was cleared off the line by Morgan Sanson. Falcón will be hoping to open his account this upcoming weekend against Lyon to help Metz move up the league and out of the relegation zone.

Down a notch in Ligue 2, Grenddy Perozo has many reasons to be walking about town with a spring in his step. Not only was he recently called up to the national side, but his club Ajaccio built on last Monday’s derby victory to record their second win in four days, this time with an impressive 1-0 victory against Tours, thanks to a 73rd-minute goal by former France international Benoit Pedretti. As an indication of how poor Ajaccio were last season when they were relegated from Ligue 1, this result marked the first time since February 2013 that they have won two consecutive games and – perhaps more pleasingly for Perozo – the first time since last August that they have kept two consecutive clean sheets. The Corsican club now sits 5th, level on points with cross-commune rivals Gazélec Ajaccio, who have a marginally superior goal difference. Both sides are 3 points behind Troyes, the side Perozo – or at least some of his team-mates, given that promotion is the team’s primary focus – will be facing today (26 August) in the Coupe de la Ligue.

Portugal

While the young defender Victor García was not in Porto’s squad for their 1-0 away victory against Paços de Ferreira, both of the more established Venezuelans in the Primeira Liga who lost in midweek Europa League action continued their disappointing starts to the season, albeit for rather contrasting reasons. By rights, Yonathan Del Valle should feel elated that his side Rio Ave top the league after two matches but as he has been subbed off in both before any of their seven goals have been scored, he may not entirely share some of his team-mates’ feelings. In fairness, he will be the first to point out that he was most likely substituted at half-time in last week’s 2-0 victory over Vitória Setúbal for tactical reasons to compensate for his side’s man disadvantage and this weekend it was hardly his fault that he picked up an injury after 33 minutes in the 5-1 thrashing away to Estoril. Here, the goals began to fly in five minutes afterwards with the Egyptian Ahmed Hassan Koka going on to equal his tally for the whole of last season by getting a hat-trick; the other two came from Pedro Moreira.

Del Valle’s compatriot Mario Rondón has been getting significantly more game time for Nacional, playing all 90 minutes of their last three competitive games. That these matches have all ended in defeat is more likely to cause unrest than introspection as Rondón has spoken in public more than a few times about his desire to move on from Nacional and join one of Europe’s bigger leagues. His latest outing involved a spell captaining the side as they were defeated 3-1 away to Belenenses (who had Englishman Matthew Jones in goal). As observed in the last column, Rondón looked a little frustrated in last week’s Europa League tie and he did not look much happier in this game, particularly after being adjudged to be offside after 30 minutes, thus ruling out a potential equaliser for his side and then having to watch Belenenses go up the other end two minutes later to make it 2-0. Nacional did pull one back through a Marco Matias penalty but the Angolan Freddy scored a cracking curler that went in on the underside of the crossbar to ensure victory and a 100 per cent record for the home side.

Russia 

Zenit St. Petersburg also maintained their 100 per cent league record with a 2-0 victory against Amkar Perm, with Shatov and Hulk getting the goals early in the first half as the ban on home fans in the Petrovsky Stadium was lifted for the first time this season. Salomón Rondón kept his place in this side, starting over Kerzhakov who replaced him for a mere 11 minutes at the end and it seems more than likely that André Villas-Boas will stick with Rondón for Zenit’s crucial second leg of their Champions League play-off against Standard Liège. Zenit have a 1-0 lead from the away leg and so are favourites to go through but Rondón will be especially keen to get on the scoresheet as he came in for some criticism after the first match for being perceived to be somewhat off the pace, with his first touch consistently letting him down.

Italy

The Coppa Italia Third Round was contested over the weekend, the stage at which sides from Serie A who have not qualified for European football enter. Tomas Rincón made his debut for Genoa as they defeated Serie B’s Virtus Lanciano 1-0 away from home via a goal from new signing, the Chilean World Cup nearly-man Mauricio Pinilla, in a game played at a good tempo that was not short of chances.  Franco Signorelli‘s Empoli comfortably defeated third-tier L’Aquila 3-0 at home, with all three goals coming from veteran striker Francesco Tavano, though the Venezuelan himself was left on the bench. However, Signorelli, like Rincón, will surely feature in his side’s opening match of the league season this weekend and, more pertinently, the pair will actually meet each other in the Fourth Round of the Coppa Italia, though that will not be played until 2 December.

Switzerland

Cup action as well north of the Alps, with Thun defeating plucky third-tier Breitenrain 3-2 away from home as Venezuela’s Alexander González got off the mark for the season with two goals (no jokes about him ‘finding his level’, please…). With the score 0-0 at half-time, Breitenrain really did put up a strong test, taking the lead on two occasions, with both goals being cancelled out by González (his first a cracking volley from a long diagonal ball), who also had a hand in the winner, which was knocked in by Nelson Ferreira. Elsewhere, Pedro Ramírez continued his lacklustre start to his European career as he was subbed off after 45 minutes as his side were trailing 1-0 to fifth tier La Chaux-de-Fonds, a game Sion would eventually turnaround to win 3-1. Finally, Frank Feltscher is still injured so missed Aarau’s 7-1 away thrashing against Taverne.

Germany

Rolf Feltscher made his debut for Duisburg as an 81st-minute substitute away to early high-flyers Chemnitzer in a 0-0 draw, leaving his side 11th in the league with 6 points.

Cyprus

AEL Limassol’s rather multicultural team won 2-0 in their first league game away to NEA Salamis, but both Jonathan España and Jaime Moreno were left on the bench.

England

Finally, Fernando Amorebieta again was not part of the Fulham match-day squad as they lost their fourth league game on the trot. His departure, most likely to Granada, seems imminent.

Mercifully for us all, that concludes the round-up of the weekend’s European action 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!

Part 2: Rest of the World should be posted on this site soon – keep checking back!

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 – 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!

Venezuelans Abroad – 29/7/14 Midweek Round-up

One of many recurring features on this site will be an attempt to keep track of all the notable Venezuelan players who are either in or have a realistic chance of playing for the national squad, affectionately known as La Vinotinto. There are several handy Venezuelan websites that also attempt to cover these disparate individuals – well over 30 players, at last count. Although I will keep a personal record of the progress of each player, I won’t be overloading you all with a comprehensive barrage of tedium, detailing minutes played and all the cross-field pass statistics you could ever hope for. Instead, I shall be more selective and instead pick out some of the highlights and most notable stories, adding some opinions from time to time. I will aim to update this at least once a week, if not twice (Midweek and after the Weekend). 

To begin with and in this particular message there may be well be too information to process as I intend to give updates for players than span the last few weeks or more of action as well as introductions to certain individuals, but I hope I at least give you an idea of who to look out for and who is currently making the news around the world.

As you will see below, Venezuelans play in at least four different continents and so these continents shall provide the categories. In the absence of a universal football calendar, some leagues have already started and so below there will be an emphasis on actual competitive football, though friendlies will not be neglected altogether as plenty of Venezuelans have made big moves and are attempting to force their ways into their respective manager’s plans.

Europe

The Swiss Super League is the only European league that is currently underway and that began less than two weeks ago, with two Venezuelans having already been in action. Pedro Ramírez, a title-winner with Zamora FC back home last year and recipient of the Best Young Player of the Season, did not feature in the first game for FC Sion, but came on in the second and started the 1-0 victory over St. Gallen on Saturday. Hopefully, we’ll soon be seeing why this promising lad has been dubbed the ‘Venezuelan Messi’. Super League veteran of two years Alexander González has featured in all three games with his new club FC Thun, starting two, including the glorious 3-2 away win against Grasshoppers this past weekend. The two others affiliated with this league, the Feltscher brothers, have not yet seen action; Frank (of FC Aarau) due to injury and Rolf due to being unattached, though he did play for Grasshoppers in pre-season.

Elsewhere and in rather significant news, an all-out Venezuelan civil war may break out for the right to play in the Champions League. Indeed, AEL Limassol of Cyprus, having recruited two uncapped Venezuelans in the form of Jonathan España and Jaime Moreno have been drawn against Vinotinto colossus Salomón Rondón and his Russian side, the AVB-led Zenit St. Petersburg. The latter are undoubtedly the favourites and the first leg kicks off tomorrow, 30 July, with Limassol at home – the return leg will be on 6 August. The Russian top-flight begins this weekend, though Zenit will surely not be complacent and rest the likes of Rondón, who scored a corker against Karlsruhe in pre-season that blasted in at 123 km/h. On the other side, whether the Venezuelan pair get any match-time for the Cypriots remains to be seen, though if they were to cause an upset then defender Jonathan España will have played in the group stage of his second premier Continental club competition, having represented Zamora FC in the Copa Libertadores.

The Europa League Third Qualifying Round is also played this week and two Venezuelans may well play. Firstly, Josef Martínez, an import from the Swiss League (yes, that league knows an emerging footballing nation when it sees it) may well feature for Torino away to Brommapojkarna of Sweden. Having played regularly in pre-season, notching some goals and assists, he’s certainly one to keep an eye on and time will tell how often he features in a new-look Immobile-less Torino attack with new-boy Fabio Quagliarella. Over in Portugal, Rio Ave, home to another forward in the form of Yonathan Del Valle, will also start away to Swedish opposition, IFK Göteborg. Del Valle has featured in pre-season but whether he plays here is another matter. Regardless, both ties will be played on Thursday, with the return legs a week later. The winners will then go into the Play-off Round where they will be joined by the loser of the Zenit-Limassol tie (and all the other losers in the Champions League Third Qualifying Round) as well as the top-seeded teams which include C.D. Nacional of Portugal, where Mario Rondón plays. These ties will begin on 20 August and it will be curious to see whether Rondón is still there as, whilst representing his team in pre-season, he has also stated to the press that he thinks it is time to make the leap, claiming teams from England, Spain and France are interested.

Moving on to less competitive European news, the remaining Portugual-based player, 20-year old right-back Victor García, appears to be spending another year in the Porto B team, having trained with them and played in their pre-season 3-2 loss to Nottingham Forest.

Spain, perhaps unsurprisingly, has a fair few Venezuelans to keep an eye on and if there is one club that may get featured more than any other on this site, it will be Málaga CF, home to two players (quite possibly three, if certain rumours prove true). Firstly, the new signing Roberto Rosales, a right-back who at the tender age of 25 already has 7 years of European experience under his belt and comes from a successful spell at FC Twente in the Eredivisie. Secondly and less prominent, is the emerging prospect Juan Pablo Añor who has racked up an impressive ratio of one goal in every two games for the youth team and has been training with the first team this pre-season. Both men have featured in their Australian tour games and the club, acknowledging their Venezuelan links (it’s also the former club of Salomón Rondón), recorded a chat with the pair. There could well be another young Venezuelan forward in the Primera División as Darwin Machís appears to have been promoted to Granada’s first team squad, having played on loan in the Segunda B last year.

One league below, there’s at least four players of interest, two of whom are currently at Real Valladolid. Firstly, national team goalkeeper Dani Hernández, who has featured in a couple of pre-season games, though he has been strongly linked with a move away and is arguably only playing while the owners find a replacement. Secondly, Jeffrén Suárez, a winger who also plays as a forward, formerly of Barcelona (he scored against Real Madrid) and Sporting Lisbon. Now 26 and still eager to prove himself, he has made himself very much open to a call-up, having previously played at every level except senior for Spain. Elsewhere in the Segunda is Julio Álvarez of Numancia, a creative player who was responsible for half of his side’s 42 goals last season, assisting with 14 and scoring 7. He was born in Venezuela but moved to Spain at four and represented the latter at youth level but with no senior call-up forthcoming he accepted the Venezuelan offer and began playing for La Vinotinto three years ago, making his debut at the age of 30. He hasn’t played for nearly two years but with a new manager, who knows. The last player from this league that will be on my radar is Josmar Zambrano of Recreativo Huelva (the oldest team in Spain). He’s a 22 year-old midfielder with two caps from experimental squads three years ago, but despite some injury setbacks he appears to be in Huelva’s plans this season and has already played in friendlies against a Barcelona XI and Sunderland, amongst others.

Moving on to Italy where Josef Martínez will be playing, one transfer saga has recently been resolved, with national stalwart Tomás Rincón finally choosing his next destination having let his Hamburg contract run down, with Genoa receiving his services for the upcoming season. Franco Signorelli, a midfielder who helped Empoli achieve promotion, will be looking to make a name for himself in the big league, a place where no Venezuelan to date has really prospered. Indeed, the remaining player still registered in this league is Rafael Romo, goalkeeper at Udinese. However, his side is not short of goalies and the writing appears to be on the wall, with moves to either Venezuela or Spain having been rumoured.

Over in France, two key national team players, striker Fernando Aristeguieta and defender Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, have both been involved in Nantes’ pre-season, the latter more so as the former picked up a minor injury along the way. Elsewhere, at newly promoted FC Metz, Juan Falcón will be looking to make a name for himself on the European stage after his move from domestic champions Zamora FC, where he bagged a goal ratio of over one in two. In the league below, Grenddy Perozo will hopefully be able to plug the defence of recently relegated Ajaccio, a task made all the more difficult after the loss of the Mexican Jesus, Guillermo Ochoa.

Two remaining European-based players will be monitored. Firstly, the experienced former Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta, currently of Fulham, who has been the source of some transfer speculation, with a move to Málaga at one point seeming imminent. He has not featured in any Fulham friendlies thus far, though this may be more due to an alleged injury. Secondly and finally, is Ronald Vargas, a talented midfielder who has had a fair share of injury problems and was released from his contract at Anderlecht. He has recently joined the newly promoted Balıkesirspor in the Turkish top-flight. As their official Facebook page shows, they did hold a real mother of a blowout for him – almost Darius Vassell proportions.

South America

Colombia is home to two talented Venezuelans and both have actually played competitive football this season. Alejandro Guerra, who joined giants Atlético Nacional on loan earlier this month from Mineros de Guayana in Venezuela, has featured once apiece in their league and cup campaigns without embarrassing himself. The somewhat more illustrious midfielder Luis Manuel Seijas has been in action all season for Santa Fe, playing regularly in both league and cup matches, helping his team to a 100% record in the latter. Just one week ago, he scored an absolute scorcher in a friendly against Deportivo de La Coruña. 

Over in Chile, where the top-flight kicked off less than two weeks ago, there are also two players of note who have been performing for their respective clubs. Forward Emilio Rentería has looked a handful for newly promoted San Marcos, having several chances in his first game, scoring in a cup match last midweek and then netting a volley at the weekend in a 2-1 loss to Ñublense, the team of our other man, Javier González. He did not actually feature in that match – whether his team’s 3-0 opening day hiding at the hands of Huachipato had anything to do with that, one can only speculate.

North America

The uncapped Bernardo Añor has been having a promising season at Columbus Crew in the United States and it is surely only a matter of time before Sanvicente gives him a try. He is well into the season and has shown his versatility by playing at both left-back, left-wing and in midfield. Ten days ago, he scored two match-winning goals as his side came from behind to defeat Montreal Impact – the second has shades of Bobby Charlton vs. Mexico in ’66. For trivia fans, he is in fact the brother of Juan Pablo Añor at Málaga and their father was also a professional football player, which seems to be abnormally common amongst the Venezuelans.

Mexico is now home to Venezuela’s two all-time joint top-scorers, Juan Arango and Giancarlo Maldonado. Arango left Europe after ten successful seasons to return to Mexico with Xolos de Tijuana. So far it has not quite been the dream return as his side went down unexpectedly at home to Puebla in his first match, with Arango receiving harsh criticism afterwards for his rather subdued performance. His second match got off to a good start as he converted a penalty against Club América, but his side could not hold on and were defeated 2-1 in the Azteca. One league below, Maldonado has returned to his old club, Atlante, and scored two goals in two league games. Despite his age, given the strength of Mexican football, a return to the national set-up does not seem out of the question.

Asia

Former Celta Vigo defender Andres Túñez has made a strong start to his spell in Thailand with Buriram United, even managing to get on the scoresheet side and help his side to the top of league – mostly whilst wearing a facemask which looks like it would not be out of place in the UFC.

Finally, former La Liga and Celtic striker Nicolás ‘Miku’ Fedor has recently started his pre-season with Qatari side Al-Gharafa, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win.

Thus ends the very first update of Venezuelans Abroad. The ones in the future won’t be so extensive and will not feature each players’ every move, but for now, these are the players that will be featured with varying regularity and I hope you will bookmark this page and keep track of their progress with me.