Tuesday 17 November 2022 — Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas
Venezuela 2-1 Chile
Now We’re Underway
Venezuela and their new boss José Peseiro gave themselves a huge boost as La Vinotinto picked up their first points in the qualifying stage for Qatar 2022.
Coming into the game with three consecutive defeats, as well as captain Tomás Rincón suspended and two defenders injured, the Portuguese coach must have felt some apprehension about his side’s prospects.
However, perhaps he could perceive something his detractors couldn’t. He was, after all, able to field the returning man-of-the-moment Yangel Herrera and managed to motivate his charges to go out with a more positive approach than they displayed in the 1-0 loss against Brazil.
Venezuela certainly had the better of the opening exchanges and surprised even many of their own fans when, in the ninth minute, they scored their first qualifying goal. This came after Darwin Machís crossed in a free-kick from the right that Herrera headed into the six-yard box for Chile-based Luis Mago — a beneficiary of the defensive injuries sustained in São Paulo — to nod home.
Their elation was short-lived, however, as Inter Milan’s Arturo Vidal equalised six minutes later. The visitors found space on Mago’s left-hand side, with Mauricio Isla’s dangerous low cross into the box only being diverted into the path of the veteran midfielder, who made it 1-1.
Despite this, Venezuela didn’t lose any drive or belief, and should’ve regained the lead five minutes later when a perfectly weighted pass by Jefferson Savarino — currently the top provider in Brazil — reached Machís. But, one-on-one with Claudio Bravo, the Granada attacker had his weak attempt easily blocked.
Even more gilt-edged was the chance skied by Salomón Rondón some twenty minutes later. Here, Herrera exquisitely headed on Machís’s ball into the area for the ex-Newcastle man; however, the Vinotinto‘s all-time top-scorer shaped to adjust his striking stance a little too much and ended up embarrassingly fluffing his lines.
The hosts had the better of the first half, but that could not really be said of much of the second period where genuine chances were in short supply for both nations.
So when the winner came in the 81st minute, it was a little unexpected. Substitute Yeferson Soteldo, who, until less than an hour before the team sheet was announced had been predicted to start, helped set it up. From the right, the Santos dribbler put in a cross that took a slight deflection, bypassing the out-of-sorts Bravo to reach Rondón, who beat his marker to knock home.
Subsequently, after seeing off some Roja scares, Venezuela, who felt comfortable enough to grant a late debut to 18-year-old Óscar Conde, held on until the final whistle to claim an impressive victory.
For the players and fans, these three points are an undeniable morale boost; for the manager, they provide some breathing space and — so long as no FVF shenanigans are afoot — something to build on.
Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Faríñez; A. González, Y. Osorio, W. Ángel, L. Mago (Ó. Conde (90+1′); Y. Herrera, J. Moreno, C. Cásseres Jr (R. Otero, 78′); J. Savarino (Y. Soteldo, 70′), D. Machís (J. Chancellor (90+1′); S. Rondón.
Chile (4-2-3-1): C. Bravo; M. Isla, P. Díaz, G. Maripán, J. Beausejour; E. Pulgar (A. Vilches, 89′); A. Vidal; C. Pinares (C. Baeza, 46′), A. Sánchez, J. Meneses; F. Mora (C. Palacios, 76′).
Just because you knew it was going to happen doesn’t make it any less dispiriting.
Conmebol Qualifying Stage for FIFA World Cup 2022
Friday 13 November 2022 — Estádio do Morumbi, São Paulo
Brazil 1-0 Venezuela
Venezuela Sunk in São Paulo
A second-half Roberto Firmino strike undid José Peseiro’s otherwise resilient side, who are still pointless and goalless after their opening three qualifiers.
Until the Liverpool forward’s 67th-minute goal it did look like Venezuela might just frustrate Tite’s men as they did at last year’s Copa América. There were plenty of echoes of that 0-0 draw, particularly Brazil again having efforts chalked off by the officials.
This time they had two disallowed goals, with the first coming in the seventh minute: left-back Renan Lodi’s cross-shot was parried by goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez, with Richarlison then knocking in the rebound. However, Lodi was adjudged to have been offside when the diagonal ball was played his way.
Over half an hour later, the impressive Lodi whipped in a fine cross that Gabriel Jesus knocked into the centre for Richarlison. The Everton striker’s attempt was blocked at point-blank range by Faríñez, but Douglas Luiz was there to hit home the loose ball. This time, however, a foul in the danger zone let Venezuela off the hook.
The first half largely consisted of Brazil attempting to find ways through. Some further shots were saved low and the hosts were especially close to scoring when the goal was gaping for Richarlison following Jesus’s knock-back, but his agonising stretch could only direct the ball wide.
As for Venezuela, they were very much on the back foot throughout the opening period and did not make their attacking presence known until the 39th minute. Here, Yeferson Soteldo, justifying his selection, found space to jink past Danilo, before hitting in a low cross. This evidently took goalkeeper Ederson by surprise, who will have been grateful that Marquinhos was there in the six-yard-box to divert the ball away from Salomón Rondón.
The second half was barely six minutes old when Brazil were again denied by the officials — this time a VAR check on an alleged handball in the area by Venezuelan defender Wilker Ángel ultimately ruled in favour of the visitors.
Subsequently, the Seleção continued to enjoy the lion’s share of possession, albeit without really threatening. That is, until Firmino pounced. His match-winner came after Darwin Machís was pressured into directing Éverton Ribeiro’s cross towards his own goal and the Liverpool man was on hand to gratefully accept the gift.
The rest of the game will not live long in the memory, but there was one incident that could have some serious repercussions: captain Tomás Rincón picked up a booking and is now ruled out of La Vinotinto‘s home clash against Chile.
Although Peseiro will be able to replace him with the returning Yangel Herrera, it’s nevertheless a blow. Furthermore, with full-backs Roberto Rosales and Rolf Feltscher sustaining injuries and having to be withdrawn, Venezuela’s rearguard could really struggle in Caracas.
Post-game, Peseiro said that as he is pressed for time to implement anything more daring, he is likely to persist with the defensive 4-3-2-1 formation for the time being. It may not be easy on the eye, but it has yielded results for the players in the past under the previous regime.
On Tuesday, Venezuela will have their work cut out to keep their first clean sheet of the campaign against a nation they conceded seven goals against in their last two qualifying encounters. Even if they manage this, they’ll need something a little extra if they want to convince the country and the continent that they are viable contenders for a place at Qatar 2022.
Brazil (4-3-3): Ederson; Danilo, Marquinhos, T. Silva, R. Lodi (A. Telles, 90+6′); É. Ribeiro, Allan, D. Luiz (L. Paquetá, 46′); G. Jesus (Éverton, 76′), Richarlison (Pedro, 76′), R. Firmino.
Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Faríñez; R. Rosales (A. González, 65′), Y. Osorio, W. Ángel, R. Feltscher (L. Mago, 18′); T. Rincón, J. Moreno, C. Cásseres Jr; D. Machís (J. Savarino, 79′), Y. Soteldo (R. Otero, 65′); S. Rondón.
Friday 13 November 2020 — Estádio do Morumbi, São Paulo
Brazil vs Venezuela
Tuesday 17 November 2020 — Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas
Venezuela vs Chile
Soteldo Starts As Venezuela Seek Points
With two big tests on the horizon, Venezuela manager José Peseiro knows he’s got a job on his hands if he is to improve upon his team’s pointless start to World Cup qualifying.
The Portuguese gaffer got to work straight after last month’s dismal defeats against Colombia and Paraguay, forgoing a return to his European base to instead remain in the nation he now leads.
There, the domestic league kicked off on 14 October, so Peseiro has been able to meet with many club bosses as well as run the rule over the home-based talent.
This has resulted in a surprising six local call-ups initially featuring in the final squad, with each player belonging to a different team, as the courteous coach said he did not wish to cause too much disruption given that league action will continue throughout the international break.
However, this figure has since lowered to four as goalkeeper José Contreras and midfielder Christian Larotonda have unfortunately been struck down by the c-word. Even so, it’s still an eye-catching number, especially considering last month’s squad was entirely composed of overseas-based players.
Admittedly, the likelihood of any of this youthful quartet making it onto either pitch in the upcoming week are not generous, but if there is one individual to keep in mind then it is 19-year-old Caracas FC midfielder Anderson Contreras. He has played consistently for the 2019 champions over the past 18 months and projected himself into a higher stratosphere in September when he scored a sensational 30-yard free-kick in the Copa Libertadores against Colombia’s Independiente Medellín.
Moving on to the opening clash in São Paulo, these are the eleven players who are reportedly very likely to start (most likely in a 4-3-2-1 formation):
W. Faríñez; R. Rosales, Y. Osorio, W. Ángel, R. Feltscher; T. Rincón, J. Moreno, C. Cásseres Jr; D. Machís, Y. Soteldo; S. Rondón.
For many national team followers, the inclusion of Yeferson Soteldo leaps out as, to the dismay of many, the 23-year-old dribbler only featured last month as a late substitute against Paraguay. Since then, he’s certainly been in the headlines.
Indeed, to the horror of Santos and Vinotinto fans alike, his team actually agreed to sell him to Saudi Arabian outfit Al Hilal. This headturning deal was purportedly owing to the Brazilians’ financial difficulties, but the player was less enamoured by the prospect. It seemed like he might be forced out against his will but thankfully Huachipato, his erstwhile Chilean club who are owed money by Santos, stepped in and an agreement was reached to keep el enano put.
In the country where he plies his trade, he’s predicted to pair up behind the striker alongside Darwin Machís, arguably the most in-form attacker in the squad. This tandem will be an intriguing experiment, as some have voiced concerns that the pair may be incompatible because both are inclined to operate on the left flank.
Also standing out from that line-up are three players who were unable to join up last time around.
First, of course, there’s Salomón Rondón, whose Chinese side, Dalian Pro, refused to let him travel in October. Having narrowly avoided relegation, their season is now over, leaving Venezuela’s record top scorer free and at a loose end for the past few weeks.
He’ll certainly boost his country’s front line as Sergio Córdova — who was initially called up but was then prevented from travelling by his German team — can’t be said to have made the most of his two outings as lead man last month.
Barring an injury to Rondón, it’s unlikely any of the other forwards in the squad will see much action. That said, many supporters will be pleased that Jan Carlos Hurtado made the final cut; the promising 2017 U20 World Cup finalist recently bagged his first two goals for Brazilian side RB Bragantino.
Second, there’s Júnior Moreno, who has been permitted to travel after his club, DC United, failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs. He’ll return to his customary position in front of the back four alongside captain Tomás Rincón; this pair will be joined by the fresh-faced Cristian Cásseres Jr — one of few players to come away from the previous qualifiers with any credit.
Absent from this line of three is Yangel Herrera, who, together with Machís, has continued to reach new heights with Granada in La Liga and the Europa League. He is suspended for the Brazil game, but will be available against Chile.
The other welcome return is that of the nation’s most high-profile defender, Yordan Osorio, who recently made his Parma debut. The 26-year-old centre-back shone in last year’s 0-0 draw with the Seleção at Copa América and if Venezuela are to come away with anything on Friday, similar defensive heroics will be essential.
Anyone who witnessed last month’s qualifiers, particularly the 3-0 first-half pummelling meted out by Colombia, knows that won’t be easy. One of many things that is of concern in and around the Venezuelan goal is that rusty, underperforming goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez is still yet to make his Ligue 1 debut for Lens.
All this being said, despite the absence of Herrera, this feels like a slightly stronger Vinotinto side that is set to face Brazil. Perhaps some further optimism can be derived from the hosts being without the likes of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Casemiro; although, of course, they certainly have other talents in reserve.
Ultimately, given the calibre of the opposition, Peseiro knows there is a very real possibility that he could enter into the new year having lost his first four games in charge. It would be an understatement to say that a historic first-ever competitive victory against Brazil would certainly be one way to win over the legions of sceptics.
Perhaps more plausibly, at the very least his team just need to demonstrate more cohesion and purpose, particularly in Caracas against Chile; getting a measly point on the board wouldn’t hurt either, if only to allay fears that the campaign isn’t over before it has even begun.
Note: José Contreras, Christian Larotonda and Sergio Córdova have been removed owing to their withdrawals. Alain Baroja (not pictured) has been called up.
Wuilker Faríñez (Lens, France, on loan from Millonarios, Colombia), Alain Baroja (Delfín, Ecuador) & Joel Graterol (América de Cali, Colombia).
Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain), Alexander González (Dinamo București, Romania), Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Jhon Chancellor (Brescia, Italy), Luis Mago (Universidad de Chile, Chile), Yordan Osorio (Parma, Italy), Jean Fuentes (Deportivo La Guaira, Venezuela)& Óscar Conde (Academia Puerto Cabello, Venezuela).
Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy), Rómulo Otero (Corinthians, Brazil, on loan from Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), Darwin Machís (Granada, Spain), Juan Pablo Añor (Al-Ain, Saudi Arabia), Yangel Herrera (Granada, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England), Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil), Jefferson Savarino (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Bernaldo Manzano (Atlético Bucaramanga, Colombia, on loan from Deportivo Lara, Venezuela), Cristian Cásseres Jr (New York Red Bulls, USA), Júnior Moreno (DC United, USA), Anderson Contreras (Caracas FC, Venezuela) & Cristhian Rivas (Estudiantes de Mérida, Venezuela).
Fernando Aristeguieta (Mazatlán, Mexico), Jan Carlos Hurtado (RB Bragantino, Brazil, on loan from Boca Juniors, Argentina) & Salomón Rondón (Dalian Pro, China).
Indeed, from the off, Venezuela took the game to their Caribbean opponents. Salomón Rondón could well have put the hosts ahead after just six minutes when he anticipated and controlled Rolf Feltscher’s cross, but his blasted strike was too close to goalkeeper Adrian Foncette. However, it would only be another five minutes before the country’s all-time record goalscorer could right this wrong: following on from a low right-sided cross by Darwin Machís, the ball found the striker’s feet and he converted from inside the six-yard-box to make it 1-0. Then, barely two minutes later, Granada attacker Machís also continued his recent spell of good form by doubling the lead after cutting inside from the left and, from just outside the area, striking with his right boot. In all honesty, Foncette should have easily stopped this admittedly-wicked, low drive, but this thought certainly did not trouble the La Liga man as he celebrated his third goal in as many games for club and country.
Subsequently, Rafael Dudamel’s team continued to probe, but their actual attempts on goal amounted to little more than a low Rómulo Otero strike that was parried and a Machís cross-shot that narrowly eluded his team-mates in the area.
During this period, Trinidad & Tobago did sometimes manage to alleviate the pressure on their defence and get forward, though without really troubling Wuilker Fariñez’s goal. That is, until the end of the half when they had two chances in quick succession: first, in the 43rd minute when, after a low cross evaded the sliding studs of Levi Garcia by a matter of centimetres, Marcus Joseph struck a left-footed effort from inside the area; this may have grazed the gloves of Fariñez but it was nevertheless always arcing wide of the target. Then, in stoppage-time, Garcia launched a free-kick from distance that deflected off a Venezuelan head, forcing the Millonarios stopper to force the ball over the bar.
Minus the goals, the second half was not too dissimilar in terms of the overall play but, owing to the home side’s clear superiority and two-goal advantage, lacked dramatic tension.
Venezuela had the majority chances, starting with Otero’s low strike in the 51st minute, which was followed two minutes later by a great ball from the right that Rondón – had he got his footwork sorted out – could have finished off. The visitors’ main chance arrived just before the hour mark when Ataullah Guerra dragged a strike wide of substitute Rafael Romo’s goal.
At times, Venezuela tried to combine centrally and nearly had success in the 62nd minute when, capitalising on a stray pass, a rapid move ended with Rondón laying the ball off to Otero, but the latter’s close-range strike was parried. Eight minutes later, a corner nearly led to that elusive third goal as substitute Juanpi’s cross was headed by Yordan Osorio towards the back post; his centre-back partner Mikel Villanueva lunged for it but, alas, could not connect as the ball instead went out for a goal kick. Finally, another substitute, Yeferson Soteldo, engineered Venezuela’s last chance of the game in the 83rd minute when he went on a characteristic run into the left side of the area. Ultimately, however, his low effort was blocked by the legs of the angle-narrowing Foncette.
Overall, even though this game is unlikely to live long in the memories of most, no doubt Capitán Centenario Rincón will not forget it in a hurry and neither will Gabriel Benitez. Indeed, the wing-back from Zulia made his international debut at the beginning of the second half, having only been called up to the squad a mere few days beforehand.
For coach Dudamel, it was a good work-out and an essential win and he can now bask in the incredibly rare feeling of emerging victorious in two consecutive games. For the time being at least, perhaps he has calmed down some of the speculation that the players were not entirely on-board with his plans and methods. That said, less than 24 hours after the final whistle, a barbed, dismissive comment from the self-exiled Josef Martínez directed towards Rincón and Rondón suggests that those particular flames show little sign of being entirely extinguished.
If there are any responses to his words, it’s most probable that they won’t arrive until the next time La Vinotinto re-assembles: next month for an Asia-based double-header against Paraguay and Japan.
Venezuela (4-2-3-1): W. Faríñez (R. Romo, 46′); R. Hernández (G. Benítez, 46′), Y. Osorio, M. Villanueva, R. Feltscher; J. Moreno, T. Rincón; J. Murillo (J. Savarino, 74′), R. Otero (J. Añor, 66′), D. Machís (Y. Soteldo, 46′); S. Rondón (A. Ponce, 78′).
Trinidad & Tobago (4-4-2): A. Foncette, A. Jones, S. Bateau, A. David, K. Julien; A. Andrews (R. Russell, 79′), N. Hackshaw, K. George, L. Garcia (A. Garcia, 65′); M. Joseph (A. Fortune, 74′), A. Guerra (D. Carr, 82′).
Okay, it was Bolivia not Brazil, but belt up, buddy: a beating’s a beating. Below, @DarrenSpherical recounts La Vinotinto‘s thumping home victory.
Thursday 10 October 2019 – Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuela 4-1 Bolivia
Video Highlights of Venezuela 4-1 Bolivia, International Friendly, 10 October 2019 (YouTube)
Triumphant Homecoming for La Vinotinto
Against a backdrop of media speculation following Josef Martínez’s refusal to participate in a Dudamel-led national team, Venezuela delivered a confident, winning performance in their first game in the capital for eight years.
A pre-match appearance from celebrated athlete Yulimar Rojas was part of the extensive build-up for this encounter with an entirely domestic league-based Bolivia led by ex-Vinotinto boss César Farías.
From the off, the game was more open than is customary with Venezuela largely the beneficiaries of the midfield gaps which enabled the likes of Darwin Machís and hometown hero Rómulo Otero to run menacingly at the Bolivian back-line. That said, for the opening third of the game, the goal attempts were ultimately rather tame, with the best of an underwhelming bunch being a low Machís shot that was easily stopped and a couple of much-anticipated Otero free-kicks which the wall took the sting out. However, in the 38th minute there was considerably more success when elEscorpión instead crossed in a dead ball which goalkeeper Jorge Araúz badly misread, making it easy for Yangel Herrera to head home for 1-0. Three minutes later, the lead was doubled after Tomás Rincón dinked a ball towards the right edge of the area where, with two effective touches, Ronald Hernández knocked it into the centre where the roaming Rincón nudged it on to the back post area where Machís could not miss the tap-in.
Thus, the players went in at the break with the majority of the UCV crowd in a buoyant, boisterous mood. When they returned for the second half, it took just five minutes to further augment the atmosphere. Once again, an Otero free-kick from the edge of the area hit the tip of the wall, yet this time when it eventually dipped back down from orbit it was met by Jhon Chancellor, whose nod-on was acrobatically struck home via an overhead-kick from Salomón Rondón.
Although the result now seemed in little doubt, five minutes later Bolivia did get one back, with a well-crafted goal that took advantage of some slack Venezuelan tracking. Juan Arce chipped a ball towards the right edge of the area where Gilbert Álvarez picked it up and slotted it through the legs of Wuilker Fariñez. Aside from this blot, the Millonarios goalkeeper had a rather quiet night and will no doubt be disappointed to not have added to his clean sheet tally.
Subsequently, as is frequently the case, the inevitable glut of personnel changes sucked a lot of momentum from this game, with chances of note rarer to come by. Nevertheless, late on following a Rincón pass in the 87th minute, two substitutions did manage to have an impact, as Yeferson Soteldo nudged the ball on to Jhon Murillo in the area, who was fouled. The penalty was duly converted by all-time record goalscorer Rondón, who gained his second of the night to make the final scoreline even more emphatic.
Dudamel conspicuously celebrated this spot-kick, which earned him some social media derision from his critics who accused him of playing up to the cameras. Yet, after all the doubts that have been raised about the internal harmony in the squad and the players’ relationship to their boss, maybe he was just pleased and relieved to cap off a deserved victory on an emotional night.
Surely he will have been impressed by the performances of Otero and Hernández, perhaps the two players to have most boosted their chances of gaining regular starts. However, two others players he will not be able to count for Monday’s clash with Trinidad and Tobago are Roberto Rosales and Bernardo Añor. The former had a prior agreement to return to his club whereas the latter picked up a knock which denied him the opportunity of playing with his brother Juanpi in his hometown at the stadium of his club side. In his place, Zulia’s Gabriel Benítez has been called up, ensuring that there is still at least one domestic league player in the squad.
If – as is anticipated – Venezuela defeat their Caribbean opponents at the UCV, it will be only the second time during Dudamel’s reign that his side have won two consecutive games. Perhaps to some there doesn’t seem to be much to gain from defeating the team ranked 100th by FIFA, but the coach will certainly be aware that if he doesn’t, esteem-wise, there is plenty to lose. He, like most of the fans, will surely be hoping for another assertive, attacking display.
Venezuela (4-2-3-1): W. Faríñez; R. Hernández, W. Ángel, J. Chancellor, R. Rosales (R. Feltscher, 77′); T. Rincón, Y. Herrera (J. Moreno, 87′); J. Savarino (J. Murillo, 78′), R. Otero (J. Añor, 68′), D. Machís (Y. Soteldo, 56′); S. Rondón (F. Aristeguieta, 88′).
Bolivia (4-2-3-1): J. Araúz; O. Ribera, A. Jusino, G. Justiniano, J. Sagredo; E. Sánchez (C. Melgar, 59′) (C. Áñez, 74′), C. Arano (C. Algarañaz, 77′); L. Justiniano, J. Arce (V. Castellón, 59′), E. Saavedra (L. Vaca, 70′); G. Álvarez (C. Saucedo, 68′).
Thursday 10 October 2019 – Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuela vs Bolivia
Monday 14 October 2019 – Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuela vs Trinidad and Tobago
Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas, Venezuela
Back in the Capital with Farías but without Martínez
The Venezuelan national team’s first game in the capital city for eight years will also see the return of a prominent compatriot who was then at the helm of La Vinotinto: current manager of Bolivia, César Farías.
It was he who led his homeland from 2007 to 2013, with his achievements including reaching the semi-finals of the 2011 Copa América, as well as taking the Under-20s to their first-ever World Cup (2009). Thus, on 10 October his adopted nation of entirely domestic league players will be duking it out with the country of his birth, now bossed by the man who led the same age category to their second-ever World Cup appearance two years ago.
However, although Rafael Dudamel has paid tribute to Farías in the build-up, there has been far more media interest in the resignation from national-team duty of striker Josef Martínez. Indeed, two weeks ago, the Atlanta United netbuster wrote an open letter in which, after casting doubt upon the motives and behaviour of others and airing personal grievances regarding mistreatment, he announced that he would no longer be available for La Vinotinto for as long as the current incumbent remains in situ. In response, Dudamel has defended himself against the charges of mishandling the relationship, suggesting instead that the player’s annoyance may really stem from not being the guaranteed regular that he is at club level, whilst stating that the door nevertheless remains open to him. In turn, any fear of a collective revolt has seemingly already subsided as at least six players including the returning senior trio of Salomón Rondón (Dalian Yifang, China), Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy) and Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain) have all commented that they disagree with Martínez’s decision.
As he has largely been relegated to cameo appearances from the bench and – for reasons of dubious legitimacy – excluded himself from some games in the past year, the 26-year-old MLS striker’s withdrawal may, to some, seem manageable in the short-term. However, as Venezuela frequently look toothless in attack, when things inevitably go awry, there will doubtlessly be no shortage of calls from the many champions of the MLS goal-machine for a change to this unhelpful state of affairs and, perhaps, to the Vinotinto status quo itself.
Nevertheless, as the boss evidently prefers just one man up top, there is no doubt that for this role he instead prefers 30-year-old China-dweller Rondón. Competition within the current crop comes from Fernando Aristeguieta (Monarcas Morelia, Mexico) as well as Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), although both men have got a lot of convincing to do, as neither could confidently call themselves the first-choice understudy. For some fans, more long-term hope is invested in the boots of 19-year-old Boca Juniors striker Jan Hurtado. However, this time he did not make the cut from the 30-man preliminary squad and has instead joined up with the U23s who are hoping to play at next year’s Olympic Games.
Otherwise, although Dudamel may be a tad unnerved by Martínez’s decision as well as his task of keeping the collective mentality healthy, he nevertheless has a strong squad to pick from. Indeed, along with Rondón, Rincón and Rosales, he also has central defender Yordan Osorio (Zenit Saint Petersburg, Russia, on loan from Porto, Portugal) back for selection, fresh from impressing in the UEFA Champions League. Also having impressed at club level in the past month are the Barcelona-slaying duo at Granada, Yangel Herrera and Darwin Machís, as well as Brazil-based pair Rómulo Otero (Atlético Mineiro) and Yeferson Soteldo (Santos). The latter was named his club’s player of the month and, after scoring against Fluminense, imitated Martínez’s goal celebration, stoking speculation that he was set to also depart the international scene – a claim that he has recently refuted.
Although Dudamel spoke at length at his customary press conference on the eve of the first match, he did not provide many hints regarding to his line-up plans. That said, most regular Vinotinto observers would surely agree that the attacking-midfield spots behind Rondón as well as the defence in general are where most of the healthy competition for places currently resides. Regarding the latter, Dudamel himself spoke of the wealth of options at centre-back, but one wonders if over at left-back, given the omission of Luis Mago, a start could be given to the man who replaced him before the hour-mark against Colombia: Bernardo Añor. Brother of Juanpi (Málaga, Spain) and son of an ex-international, he is the squad’s only representative from the domestic league, who not only plays for Caracas FC but was also born in the capital.
For the player, it would be an unforgettable way to mark the team’s return to the city. On the other hand, for the boss, whether he wishes for sentiment to enter into his thoughts or not, he knows that the best way to quash any more rumblings of player discontent will be for a double sweep over Farías’ Bolivia and Monday’s Caribbean opponents. On paper and according to the FIFA rankings, this is what is anticipated, yet during his tenure, Dudamel has only achieved consecutive victories once: a pair of 1-0 wins against Jamaica and then Uruguay at 2016’s Copa América Centenario.
Who did he field up front for both games? Yup, Salomón Rondón.
Oh, and Josef Martínez.
Both notched a goal each.
Indeed, there was once a time when this partnership was utilised to effect. Yet three-and-a-bit years later, the chances of it ever being witnessed again currently seem about as likely as Venezuela going more than a month without some internal drama.
To keep track of how things pan out, please continue to check this website as well as @DarrenSpherical for updates.
Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Bernardo Añor (Caracas FC), Jhon Chancellor (Brescia, Italy), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Ronald Hernández (Stabaek, Norway), Yordan Osorio (Zenit Saint Petersburg, Russia, on loan from Porto, Portugal), Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain) & Mikel Villanueva (Málaga, Spain).
Juan Pablo “Juanpi” Añor (Málaga, Spain),Yangel Herrera (Granada, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England), Darwin Machís (Granada, Spain), Júnior Moreno (DC United, USA), Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), Rómulo Otero (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy), Jefferson Savarino (Real Salt Lake, USA), Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil) & Renzo Zambrano (Portland Timbers, USA).
Fernando Aristeguieta (Monarcas Morelia, Mexico), Andrés Ponce (Akhmat Grozny, Russia) & Salomón Rondón (Dalian Yifang, China).
Little to see or learn in Tampa. Nevertheless, @DarrenSpherical is here to dutifully recount La Vinotinto’s friendly encounter with Colombia.
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.
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.