Tag Archives: Juan Pablo Añor

Venezuela’s Friendly Internationals – October 2019 Preview

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

International Friendlies

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

Venezuela vs Bolivia

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

Venezuela vs Trinidad and Tobago

caracasstadium

Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela

Back in the Capital with Farías but without Martínez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and Josef Martínez.

Both notched a goal each.

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

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

Venezuela Squad

VinotintoOctober2019Squad

(@SeleVinotinto)

Goalkeepers

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

Defenders

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

Midfielders

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

Forwards

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

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Colombia 0-0 Venezuela – International Friendly (10 September 2019)

Little to see or learn in Tampa. Nevertheless, @DarrenSpherical is here to dutifully recount La Vinotinto’s friendly encounter with Colombia.

International Friendly

Tuesday 10 September 2019 – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida, USA

Colombia 0-0 Venezuela

Video Highlights of Colombia 0-0 Venezuela, International Friendly, 10 September 2019 (YouTube)

Uncompetitive Venezuela Struggle to Dreary Draw With Vecinos

On a patchy NFL-marked pitch, Rafael Dudamel’s somewhat experimental side was anything but buccaneering as they failed to thrill against Carlos Queiroz’s much-changed Colombia.

Viewed context-free on paper, the draw could be perceived as representing progress on the 2-1 defeat this time last year, though witnesses to this bore-chore will beg to differ. After all, not only were there nine changes to the line-up of Los Cafeteros but, as Dudamel insinuated post-match, the majority of the Venezuelans given opportunities – due to the absences of Rondón, Rincón, Rosales and others – failed to take them.

Indeed, aside from the closing stages when some more eager substitutes had entered the fray, the burgundy boys rarely threatened Álvaro Montero’s goal. Instead it was Colombia who had the lion’s share of the ball, particularly in the first half in which they regularly caused concerns in and around the Venezuelan area.

The first of these came in the ninth minute when a corner was knocked away by goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez, but only to Bournemouth’s Jefferson Lerma, whose first-time effort went a little too close to the crossbar for comfort. Five minutes later the net perhaps should have been bulging after Yairo Moreno dinked a ball to Rafael Santos Borré at the back post, but the River Plate striker mis-timed the bounce and skied his attempted placement well over the bar. Soon afterwards in the 16th minute, a corner led to a scramble which Óscar Murillo redirected goalwards, but his low effort was thwarted by the legs of Faríñez.

Venezuela’s defensive lines were regularly finding themselves bypassed and given the runaround. In the 27th minute, Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado gained space from Juanpi to come in from the left and strike a right-footed effort that went narrowly wide into the side-netting. Ten minutes later, it was Cristian Borja who was granted too much room on the left of the area as he struck a venomous effort that mercifully missed the target. Off the back of this on the other side, Luis Díaz was able to strike from an acute angle, though Faríñez comfortably diverted the ball wide. Rounding off this series of goal-threats, two minutes before half-time the Colombia-based goalkeeper of Millonarios was a little more concerned as a low free-kick from León midfielder Moreno whistled just wide of the post.

Shortly before the interval, Venezuela finally made their attacking presence known. On the left, Yeferson Soteldo’s free-kick that swung into the area was headed on by captain-for-the-night Wilker Ángel, forcing Montero to tip the ball over.

Understandably, Venezuela made a couple of changes at the break and though the second-half play was to prove to be less one-sided, Colombia were nevertheless quick to generate a great chance to open the scoring. This time, in the 51st minute, Cuadrado menaced the Venezuelan backline before sliding the ball to Santos Borré in space in the area. Yet, the 23-year-old striker, though he managed to dink an effort over the outrushing Faríñez, perhaps should have done better as the ball – which glanced off the goalkeeper’s glove – was probably going wayward before safety-first Ángel headed it out.

Colombia’s next chance of note came in the 62nd minute when Díaz raced into space on the inside-left. A goal seemed inevitable yet the Porto youngster appeared to overrun it as he strode too close to Faríñez before finally attempting to square it to a team-mate; instead, his pass was easily cleared and he himself ended up clattering into the goalkeeper.

These two opportunities were as good as the half got for Queiroz’s men, with the subsequent 20 minutes very low on opportunities. When, however, some threats did re-emerge, they instead came from Dudamel’s men as some substitutes helped the team show some belated impetus late on. First of all in the 82nd minute, Darwin Machís took it upon himself to impressively burst past two players on the left before knocking in a testing low cross from the byline which Montero had to parry out to be sure. Later on, Rómulo Otero, returning to the side having been left out of the Copa América squad, made himself hard to ignore from set-pieces. Indeed, although his much-anticipated attempt in the last minute of regulation time went into the wall, he nearly won the match with another effort in the fourth minute of stoppage time. This came from thirty yards out on the left, delivered with his right and with trademark deadly dip, forcing Montero into a desperate and eye-catching parry before it could creep in at the near post.

Alas, there was no late steal here, with the game ending goalless. Overall, not disastrous, just tedious; an unadventurous, uninmaginative draw. Perhaps only the returning Otero and Ángel will feel in any way emboldened by their performances.

Ultimately, fans looking for drama should have just skipped the game and waited for the post-match comments. Indeed, although Rafael Dudamel attended to his media duties, the players did not, provoking anger from several broadcasters on Twitter. Stirring the pot, the Venezuela’s football federation (FVF) responded to this by releasing a statement distancing themselves, claiming that such decisions were taken by those directly in charge of the team (the manager and his coaching staff). To this, the national team’s Twitter account got involved, instead proportioning blame to the match organisers. They stated – amongst other things – that La Vinotinto‘s changing room was just 20 metres from their team bus, whereas the media mixed zone was off-route, some 200 metres away on the other side of the ground, nearer to the Colombian changing room. Needless to say, the soundbite-chasers who had travelled thousands of miles were not moved by these protestations.

This is just the latest chapter of an ongoing internal saga. Things are clearly not healthy in the Vinotinto camp and this is unlikely to be the last time that divisions bubble up to the surface, causing fans to roll their erstwhile optimistic eyes.

Team Selections

Colombia (4-3-2-1): A. Montero; L. Orejuela, D. Sánchez (J. Lucumí, 56′), Ó. Murillo, C. Borja; J. Lerma, J. Cuadrado (J. Campuzano, 57′), Y. Moreno (M. Uribe, 74′); O. Berrío (L. Muriel, 71′), L. Díaz (R. Martínez, 71′); R. Santos Borré (D. Zapata, 71′).

Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Fariñez; R. Feltscher (R. Hernández, 46′), W. Ángel, M. Villanueva, L. Mago (B. Añor, 56′); Y. Herrera, J. Añor (D. Machís, 46′), J. Moreno (B. Manzano, 85′); J. Murillo (J. Savarino, 73′), Y. Soteldo (R. Otero, 77′); J. Hurtado.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuela’s Friendly International – September 2019 Preview

For the first time since their quarter-final exit at Copa América, La Vinotinto has been reassembled. Just like this time last year, a kickabout with their neighbours to the west awaits. Here, @DarrenSpherical provides a look at those looking to see action.

International Friendly

Tuesday 10 September 2019 – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida, USA

Colombia vs Venezuela

romuloterosept2019

Back in the Fray: Rómulo Otero (GettyImages)

Youthful Venezuela Bring Average Age Even Further Down

Reportedly owing to visa issues relating to his new club adventure in China, Salomón Rondón has been compelled to withdraw from Venezuela’s sole international friendly this month.

Thus, with MLS hotshot Josef Martínez also not part of the squad, a considerable opportunity has presented itself up front, with either Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia) or Jan Carlos Hurtado (Boca Juniors) best placed to profit. Both men were absent from June’s Copa América cohort, but Ponce’s output has in the past suggested that he might have a future at this level, most notably last October when he bagged two goals in the Vinotinto shirt. On the other hand, although Hurtado has struggled to find the net during his senior career at club and international level, the 19-year-old inspires many a fan’s daydreams, even more so these days as he has recently been signed by Boca Juniors and donned their much-fetishised shirt in the Superclásico.

Rondón’s absence also throws up a rare situation for the national side: not one of the three R’s will be trotting onto the field in Vinotinto colours. Indeed, the other two components of the much-capped trio, captain Tomás Rincón and Leganés new-boy Roberto Rosales, have not been summoned. Neither for that matter has Yordan Osorio, who put in a memorable display against hosts Brazil in June and has recently earned a loan move to Zenit St. Petersburg. In an interview with Conexión Goleadora, one player currently in the USA has lamented the absences as well as the somewhat underwhelming prospect of only a solitary game having been scheduled, but as is often the case in matters concerning the FVF, the precise truth is difficult to discern.

Nevertheless, trials and experiments are thus guaranteed to be taking place in all the outfield positions. Firstly, with no Rosales, who has been fielded on both flanks at the back, a number of players will be hoping to get the nod on the left. These include the versatile pair Luis Mago (Palestino, Chile) and Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), both of whom were part of the Copa squad, with the latter the only one of the seven defenders to not see any action in the tournament. Alternatively, manager Rafael Dudamel could well give a run-out to the only home-based player in the squad, the recalled Bernardo Añor of Caracas FC, a 31-year-old who only made his international debut last year. Less promising – though rather curious – are the prospects of club-less 21-year-old left-back Alejandro Mitrano, hitherto a virtual unknown who was last recorded playing in Slovakia and who was called up to train with the squad after the initial 23-man announcement. Who knows what he may bring to the table, but such intrepid talent-scouring reinforces Dudamel’s previous comments about the long-standing issues the national side has with this particular position.

At centre-back, with no Osorio, Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia) will be seeking to reclaim a place in the line-up after injury forced him to miss Brazil 2019. However, there is now much competition for these two positions, with erstwhile partner Jhon Chancellor – who has earned a big move to Brescia in Serie A  – and Mikel Villanueva – who, however awkwardly, has been accommodated back into the Málaga side – both also in the running. As, for that matter, is the recalled Under-20 2017 World Cup runner-up Nahuel Ferraresi (Porto B, Portugal), still only 20 years of age.

Moving on, Rincón’s absence opens up an opportunity in the line of three that typically helps to reinforce the back four as well as kickstart attacks. If regulars Yangel Herrera (Granada, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England) and Júnior Moreno (DC United, USA) get the nod, then joining them could well be either Renzo Zambrano, who plays under ex-Vinotinto and Swansea City striker Giovanni Savarese at Portland Timbers or Bernaldo Manzano (Tolima, Colombia, on loan from Deportivo Lara), who last season made headlines for being the first player in a Copa Libertadores match to bag a goal, grab an assist, net an own goal and get sent off.

Alternatively, the outspoken and more attack-minded Juan Pablo “Juanpi” Añor – who, like Villanueva, has also been grudgingly granted minutes by cash-strapped Málaga  – could well reprise a role similar to that in which he shone in June against Bolivia. There is also a chance that Dudamel could instead utilise the La Liga man in the customary attacking pairing that will support either Ponce or Hurtado, although here, perhaps more than anywhere, there is no shortage of talented competition. Indeed, the four players who duked it out for these roles in Brazil are all in the current squad: Darwin Machís (Granada, Spain), Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal),  Jefferson Savarino (Real Salt Lake, USA) and Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil). However, accompanying them this time will be Rómulo Otero (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), unquestionably the biggest surprise omission from the Copa squad. Perhaps his individualistic streaks played a part in this decision, but as more than one fan commented during the tournament, the team really could have done with some of his gravity-defying set-piece spectaculars. Surely at the Raymond James Stadium he will be given an opportunity to win back the trust of Dudamel.

Overall then, plenty of players will be seeking to shake up the boss’s thinking. Even if the preparations for the game have not been ideal, the side are arguably in a better state than twelve months ago when, after a ten-month hiatus, they kickstarted their current cycle with a 2-1 loss against Colombia in a match also played in Florida – it was Miami Gardens back then and it is Tampa now. The Cafeteros are coming into it off the back of a creditable 2-2 draw with Brazil, whereas Venezuela enter poised in the highest position that they have ever attained in the official FIFA rankings: 26th. Ultimately, Dudamel may well be looking more for performances than a result, but any opportunity to get one over their historically more-illustrious neighbours will always be greatly received back home.

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

Venezuela Squad

vinotintosept2019

Notes: Owing to visa-related issues at club level, Salomón Rondón has withdrawn from the convocatoria. Also, Alejandro Mitrano has been called up to train with the squad.

(@SeleVinotinto)

Goalkeepers

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

Defenders

Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Bernardo Añor (Caracas FC), Jhon Chancellor (Brescia, Italy), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Nahuel Ferraresi (Porto B, Portugal), Ronald Hernández (Stabaek, Norway), Luis Mago (Palestino, Chile), Alejandro Mitrano (No club) & Mikel Villanueva (Málaga, Spain).

Midfielders

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

Forwards

Jan Carlos Hurtado (Boca Juniors) & Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Bolivia 1-3 Venezuela – Copa América 2019 Group A (22 June 2019)

Opposition territory was belatedly discovered and fully explored as Venezuela progressed to the quarter-finals. Here, @DarrenSpherical recounts La Vinotinto’Copa América 2019 victory over Bolivia.

Copa América 2019 – Group A

Saturday 22 June 2019 – Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte

Bolivia 1-3 Venezuela

Video Highlights of Bolivia 1-3 Venezuela, Copa América Group A, 22 June 2019 (YouTube)

Next Stop: the Maracanã!

Having previously played two goalless games, Venezuela at last went on the attack, clinching their place in the knock-out stage with a 3-1 win over Bolivia.

Manager Rafael Dudamel made a few changes (two enforced) from the side that battled to a draw with Brazil. One of these, midfielder Juanpi, frequently found himself on the ball with his customary balletic poise and he had a role in the opening goal which came after less than 75 seconds. Here, he, followed by Jefferson Savarino, helped the ball out wide to right-back Ronald Hernández, who curled in a cross which Darwin Machís rose high to, bursting the back of the net with a powerful header. It’s very rare and pleasantly discombobulating to witness anyone other than a centre-back or a certain centre-forward to score with their temple for Venezuela and this sensational start calmed a few jitters early on.

Perhaps a bit too much as, although proceedings were to be relatively even and open, Bolivia did manage to hit the woodwork twice in the first half. The first time occurred in the seventh minute when Cristian Arano’s strike was touched onto the post by Wuilker Faríñez. Then, later on in the 39th minute, Raúl Castro made some space for himself 25 yards out and arrowed an effort that left everyone rooted to the spot as it curled towards the corner of the goal, hitting the inside of the post but bouncing back out.

That’s not to say Venezuela went quiet after the goal. They still got forward with Machís sometimes causing problems on the left flank, particularly in the 29th minute when he received a pass from Juanpi and then crossed it in the middle where it was met by Savarino. Alas, the Real Salt Lake attacker was unable to take proper command of the ball and he instead waywardly missed the target. Nevertheless, the MLS man was to do better with his side’s other major chance within this half, which came just before the referee blew for the break. In this instance, Salomón Rondón charged forward on a counter-attack and slid the ball over to the left to Savarino. At the corner of the area, the latter cut onto his right foot and struck a low testing effort that goalkeeper Carlos Lampe was compelled to parry wide.

In the second half, Bolivia started brightly, with Arano trying another effort from range, but this time Faríñez was able to get down low to collect the powerful strike. A few minutes afterwards, Venezuela belatedly began to reassert themselves with some low crosses that were cut out at the crucial moment. Even so, it nevertheless felt a bit out of the blue when, in the 55th minute, Machís on the left cut over to his right and struck a pearl  into the back of the net. Upon scoring his second goal of the game, he held up the shirt of the injured Arquímedes Figuera, who has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament. A fine goal with which to pay tribute, even if replays did show that it actually took a big deflection off a defender, but details, details…

Despite the two-goal deficit, the Bolivians were not completely out of it. Indeed, in the 64th minute, Faríñez continued his mixed tournament when he needlessly spilled Marcelo Moreno’s shot, which led to Arano’s strike on the rebound needing to be cleared from the goal-line by Luis Mago.

Even so, Venezuela could have put the game to bed shortly afterwards with either of two big chances that they created. First, a minute later when Hernández’s perfect cross was volleyed wide by Rondón, when he should have really hit the target. Then, barely another minute later when another fine Hernández ball was acrobatically scissor-kicked just wide by Machís.

La Vinotinto were still going for that third goal in the 74th minute when Soteldo’s low cross ricocheted into the path of Júnior Moreno, whose shot was blocked by a defender. However, the loose ball was then immediately struck with venom by Savarino, forcing a fine parry from Lampe. Seven minutes later, they came even closer when Hernández put in yet another great cross, which centre-back Jhon Chancellor headed down, bouncing up to hit the underside of the bar, before being gratefully gathered by Lampe.

However, despite all this Venezuelan door-knocking, barely a minute later it was Bolivia who netted the third of the game. They were granted a generous amount of space to centrally find an opening via some short passes before Leonel Justiniano struck low from the edge of the area into the bottom corner of Faríñez’s net.

Momentarily, there was a concern that Venezuela may end up getting shunted into third place in Group A and thus be at the mercy of events elsewhere. This fear lasted barely four minutes. Indeed, Venezuela secured their qualification as the second-placed team in Group A when Soteldo jinked on the left before dinking in a cross that fellow substitute Josef Martínez headed home.

3-1, job done. Although the action wasn’t completely over as, with the clock striking 90′, the Atlanta United striker could well have had another goal when he met Soteldo’s chipped free-kick in considerable space. Alas, from a possibly offside position, he could only head comfortably over.

Still, he and Soteldo will have been delighted to have given Dudamel some selection headaches ahead of the knock-out round. Venezuela had gone into the game having struggled to create chances yet needing to win to ensure qualification. With a slight change of approach and personnel, they have achieved it while demonstrating that they are capable of threatening and finding the goal via several different avenues.

Although the quarter-final will no doubt be considerably tougher, not one of the other teams remaining in the tournament will be taking the unbeaten Vinotinto for granted.

The following day, Argentina finished second in Group B and will be Venezuela’s opponents in a mouth-watering clash to be held on Friday 28 June at the Maracanã. To keep up-to-date with Venezuela’s Copa América campaign, please return to this website as well as follow @DarrenSpherical.

Team Selections

Bolivia (4-2-3-1): C. Lampe; D. Bejarano (R. Fernández, 72′), L. Haquin, A. Jusino, M. Bejarano; C. Arano, L. Justiniano; R. Vaca, F. Saucedo, L. Vaca (R. Castro, 33;); M. Moreno (G. Álvarez, 78′).

Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Fariñez; R. Hernández, J. Chancellor, L. Mago, R. Rosales; J. Moreno, J. Añor (Y. Soteldo, 58′), T. Rincón; J. Savarino, D. Machís (J. Martínez, 72′); S. Rondón (J. Murillo, 72′).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Venezuela – Copa América 2019 Preview

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

Copa América 2019

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

Peru vs Venezuela

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

Brazil vs Venezuela

Saturday 22 June 2019 – Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte.

Bolivia vs Venezuela

groupacopa2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Venezuela Squad for Copa América 2019

Ven2019CopaAmerica

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

(@SeleVinotinto)

Goalkeepers

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

Defenders

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

Midfielders

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

Forwards

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

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

USA 0-3 Venezuela – International Friendly (9 June 2019)

The dress rehearsals finish with a flourish and the stage is ready for Saturday’s premiere! Below, @DarrenSpherical recounts La Vinotinto‘s final pre-Copa América warm-up clash against the USA.

International Friendly

Sunday 9 June 2019 – Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

USA 0-3 Venezuela

Video Highlights of USA 0-3 Venezuela, International Friendly, 9 June 2019 (YouTube)

Rondón Breaks Record In First-Half Romp

Salomón Rondón struck twice and had a hand in another goal to blitz the USA as well as become Venezuela’s all-time leading goalscorer.

El Gladiador’s 24-goal haul now puts him one above the legendary Juan Arango and, coming off the back of two underwhelming results, the clinical performance of the team in the opening 45 minutes will come as a welcome boost to the entire set-up.

Against an admittedly under-strength USA side, coach Rafael Dudamel fielded eight of the starters from the 3-1 Mexico defeat, making some defensive adjustments as well as bringing in the eye-catching Jefferson Savarino, who netted the other goal.

After some initial USA pressure, it was the Real Salt Lake forward who had Venezuela’s first chance of note in the 12th minute when he struck a dipping diagonal effort that went not too far over Zack Steffen’s crossbar. Four minutes later, the goalkeeper was the prime culprit behind La Vinotinto taking the lead as his disastrous clearance was punished with a trio of deadly touches: Yangel Herrera immediately knocked the ball back into the area, where Jhon Murillo nudged it to Rondón, who swiftly made it 1-0.

15 minutes later, the Premier League marksman glanced on a throw-in that Savarino picked up, first curling a left-footed shot against the post, then anticipating the rebound on the other side of the goalkeeper to make it 2-0. A fine one-two, in every sense.

Throughout the half, the hosts did actually see a lot of the ball and were occasionally a threat from crosses – perhaps never more so than in the 34th minute. Here, a low ball from the right was cut out by Roberto Rosales, only to be struck first-time by Weston McKennie whose shot ended up sliding off agonisingly wide following an important stop from Wuilker Faríñez.

Such moments just made Venezuela’s finishing seem all the more devastating. Particularly so just two minutes later when a rare exhibition of connected, purposeful interplay ended with Tomás Rincón knocking the ball towards Rondón. Through characteristic muscle and assertion, the No. 23 on 23 shrugged off a defender, did a stepover and feinted to go one way before firing low to ascend to the historic plateau of 24 international goals for the Venezuelan national team.

After all this, the second half could only be a letdown. Not just for Venezuela – who, aside from a Rincón effort that curled just wide, were quiet – but also for the USA, who created several opportunities but had the killer instinct of a lifelong pacifist. Indeed, although they exposed the Venezuelan back-line – particularly on Luis Mago’s side as well as in the middle – nobody was able to finish off chances that often arrived from point-blank range. In the 53rd minute a cross from the right whistled across the box without much contact, then later a 68th-minute from the same side should have been converted by either of the two players who had opportunities to cut the deficit but neither made meaningful connections. When, in the 78th minute, a flicked-on corner destined for a player to knock in at the back post instead ended up with a team-mate colliding into him, this seemed to sum up the hosts’ day.

Things could have been quite different had they taken these and some other chances. In particular, a fine curled effort from Jordan Morris that went just wide, a close-range Paul Arriola strike that Faríñez dramatically blocked and a late poked effort also from Arriola that somehow evaded the target. Instead, it was Venezuela, spearheaded by record-holding Rondón, who walked away from Cincinnati with their heads held high.

With one win to add to their preceding defeat and draw, it was a heartening way to end their rather mixed tour of the USA before embarking upon the flight to Porto Alegre.

There, awaits the 2019 edition of the Copa América and it has been announced that well-travelled Colombian manager Francisco “Pacho” Maturana (ex-Atlético Nacional, Colombia, Atlético Madrid, Peru, Ecuador – amongst many others) will also be in the camp as part of the coaching staff.

He will surely know as much as any observer not to get too carried away by the victory against what was a USA absent of some of its biggest names. Rather, surely amongst the main coaching concerns will be selecting and organising the personnel of the defence; to a lesser extent, there likely will also be some debate as to whether or not Savarino has done enough to earn himself a start against Peru on Saturday.

Whether or not the MLS starlet ultimately gets the nod, he has certainly got more chance of making the line-up than Yeferson Soteldo (late replacement of injured Adalberto Peñaranda), who is scheduled to join up with the squad just two days before their opening group game.

With such a momentous challenge on the horizon, there may not be much time for the players to celebrate, but many fans will certainly spare a moment to toast not only the historic feat of Rondón but also that of the team: this 3-0 victory was La Vinotinto‘s first-ever senior victory over the United States of America.

To find out more about Venezuela’s Copa América preparations, please return to this website for an in-depth preview as well as follow @DarrenSpherical.

Team Selections

USA (4-3-3): Z. Steffen; N. Lima, A. Long (W. Zimmerman, 46′), M. Miazga, T. Ream (D. Lovitz, 78′); W. Trapp, W. McKennie (D. Holmes, 62′), C. Roldan; P. Arriola, G. Zardes (J. Altidore, 46′), T. Boyd (J. Morris, 62′).

Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Fariñez; R. Rosales (R. Hernández, 46′), J. Chancellor, M. Villanueva, L. Mago; J. Moreno, Y. Herrera (A. Figuera), T. Rincón (J. Martínez, 60′); J. Murillo (D. Machís, 65′), J. Savarino (J. Añor, 65′); S. Rondón (L. Seijas, 78′).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

 

Mexico 3-1 Venezuela – International Friendly (5 June 2019)

Venezuela’s Copa América preparations are now two-thirds complete, but the team appears far from ready to set the tournament alight. Below, @DarrenSpherical recounts their encounter with El Tri.

International Friendly

Wednesday 5 June 2019 – Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Mexico 3-1 Venezuela

Video Highlights of Mexico 3-1 Venezuela, International Friendly, 5 June 2019 (YouTube)

La Vinotinto Vanquished By Martino’s Mexico

Despite taking the lead, a virtually first-choice Venezuela were comfortably swept aside by an under-strength Mexico. 

With all the Copa América players now present in the USA, Rafael Dudamel was able to field his big guns, yet they were nevertheless outplayed by Tata Martino’s Gold Cup-hunting squad which does not include the likes of Javier Hernández, Carlos Vela, Hirving Lozano and Héctor Herrera.

Early on though, it was Venezuela’s Jhon Murillo who surprised everyone – including himself – when, in the 18th minute, he sensationally struck the ball into the back of the net. Possibly caught in two minds as he shaped up on the right to whip in a cross, his ball into the area spectactularly swerved inwards and over goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco to give the South Americans a 1-0 advantage.

The largely pro-Mexico crowd were taken aback, but they soon returned to generating a frenetic atmosphere that was frequently reflected on the pitch.

Cruz Azul youngster Roberto Alvarado boosted their spirits when, in the 25th minute, he was not far off with a curled left-footed effort that went just wide of the target. Then, seven minutes later, he restored parity and drove Venezuelan defensive coaches to insanity. He made it 1-1 after a cross swung in from the right was poorly dealt with and dawdling centre-back Yordan Osorio was robbed of the ball by Rodolfo Pizarro, who nudged it to Alvarado to fire home.

For the remainder of the half, there was no lack of endeavour but both sides struggled to create clear chances. That is, until a couple of minutes before the break when Dudamel’s men nearly stunned the crowd for a second time. This time, Júnior Moreno’s corner was nodded against the post by Yangel Herrera; striker Salomón Rondón immediately lunged for the rebound, but alas, was unable to connect properly.

That was to be the last contribution of note of the Newcastle United Player of the Year as he was substituted off at half time for Josef Martínez, who received a proud ovation from the Atlanta locals who he performs in front of every other week. He arrived onto the pitch with Real Salt Lake’s Jefferson Savarino, though ultimately, the two MLS stars were to have little impact on the outcome.

Indeed, less than ten minutes after the restart, their nation fell behind. Defensive frailties were once again exposed as, on the left, Jésus Gallardo was afforded a little too much space, at the second attempt firing in a low cross that Osorio was beaten to by Pizarro. The latter’s nonchalant finish deservedly made it 2-1.

Later, in the 63rd minute, it looked as if the CONCACAF nation’s lead had been increased when, after Héctor Moreno and Raúl Jiménez had forced Wuilker Faríñez into a breathtaking double save, Diego Reyes struck third time lucky. However, owing to some dangerous, high-footed play from Wolves’ striker Jiménez, this was ruled out.

Shortly afterwards, Savarino created for himself a rare Venezuelan half-chance, but his strike from outside the area went at least a few yards wide. A better opportunity was presented in the 72nd minute after captain Tomás Rincón slid a ball into the area to Juanpi, but the shot of the La Liga midfielder lacked direction and was gratefully received by the gloves of Orozco.

Some four minutes later, the game was put beyond the reach of Venezuela. Again, fatal defensive disorganisation played a part, as on the Mexican right, substitute Carlos Antuna was afforded too much room and thus swung across a low ball that found fellow recent-arrival Andrés Guardado. Also benefitting from slack tracking, on the left side of the area he was able to strike low with aplomb to sentence the game at 3-1.

In all, given the strength of the Vinotinto line-up, it was an underwhelming performance. Perhaps adding to the concerns, at the post-game press conference, coach Dudamel claimed his team are currently at “40-50 per cent of our collective level” and also spoke of the possibility of utilising Rolf Feltscher and Luis Mago in various defensive positions.

The attacking players can not be feeling too comfortable or satisfied either, having netted just one fortuitous goal from open play in the two warm-up matches (wing-back Roberto Rosales having also scored a penalty against Ecuador). One man who will not be contributing anything more to their campaign is Adalberto Peñaranda, who was substituted off against Mexico less than ten minutes after coming on. The prognosis for him did not look good in the immediate aftermath and, today (8 June 2019), he has been officially ruled out of Copa América. To the delight of many fans, Santos-based jinking dribbler Yeferson Soteldo has been called up in his place and, in a few days, should meet up with the squad in Brazil.

Before that rendezvous, however, the national team will be travelling to Cincinnati where they have one last pre-tournament test to play against another CONCACAF Gold Cup challenger. The USA shall provide a stern test and, although friendlies may not be all about results, La Vinotinto will surely be hoping to deliver a performance that can instil belief in themselves and their committed faithful ahead of their flight to Porto Alegre.

To keep up-to-date with how things transpire in this final pre-Copa América international as well as the tournament itself, please keep checking back here as well as pay a visit to @DarrenSpherical.

Team Selections

Mexico (4-1-2-2-1): J. Orozco; F. Navarro (J. Sánchez, 68′), D. Reyes, N. Araujo, J. Gallardo; E. Álvarez (H. Moreno. 30′); C. Rodríguez, E. Gutiérrez (A. Guardado, 68′); R. Alvarado (C. Antuna, 68′), R. Pizarro (O. Pineda, 55′); R. Jiménez (A. Vega, 82′).

Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Fariñez; R. Hernández, Y. Osorio, M. Villanueva, R. Rosales; J. Moreno, Y. Herrera (J. Añor, 60′), T. Rincón; J. Murillo (A. Peñaranda, 76′) (F. Aristeguieta, 85′), D. Machís (J. Savarino, 46′); S. Rondón (J. Martínez, 46′).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical