Tag Archives: Rafael Dudamel

Argentina 2-0 Venezuela – Copa América 2019 Quarter-Final (28 June 2019)

History repeats itself in Rio. Here, @DarrenSpherical recounts La Vinotinto’Copa América 2019 exit to Argentina.

Copa América 2019 – Quarter-Final

Friday 28 June 2019 – Estádio do Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro.

Argentina 2-0 Venezuela

Video Highlights of Argentina 2-0 Venezuela, Copa América Quarter-Final, 28 June 2019 (YouTube)

There’s Always Next Year

Venezuela’s unbeaten streak came abruptly to an end at the Maracanã, as for the second successive tournament, La Vinotinto were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by Argentina.

Coming into the game, Rafael Dudamel’s men were fancied by more than a few to cause an upset, yet on the day this never once came close to fruition. Indeed, Argentina were first out of the blocks and that is where they remained. In the third minute, Sergio Agüero’s shot from an angle was saved by the feet of goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez and then four minutes later, a knock-on from a corner found defender Germán Pezzella. However, it must have taken him by surprise as, despite being in a very advantageous position, his control let him down and Faríñez instead gratefully received the ball.

Nevertheless, it was only a matter of a time. Thus, a 10th-minute Lionel Messi corner founds its way to Agüero whose low effort back into the mixer was skilfully backheeled into the back of the net by Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martínez to make it 1-0.

Subsequently, Venezuela did occasionally make it forward – Darwin Machís, in particular, often driving at Juan Foyth – but in the first half they never managed to test the gloves of Franco Armani. Gradually, goalmouth action at either end died down, with instead the card count rising: five yellows by the break, with a red seeming inevitable.

Overall, Venezuela’s best first-half chance – a 40th-minute Jhon Chancellor header from a Júnior Moreno corner, which went comfortably over – was barely worthy of the description. Instead, Argentina, without being dominant or particularly eye-catching, were the more creative side and were close to doubling their lead in stoppage-time when Marcos Acuña’s low cross to the back post was only narrowly knocked away from the looming Martínez by Roberto Rosales.

Soon after the restart in the 48th minute, Martínez had a better chance to net for a second time when he was played through by Leandro Paredes yet, despite his promising his position, his strike hit the outside of the post and went out.

However, this did not lead to an Albiceleste avalanche, as instead things became a little more even. Finally, in the 71st minute, Venezuela were able to fashion a substantial opportunity when captain Tomás Rincón chipped the ball into the area where it was met by right-back Ronald Hernández whose shot from close range had to be parried by Armani.

Yet, just three minutes later, any hope of taking the game to penalties was virtually extinguished. Rather, Argentina doubled their lead after Giovani Lo Celso tapped in the ball after Faríñez badly spilled a relatively tame shot from Agüero. It has to be said that it has not been a successful showcase for the Millonarios goalkeeper who, despite making an important stop against Peru, was also fortunate to get away with two mistakes in that game as well as with another against Bolivia. Ultimately, his luck, along with that of his team, ran out in Rio de Janeiro, but at just 21, age is still most definitely on his side.

Before the 90 minutes were up, Venezuela had one more opportunity – a Salomón Rondón header from a Moreno corner which Armani had to instinctively parry – but alas, it was Argentina who progressed to the semi-final date with Brazil.

Taking everything into account, it is somewhat difficult to judge Venezuela’s Copa América campaign. On the one hand, they went unbeaten in their group and even drew with the hosts, yet on the other, they once again frequently looked bereft of ideas when going forward and fell at the same hurdle as in 2016, despite having recently beaten Argentina in a friendly. Inevitably, many fans have voiced their impatience with, and disapproval of, Dudamel’s caution-first approach and he will know as well as anyone the limitations of seeking to frustrate the more illustrious sides whilst hoping a goal can be snatched at the other end.

Still, although it may not feel this way now, by most people’s standards, Venezuela have, at the very least, equalled pre-tournament expectations, if not slightly surpassed them. Their team is relatively settled and they can take what they have gained into the end-of-year friendlies, ahead of next year’s qualifiers for Qatar 2022: the ultimate objective.

Team Selections

Argentina (4-3-3): F. Armani; J. Foyth, G. Pezzella, N. Otamendi, N. Tagliafico; R. De Paul, L. Paredes (G. Lo Celso, 68′), M. Acuña; L. Messi, L. Martínez (Á. Di María, 64′) & S. Agüero (P. Dybala, 85′).

Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Fariñez; R. Hernández, J. Chancellor, L. Mago (Y. Soteldo, 55′), R. Rosales (L. Seijas, 84′); J. Moreno, Y. Herrera, T. Rincón; J. Murillo, D. Machís (J. Martínez, 71′); S. Rondón.

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

Brazil 0-0 Venezuela – Copa América 2019 Group A (18 June 2019)

The arc of footballing morality bends decisively towards justice as the clinical clarity of technology helps to even up the score. Here, @DarrenSpherical recounts La Vinotinto’s memorable Copa América 2019 clash against Brazil.

Copa América 2019 – Group A

Tuesday 18 June 2019 – Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador

Brazil 0-0 Venezuela

 

Video Highlights of Brazil 0-0 Venezuela, Copa América Group A, 18 June 2019 (YouTube)

“¡Qué Viva el VAR! ¡Bienvenido el VAR!”

Those were the post-match words of Rafael Dudamel after the new technology played a significant role in frustrating the hosts and complementing what was a remarkably resilient Vinotinto display.

In all, three Brazilian goals were ruled out – one by the referee and two with the assistance of VAR. This brings the total of goals denied to Venezuela’s opponents to five in just two games and gives Venezuela two more points than their tireless defensive endeavours would have been rewarded with in previous years.

Over the course of what were in excess of 100 minutes on the pitch, the hosts saw the majority of the ball and, particularly in the early exchanges, seemed determined to compensate for their laboured performance in the opening-day win over Bolivia.

Indeed, they enjoyed over 80 per cent of possession in the first 20 minutes as they ran the Venezuelan defence ragged with quick passes and movement. David Neres and Richarlison – the two standout players from their 2017 Under-20 crop – came closest to scoring, with the former’s 15th-minute strike being sliced wide from a promising position and the latter’s 17th-minute cross-goal shot being parried wide by Wuilker Faríñez.

Despite this, Venezuela were not far off breaking the deadlock themselves when, in the 19th minute a Yangel Herrera cross was glanced agonisingly wide by Salomón Rondón. Although this moment sparked a five-minute spell of Venezuelan pressure which unsettled the home crowd, ultimately it proved to be his side’s only real opportunity of the entire game.

Seleção uneasiness appeared to have been alleviated in the 38th minute when they appeared to take the lead. Here, Dani Alves crossed in low from the right, with Roberto Firmino controlling and striking home. However, the referee was alert to the Liverpool forward pulling down centre-back Mikel Villanueva before taking aim and thus called back the play.

For the remainder of the half, although Brazil maintained overall control, Venezuela did just about leave ajar the potential for an historic upset, most notably when a 43rd-minute counter-attack saw Rondón and Murillo passing the ball between each other but, ultimately,  the latter’s crucial low cross was too close to goalkeeper Alisson.

Boos were heard from the stands at half-time as well as at various points in the second half, even though in this latter period the attacking impetus always resided with Tite’s men, as Venezuela barely made it into opposition territory. Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesús came on after the restart and soon made an impact, first curling an effort wide in 57th minute and, three minutes later, seemingly giving his team the lead. This time, his strike deflected off Villanueva into the path of Firmino, who quickly found the alert Jesús approaching the six-yard-box, who finished off. However, following a VAR review, the position of the Champions League winner Firmino was adjudged to be offside.

Home fan disgruntlement understandably increased, as did the feeling that this was not going to be their night. Not only was the technology coldly and clinically putting the game to rights, but Venezuela’s defensive performance – most notably that of centre-back Yordan Osorio – was proving resolutely defiant. The toll their tracking was taking must have been significant and was possibly a factor in the surprise 66th-minute removal of Yangel Herrera in favour of the speedy attacker Yeferson Soteldo and consequent tactical shift to a 4-4-2. Incidentally, as if to illustrate that a bright future is on the horizon, the arrival of the latter player made him the fourth 2017 Under-20 World Cup runner-up to see action.

Still, Brazil had not completely given in to fate and in the 76th minute they manufactured a scare when Fernandinho’s low cross seemed destined to be tapped in by Jesús, but Osorio’s presence instead helped divert the ball safely to Faríñez.

If the home fans were unhappy with the Portugal-based defender’s physical challenge then, just over ten minutes later, they were absolutely fuming. On the left in the 87th minute, speedy substitute Everton played a one-two before dinking a ball into the centre that Philippe Coutinho prodded home. This time, it appeared that the dam had at last been broken. However, during the VAR review, it was spotted that, before bustling into the back of the net, the Barcelona player’s strike hit the knee of his former club team-mate Firmino – who was standing in an offside position. Thus, VAR, the death of football for some was to yet again offer life to Venezuela.

Given all the stoppages – including two Venezuela players going down injured – the referee allocated nearly ten minutes of added time, during which Brazil managed to create two more chances. First, a 93rd minute low drive across goal by Filipe Luís that only narrowly evaded two sliding forwards and, with the clock approaching 100 minutes, a Fernandinho header that went less than a yard wide of the back post.

Ultimately, however, the match ended 0-0. The feelings of home frustration and disillusionment were matched by the elation and glee of Venezuelans scattered all over the globe. Indeed, even though the defensive organisation deserves enormous credit and the three goal decisions were correct, only a robot could fail to feel a giddy sense of slight fortune about the result. Brazil, whilst not brilliant, dominated proceedings, yet were thwarted by their opponents along with this new panel of arbitration that does not kowtow to home fan and player pressure.

With their two consecutive clean sheets – as well as their final four defensively sound performances in World Cup qualifying – Venezuela know that they certainly have it within themselves to collectively keep the best in their continent at bay. However, with no goals to their name yet a win against Bolivia on Saturday now being almost essential to ensuring their progress to the knock-out stages, a change of tack is surely required. Although a continuation of the same tactics could yield a counter-attacking victory, Dudamel’s men are not going to receive a better opportunity in this tournament to try out their offensive moves than against the side with zero points who also need a win. Of course, a more open game certainly leaves Venezuela somewhat vulnerable at the back but, having so far struggled to link up effectively in the final third, they need to make the most of this match. They must take the game to their opponents, get the win and make everyone genuinely believe that, rather than just being a nuisance merely postponing an inevitable pounding, their stay in Brazil could well instead be extended until the first weekend of July.

Well, after what was experienced in Salvador, anyone could be forgiven for dreaming.

To keep up-to-date with Venezuela’s Copa América campaign, please return to this website as well as follow @DarrenSpherical.

Team Selections

Brazil (4-2-3-1): Alisson; D. Alves, T. Silva, Marquinhos, F. Luís; Casemiro (Fernandinho, 58′), Arthur; Richarlison (G. Jesús, 46′),  P. Coutinho, D. Neres (Everton, 72′); R. Firmino.

Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Fariñez; R. Hernández, Y. Osorio, M. Villanueva, R. Rosales; J. Moreno, Y. Herrera (Y. Soteldo, 66′), T. Rincón; J. Murillo, D. Machís (A. Figuera, 76′); S. Rondón (J. Martínez, 86′).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Peru 0-0 Venezuela – Copa América 2019 Group A (15 June 2019)

Creditable if not a classic. Here, @DarrenSpherical recounts La Vinotinto’s first Copa América 2019 game against Peru.

Copa América 2019 – Group A

Saturday 15 June 2019 – Arena do Grêmio, Porto Alegre

Peru 0-0 Venezuela

Video Highlights of Peru 0-0 Venezuela, Copa América Group A, 15 June 2019 (YouTube)

Venezuela Ride Their Luck To Hang On For A Valuable Point

In their group stage bow, Venezuela were reduced to ten men but VAR and goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez aided them to battle to a potentially crucial point.

Manager Rafael Dudamel fielded the same team that swept aside an under-strength USA, but here, against World Cup-level opposition, they were unable to combine with anything like the same verve. Perhaps it was the fear of the likely ramifications of losing, possibly it owed something to the stadium being less than one-quarter full, but whatever the cause, overall it was a rather lacklustre game.

The frequent stoppages didn’t help matters. The first of these came after seven minutes when Peru thought that they had taken the lead. Talismanic striker Paolo Guerrero was fouled by left-back Luis Mago on the right edge of the area and the resulting free-kick was swung into the danger zone. The cross was contested by Renato Tapia and Faríñez and the goalkeeper was left red-faced as he failed to collect it, with the ball instead bobbling to Christofer Gonzáles, who composed himself well to bounce a strike that ended up in the top corner of the net. However, after a four-minute wait, the goal was ruled out owing to an offside picked up by VAR. Nobody can argue with this decision, but they certainly can with the time it took to reach it as well as how this was factored into the amount of stoppage-time allocated. Indeed, given that several players were to later find themselves down on the deck for prolonged periods, then other than to save the organisers’ blushes, one can only wonder why the referee added on a mere four minutes at the end of the first half.

Still, Peru seemed to be in the ascendancy early on and could well have scored in the 15th minute when they broke up Mago’s side with Jefferson Farfán squaring the ball to Christian Cueva on the left edge of the area. However, despite the defenders being at sixes and sevens, the Santos attacker could only screw his strike wide of the target.

Not for the first time, Venezuela struggled to link up effectively with one another and it wasn’t until the 22nd minute that a chance of note was generated. On the left, Jhon Murillo received a diagonal ball from Jefferson Savarino and crossed into the area, with Yangel Herrera’s touch knocking it on to Salomón Rondón. The Premier League striker poked a point-blank effort goalwards but goalkeeper Pedro Gallese instinctively stuck his leg in the way to prevent a goal.

Five minutes later, Venezuela had another chance when, from an acute angle on the left, Savarino swung in a free-kick that Gallese punched away. Nevertheless, Peru soon re-asserted themselves and fashioned some half-chances: Luis Advíncula’s 32nd-minute low drive from the edge of the area that Faríñez collected at the second attempt and then a 37th-minute chest-and-strike from Guerrero which was hit with intent, albeit over the bar. Perhaps the Internacional forward was just warming up as in the 42nd minute he swung a powerful free-kick around the wall, forcing Faríñez to touch it out behind. From the resulting corner, the goalkeeper’s shaky start to the tournament continued as he weakly punched out the cross and was fortunate that, whilst he was in no-man’s-land, Tomás Rincón was covering the net and able to block Luis Abram’s goal-bound attempt.

All square at the break, the second half started a little brighter for Venezuela as Rondón’s 47th-minute free-kick just outside of the area was struck a yard or so wide.

This was a false dawn and some 15 minutes later when Farfán was granted space to head home, Los Incas thought that they had gained the lead. Again, however, Señor VAR intervened, this time to correctly adjudge that the ball was played offside before the cross even came in to the area.

Thus, another let-off for Venezuela who, courtesy of a Rondón flick five minutes later, suddenly found a hole in the Peruvian backline, but Murillo’s shot from a slight angle was aimed straight at Gallese.

Any hopes that Venezuela may just pull a crafty one on their opponents were largely put to bed in the 74th minute when Mago received his second yellow card for a badly-timed challenge. At this point, many Vinotinto fans’ memories were cast back to the 2015 Copa when fellow left-back Fernando Amorebieta also received his marching orders and a late Peru goal condemned Venezuela to a 1-0 defeat in a similarly crucial encounter.

However, it appears that Venezuela’s No. 1 is less prone to such fatalistic thoughts. Indeed, less than two minutes later he redeemed himself with a fantastic save. This came as Farfán’s effort was deflected to the back post where it looked as if it would be knocked home, yet the Millonarios goalkeeper was somehow able to anticipate the direction of the strike and claw it out from the goal line. Subsequently, the ball was played back into the goalmouth, forcing Faríñez to pull off another close-range save and then watch as the rebound was sliced against the post. As an aside, not that anyone involved was aware at the time, but these latter two attempts were from offside players.

This bout of goalmouth pinball was the biggest scare that the ten men were to face in the final 15 minutes, but not the only one: in the 81st minute, Faríñez was forced to parry wide Edison Flores’ strike from the edge of the area and two minutes later the goalkeeper breathed a sigh of relief as Farfán’s close-range header narrowly evaded the target.

Thus, overall Peru had the better of this 0-0 draw and for the majority of the second half Dudamel’s men, although never completely out of the game, struggled to really test Gallese’s gloves. Substitutes Yeferson Soteldo and Darwin Machís perhaps displayed some late attacking intent and creativity which may well influence the manager’s thinking ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Brazil, but he’ll know that they will need to do a lot better to trouble the hosts.

That said, even though Venezuela’s progression hopes are likely to be determined by the final game against Bolivia, this point, albeit gained in underwhelming circumstances, could undoubtedly prove invaluable to prolonging their stay.

To keep up-to-date with Venezuela’s Copa América campaign, please return to this website as well as follow @DarrenSpherical.

Team Selections

Peru (4-3-3): P. Gallese; L. Advíncula, C. Zambrano, L. Abram, M. Trauco; R. Tapia, C. Gonzáles (A. Carrillo, 88′), Y. Yotún (A. Polo, 66′); J. Farfán, P. Guerrero, C. Cueva (E. Flores, 46′).

Venezuela (4-3-2-1): W. Fariñez; R. Rosales, J. Chancellor, M. Villanueva, L. Mago; J. Moreno (R. Hernández, 78′), Y. Herrera, T. Rincón; J. Savarino (D. Machís, 69′), J. Murillo (Y. Soteldo, 84′); S. Rondón.

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

Ecuador 1-1 Venezuela – International Friendly (1 June 2019)

Not everyone has yet arrived, but Venezuela’s Copa América preparations certainly have. Below, @DarrenSpherical recounts their opening USA-based friendly.

International Friendly

Saturday 1 June 2019 – Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida, USA

Ecuador 1-1 Venezuela

Video Highlights of Ecuador 1-1 Venezuela, International Friendly, 1 June 2019 (YouTube)

Rosales’ Rapture Ennered at the Death

A stoppage-time goal by Enner Valencia denied a makeshift La Vinotinto victory in Miami in their first of three Copa América warm-up encounters.

Manager Rafael Dudamel, deprived of eight of his final 23-man squad owing to the game being held on a non-FIFA date, fielded a side which included some individuals who have been omitted from the final cut. Two of these, youngsters Nahuel Ferraresi and Jan Hurtado, were given starting berths, with substitute appearances being granted to Renzo Zambrano, Jhonder Cádiz, Bernaldo Manzano, Erickson Gallardo and Samuel Sosa – the latter three, incidentally, making their senior international debuts.

Of the surprisingly physical early exchanges, captain-for-the-night Roberto Rosales had the best Venezuelan chance, when in the ninth minute he pounced on a loose ball outside the area to dip a well-struck right-footed effort over the bar. Three minutes later, the Ecuadorians made their attacking presence known, as defensive uncertainty led to a header suddenly being presented for Romario Ibarra, whose instinctive nodded effort went just wide of the target. Shortly afterwards, La Vinotinto found themselves in another similar pickle as Jhon Chancellor’s poor header fell into the path of Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia, whose shot from an acute angle went just wide of Rafael Romo’s far post.

For the rest of the opening third of the game, Venezuela’s response consisted of little more than a couple of bustling runs from Hurtado. However, come the 38th minute, following a handball from a Ronald Hernández cross, Dudamel’s men had a penalty, which the shaven-headed Rosales stepped up to take. Although goalkeeper Alexander Domínguez got a touch, the experienced full-back scored his first international goal – barely two months after also finding the net in March’s unofficial friendly with Catalonia.

However, if Venezuela slightly edged the first half then the second half was Ecuador’s. They were not far off scoring just two minutes after the restart, as a ball into the area found Carlos Garcés, but the forward was unable to divert it goalwards and the chance was lost.

For the rest of the half, without threatening a great deal, Hernán Darío Gómez’s men looked the more organised of the two units, a fact perhaps partly due to the greater number of substitutions carried out by his Venezuelan counterpart.

It would be very generous to describe the majority of attempts that followed as even half-chances, but this state of affairs changed just as Venezuela thought they were slogging to victory. Indeed, in the first minute of stoppage-time, sudden dispossession in midfield led to eagle-eyed Ayrton Preciado playing in ex-West Ham striker Valencia who clinically pounced to level the score.

Overall, it was a fair outcome to a largely unmemorable game. Venezuela never really clicked and their central defence provided a few jittery moments, but – they will surely tell themselves – they did not lose and they have two more preparation games to settle into a more effective rhythm.

For the first of these, on Wednesday against Mexico, with the exception of the injured Rolf Feltscher – whose place is being temporarily filled by Pablo Bonilla – La Vinotinto will have all of their final 23-man squad available. With the game being played at the stadium of Atlanta United, the current home of incoming hotshot Josef Martínez as well as the former residence of new El Tri manager, Tata Martino, this promises to be a more captivating encounter.

To keep up-to-date with how things transpire in the remainder of Venezuela’s Copa América warm-up as well as the tournament itself, please keep checking back here as well as pay a visit to @DarrenSpherical.

Team Selections

Ecuador (4-2-3-1-1): A. Domínguez; J. Quintero, G. Achilier, B. Caicedo, P. Velasco; J, Intriago, J. Orejuela; A. Valencia (A. Preciado, 69′), R. Ibarra (E. Valencia, 69′); L. Chicaiza; C. Garcés (R. Ibarra, 69′).

Venezuela (4-3-2-1): R. Romo; R. Hernández, J. Chancellor, N. Ferraresi, R. Rosales; A. Figuera (B. Manzano, 90′), Y. Herrera (R. Zambrano, 67′), L. Seijas (J. Añor, 79′); J. Murillo (E. Gallardo, 83′), A. Peñaranda (S. Sosa, 46′); J. Hurtado (J. Cádiz, 46′).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical