Tag Archives: Venezuela 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20

Venezuela – Top Talents at the 2017 Under-20 South American Youth Championship

The 2017 Under-20 South American Youth Championship took place in Ecuador from 18 January until 11 February. @DarrenSpherical watched all 35 games, writing reports for each encounter that detailed all the significant moments by the most talented players that were spotted. This article focuses on the most notable starlets found in the ranks of Under-20 World Cup qualifiers Venezuela, who ultimately finished 3rd in the final group stage (also known as the Hexagonal), having also initially progressed from Group B in 3rd. Before browsing below, it may be advisable to have a look at the final standings, results and goalscorers here and/or read the main reference guide published on this website, which features details on dozens of players, with every one of the ten participating nations represented. 

(All photographs are credited to GettyImages)

venezuelaflag Venezuela

Tournament Summary

Rafael Dudamel’s men put in an exceptional showing, qualifying for the Under-20 World Cup for the first time since 2009 and giving their compatriots much hope for the future. Yet, though always solid at the back – they would finish with the least goals conceded over nine games – they struggled for goals in the opening stage and looked like they could be heading home early, before just about scraping through with four straight draws (one goal for, one goal against). Thankfully for fans and neutrals alike, the floodgates opened in the Hexagonal when, in the second game, they thumped hosts Ecuador 4-2 and later inflicted Uruguay’s only defeat upon them (3-0), ultimately finishing a hugely commendable third.

To view highlights as well as read more about how Venezuela got on and who stood out in each game, click here

Top Two Talents

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Yeferson Soteldo (Attacking-midfielder/Forward, No. 10, Huachipato, Chile)

Undoubtedly the most eye-catching individual on the field for Venezuela was diminutive left-sided dribbler Yeferson Soteldo. Indeed, at 5 feet 3 inches tall, he must have had the lowest centre of gravity in the competition yet was a conspicuous presence as he repeatedly slalomed his way past opponents with the ball seemingly glued to his boots.

This jinking playmaker also took set-pieces and frequently appeared to be running the show yet was criticised early on for his alleged poor decision-making and lack of end-product. Some perceived his relegation to the bench for the third game against Bolivia as a punishment though Dudamel may have been thinking long-term and instead saving his energy. However, after he came on in the 52nd minute, Venezuela noticeably stepped things up several gears and were it not for the hapless wastefulness of several team-mates, Soteldo would have been credited with key contributions for at least three goals. Nevertheless, after Venezuela squeaked through to the final stage on goal difference after a 0-0 draw against Argentina, the stats that matter did not look good for Soteldo.

However, shortly after the Hexagonal began, this would all be largely forgotten, as he hit the ground running in the opening game with Colombia, scoring a sensational curling free-kick. Subsequently, he was to be integral in their two breathtaking thrashings. In the 4-2 win against Ecuador, if one generously notes his pass to Yangel Herrera for the stunning opener, then he had some role to play in all four goals: for the second, he scored this himself from the penalty spot, for the third, it was his shot that deflected kindly into the path of goalscorer Ronaldo Chacón and lastly, for the fourth, he was credited with an actual assist after he followed up some good work on the left with a pass across to Sergio Córdova, who finished off. Two matches later in the 3-0 win over Uruguay if, even more generously, his free-kick which was headed onto the bar is counted as a contribution towards the first goal which came barely ten seconds later, then he had some part to play in all the goals here as well. Indeed, he scored the second himself from the penalty spot and soon afterwards, he drew the foul to win another spot-kick, which Chacón converted to make it 3-0.

Thus, overall, of Venezuela’s nine tournament goals, he scored three and had a key role to play in at least another three (five, if you ask his agent); furthermore, had his team-mates displayed greater shooting accuracy, he could well have registered contributions for several more. Whilst there may still be justifiable concerns over whether or not he can be a bit of a tunnel-visioned ball-hogger and his size does make one ponder how far he can go in the global game, the raw ingredients of a potential star are surely already there. Having staggeringly played almost exactly 100 games for domestic champions Zamora, he has now joined up with Chile’s Huachipato, a side that compatriot Rómulo Otero impressed at last year before earning a move to Brazil’s Atlético Mineiro. Otero is one of a host of other attacking-midfielders Soteldo shall face competition from in this rather unsettled line in Venezuela’s senior team, though with three caps already to his name, the future nevertheless looks radiant for the Under-20’s leading man.

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Yangel Herrera (Defensive-midfielder, No. 8, New York City FC, on loan from Manchester City)

Venezuela’s captain, the holding midfielder who deserves much credit for helping to organise those around him and snuff out danger so that his side emerged with the best defensive record over the course of nine games. Primarily for these contributions, Yangel Herrera was crucial to his side’s success though, whilst he may not be as much of an attacking threat as the likes of Uruguay’s Nicolás De La Cruz, he also played his part going forward.

Indeed, in the opening 0-0 draw with Uruguay, he nearly won the match with his late goalwards nudge, but this was overhead-kicked off the line by his counterpart Rodrigo Bentancur. Subsequently, he was impossible to ignore in the following game against Peru, as he first won a penalty which he took yet failed to convert and then hit the bar with the rebound; he did not let this setback devour his drive, however, as he went on to head home an important last-minute equaliser before, barely a minute later, receiving a second yellow card and thus his marching orders. Into the Hexagonal phase, he got the ball rolling in the second game against Ecuador with a fine strike from the edge of the area for the opening goal, though it’s unclear how many of his compatriots watching at home are willing to admit it took a significant deflection. In the subsequent match against Brazil, he was unlucky not to get another goal when he struck a fine low effort from 30 yards that beat the goalkeeper but hit the base of the post before rolling across the goalmouth. Lastly, it’s also worth noting that he helped kick-start many Venezuelan attacks and often looked to play some incisive balls from a deep position.

He has already played for the senior national side and seems almost tailor-made to enjoy a formidable partnership with captain and Juventus new-boy Tomás Rincón. Signed by Manchester City during the tournament, he is perhaps the best-placed of this Under-20 team to become a regular at full international level. However, despite his importance to this campaign it can not go unremarked upon that he wasn’t on the pitch when his team-mates pulled off their most impressive victory, the 3-0 win against Uruguay. He also wasn’t present when his team-mates kept their second clean sheet against Bolivia and had seven gilt-edged chances to score. However, whilst it is worth bearing in mind, this is not intended as criticism of the man, but more praise for the system implemented by Dudamel. That said, one thing he may need to improve upon is the reason behind him missing both of those matches: his discipline. Indeed, he picked up four yellow cards and one red during the tournament, which came off the back of a season where he received 14 yellow cards and one red card for Atlético Venezuela. Given the demands of his position and with Manchester City having already loaned him out to MLS allies New York City FC, it is questionable whether he will be told to ‘Follow what I say, not what I’ve done‘ by manager Patrick Vieira.

venezuelaflag More Venezuelan Talents

Venezuela came into the tournament with three individuals already capped at senior level and, quelle surprise, they turned out to be their most important players. Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) is the third of these starlets and has deservedly been proclaimed by virtually all observers as the indisputable top goalkeeper of the competition. He conceded just seven goals in nine games (three of which were penalties), looking remarkably assured and pulling off several notable saves. From the very first game, he gained widespread attention when he kept his cool to embarrass Uruguay’s Nicolás De La Cruz by not being fooled by his Panenka chipped penalty, instead standing upright to swat it away. Other impressive saves include a last-gasp stop at close range against Peru in the subsequent game as well as two in quick succession against Argentina in the final match, which helped to quell the feared opposition onslaught.

Many would have selected him as one of Venezuela’s top two players, but with an eye towards his potential long-term future, there’s just one glaring barrier stopping this writer from doing so: he’s 5 feet 9 inches tall. During the competition, while his sprightliness and alertness ensured it wasn’t a huge issue, he did get out-jumped a couple of times and one can imagine it happening with greater frequency elsewhere. Indeed, unsurprisingly, recent history and present reality are somewhat against him attaining a regular starting position in a major European league. Given that the current senior international goalkeeper Dani Hernández (incidentally, a colossal 6 feet 5 inches) plays for promotion-chasing Tenerife in the Spanish second division, one wonders if Fariñez can possibly go any higher than this. At the moment, though speculation exists regarding a potential move this year, he has said that he plans to remain at Caracas FC – where he has chalked up over 50 league appearances – at least until when his contract expires in 2018.

Other than his height, it can’t be ignored that he did clumsily give away two penalties in the tournament (the Ecuador one was difficult to argue with, though the one against Colombia was fiercely disputed by Venezuelan onlookers, including Salomón Rondón). Furthermore, in the opening match, his arguably unnecessary parry back into the danger zone, which led to a Uruguayan penalty as well as a red card for team-mate Eduin Quero who made a last-ditch effort to prevent a goal, didn’t exactly help either.

All that being said, he is definitely a top talent and there is little doubt in this writer’s mind that he will one day enjoy a run as the senior side’s first-choice goalkeeper. Despite one’s reservations about him when confronted by more physical opponents and a greater-paced game, his career is definitely one to keep an eye on and could constitute an inspiring victory for little gloved chaps the world over.

If it doesn’t work out, he can always try to rekindle his early teenage success as a striker.


Moving on somewhat, though Fariñez deserves huge credit for the stops he made and the way he patrolled his area with a confidence belying his age, he was also greatly assisted in achieving his four clean sheets by an exceptionally well-drilled defence. Indeed, they ensured that, a few scares aside, he was never put under relentless concerted pressure comparable to, say, Tim Howard for USA against Belgium, World Cup 2014. As already noted, given that they even managed to keep two clean sheets when Herrera was suspended from protecting the back four, it was very much a genuine squad effort and thus perhaps more of a triumph for Dudamel’s system rather than any one individual. This, coupled with Venezuela’s somewhat unremarkable record of producing top-level defenders (Roberto Rosales and Oswaldo Vizcarrondo being perhaps the best in recent years), renders one hesitant to predict untold success and riches for any one of these men at club level – after all, what will happen when they are broken up and have to abide by different tactics as well as work with other players at their respective clubs?

Nevertheless, if any of these shall enhance Venezuela’s defensive reputation in the upcoming decade or so, one’s money is on the following: Firstly, right-back Ronald Hernández (No. 20, Zamora FC) who thwarted virtually all the attacks on his flank, can’t be held culpable for any of the goals conceded and also managed to go on several notable dribbles upfield in at least a few games. Secondly, the two centre-backs  Josua Mejías (No. 17, Carabobo FC) and Williams Velásquez (No. 2, Estudiantes de Caracas, soon-to-be Udinese, Italy, on loan from Watford, England). The former, who has allegedly received interest from abroad, made some crucial blocks as well as got on the scoresheet by sliding in the opener in the Hexagonal win over Uruguay. The latter, who actually looked a likelier scorer with his headers from set-pieces, impressed and has reportedly signed for Watford, who shall loan him to Udinese, though some details remain unclear at this point.


Otherwise, further upfield, midfielder Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) – younger brother of the highly-capped international, Franklin – quietly impressed, particularly from set-pieces. Indeed, while he only officially registered one assist – the free-kick cross headed in by Herrera against Peruhad a couple of team-mates kept their cool against Bolivia, he could have easily had at least two more. Furthermore, in other games, he very nearly played a role in at least two other goals which makes one wonder: had he been able to see more action (four starts, three subs) and somehow nab set-piece duties from Soteldo more often, would he have proven himself as a superior provider? Time may tell on that one.


From a somewhat more attacking perspective, out largely on the right was Sergio Córdova (No. 23, Caracas FC). He didn’t entirely convince that a full international career beckons but he nevertheless made some useful contributions. Indeed, though he possesses less physicality and bustle than some of the Ecuadorian flank-men, he was still able to take on opponents from time to time and cause problems. Following one such moment against Bolivia which culminated with him putting a ball into the goalmouth, Ronaldo Peña’s ineptitude caused them to miss an open goal. Somewhat more successfuly, he played in a low ball from the right in the Hexagonal clash with Uruguay, which led to Ronaldo Chacón being fouled and, subsequently, the lead was doubled from the spot. Throughout the tournament, Soteldo set up at least four notable chances for Córdova, though only one of the three he failed to convert – against Bolivia – could be deemed close to gilt-edged. He did, however, score from one of Soteldo’s passes, this coming in from the left flank against Ecuador, which he struck home low in the fog from inside the area.


Up top, Ronaldo Chacón (No. 11, Caracas FC) arguably had the best tournament of those nominally fielded as strikers, though he had to wait until the Hexagonal stage to make four of his five starts. This was a slight surprise to those who were aware of his three goals in four games at the 2015 Under-17 Sudamericano, though he at least picked the most memorable games to get on the scoresheet here. Indeed, in the 4-2 win over Ecuador, he scored the third goal, receiving a deflected shot from Soteldo and striking home himself. Then, in the 3-0 win over Uruguay, he not only doubled his tally, but also had a hand in all three goals: for the first, not long after he had hit the crossbar with a header, he played in Mejías to slide home; for the second, he received Córdova’s pass and was fouled in the area, with Soteldo converting the subsequent penalty; for the third, he himself scored from the spot after the roles were reversed and Soteldo had been upended. Both Chacón and Soteldo worked rather well together in this match, which may have been just the time he caught the eye of the latter’s new club, Huachipato of Chile; rumours suggest they may link up there later this year.


Lastly, the name of Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain) went down in most fans’ little black books after he squandered a glaring hat-trick of golden opportunities against Bolivia which seemingly jeopardised the team’s chances of progressing to the Hexagonal. There were at least a couple more decent chances in other games that he could have done better with but overall, his play had its merits and suggested that he may be more suited to a support role, holding up the ball, linking up more dynamic players, chasing loose balls, running down the clock etc. Nevertheless, his most effective attacking contributions were an early flick-on against Bolivia from which a team-mate should have scored and the penalty for which he was fouled against Ecuador, ultimately converted by Soteldo.


If you would like to read about the best talents from the other nations, then click on the following links: UruguayEcuador, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia The Best of the Early Departees (Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia & Peru). All of this information is also contained in this mammoth Reference Guide.  

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Argentina 2-0 Venezuela (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 5, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 11 February 2017)

The first game which took place on the final Hexagonal Matchday of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Argentina face Venezuela. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

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(Source: Wikipedia)

Argentina 2-0 Venezuela

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 11 February 2017 (YouTube)

Venezuela came into this final encounter knowing that a win could put them in with an outside shout of claiming the title, whereas avoiding a defeat by five goals would at least confirm their World Cup qualification. For Argentina, a five-goal hammering would ensure their progress, but a win by anything less would leave them at the mercy of subsequent events – and so it proved. Indeed, in a game in which Los Pibes dominated from the start, it nevertheless looked as if they may be outright frustrated by the best overall defence in the competition. That is, until Lautaro Martínez scored twice in quick succession at the end of the first half; his first came after he took a pass in his stride and struck home and his second was an opportunistic looping header from a long ball. Afterwards, with Venezuela shaken, Argentina’s objective seemed plausible. However, though after the break they enjoyed the majority of the attacks and forced some fine saves from opposition goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez, the clock gradually ran out on the white-and-blue boys. When the final whistle was blown, they looked as if they felt the seemingly inevitable would send them packing, yet just over two hours later, fear was turned to elation as Brazil failed to beat Colombia, gifting Argentina the fourth and final World Cup berth. By contrast, Venezuela, though perhaps not capping off an otherwise memorable tournament in the ideal manner, greeted the end of the match with unbridled joy as they will be travelling to the Under-20 World Cup for the first time since 2009.

Talent Spotting

argentinaflag Argentina

He appears to only score vitally crucial goals but his team-mates will long be grateful that he got another two here. In doing so, with a tournament total of five goals Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club) helped elevate himself into a position where he can be justifiably proclaimed one of the top players of the past 25 days. The opener against Venezuela came after 43 minutes when he received a pass from the right from strike-partner Marcelo Torres (No. 21, Boca Juniors); with two good touches, Martínez took the ball into the area before firing low across goal into the back of the net. Barely a few minutes later, Martínez got his second as a long ball from Joaquín Pereyra (No. 18, Rosario Central) surprisingly went over the head of a defender; immediately behind him on the edge of the area, Martínez looped a header which caught goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez off-guard and went over him to make it 2-0. With these two goals, Argentina suddenly looked as if they could go on a rampage, but alas, they were to be thwarted, with the closest Martínez coming to getting a hat-trick actually occurring straight after his second, when he blazed a knock-back over. He did also have another chance much later on in the 79th-minute when he turned and struck from the edge of the area, but his shot also went well over.

Otherwise, though Los Pibes took to this game with an intent rarely seen in recent days, no other player really had a game worth salivating over, though some players did nevertheless try to make things happen. These were Argentina’s other notable forward forays:

In the eighth minute, Pereyra had a weak shot from over 25 yards out which went wide; more substantially in the 13th minute, following a hanging cross over to the right side of the area, Lucas Rodríguez (No. 7, Estudiantes de La Plata) stabbed an effort that clipped the outside of the post and went behind – though goalkeeper Fariñez had this covered. In the 28th minute, Rodríguez had another half-chance though this strike from distance went comfortably wide; a couple of minutes a later, a slightly better effort came from 30 yards on the inside-right from Federico Zaracho (No. 19, Racing Club), which bounced awkwardly in front of Fariñez who nevertheless blocked. A greater opportunity occurred shortly afterwards when Martínez returned a one-two to Rodríguez just inside the area, though just before the latter could hit the trigger, a defender crucially intervened for a corner. Then, just before Martínez opened the scoring as well as straight after the break, Pereyra got a couple more shots in, with the second a much better attempt, though both of these went wide of the post.

Otherwise, Argentina’s best chances to extend their lead in this half all occurred within a minute or so of each other. Indeed, in the 56th minute, Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo) received a dinked ball in space on the left edge of the area and fired a shot that was only marginally deflected over. From Conechny’s subsequent corner, fellow substitute Ezequiel Barco (No. 10, Independiente) connected with a strong header that was well-parried at close range; soon after, a shot was fired in low from the edge of the area that again required a fine save, with the rebound being narrowly diverted from the path of Torres. Subsequently, Argentina gradually had to accept that their fate would be in the hands of others, with a stoppage-time right-footed strike from Santiago Ascacibar (No. 5, Estudiantes de La Plata) that swerved wide some 30 yards out proving to be their very last throw of the dice.

They thus greeted the final whistle with apprehension, though after they sat through the following 0-0 draw between rivals Brazil and bottom-boys Colombia, their faces became pictures of joy and relief. Despite their inconsistent campaign, they have squeaked through in fourth and shall be off to South Korea in May for the World Cup, a tournament that they have won a record six times.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

Rafael Dudamel’s men came into the game simply needing to avoid a heavy loss to guarantee World Cup qualification and played accordingly. Indeed, perhaps it was partly due to Argentina’s greater urgency for goals, but Venezuela were on the back-foot for much of this game.

For the first 42 minutes, despite their lack of adventure, they did a good job of frustrating their opponents; Yangel Herrera (No. 8, Manchester City) put in a notable last-ditch challenge in the fourth minute and the defence collectively forced Argentina into long-range attempts and half-chances. However, they were rocked by two goals at the end of the first half and looked vulnerable to concede more afterwards.

Yet, though the defenders deserve plaudits for regaining their composure and not succumbing to an avalanche of goals, goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) in particular is worthy of recognition for some crucial saves. Indeed, though he was perhaps unfortunately placed for the second goal due to anticipating his defender to head away, he otherwise looked alert throughout the game and his shot-stopping abilities were called into action in the 57th minute. Indeed, he first pulled off a close-range parry from Barco’s header and not long afterwards did well to see a shot from the edge of the area come through a cluster of players, which he blocked low.

From an attacking perspective, aside from one or two harmless efforts from Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain), Venezuela were not much of a threat. Their best and only real chance came from Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) whose 53rd-minute free-kick clipped the top of the crossbar; otherwise, to a decreased degree, the diminutive dribbler showed some nice footwork and took some other set-pieces which came to nothing.

Nevertheless, as the second half wore on, it became increasingly clear that Venezuela were on their way to their first Under-20 World Cup since 2009 – elation thus greeted the final whistle on the pitch and back home. Eight years ago, Salomón Rondón was part of that impressive squad who progressed on home soil, yet though a handful of his team-mates have since gone on to earn senior caps, none could be said to have also become integral to the national side. Thus, though three individuals in this year’s rather outstanding crop have repeatedly stood out (Herrera, Soteldo and Fariñez) and several others have also caught the eye, one can only hope that this can be built on in upcoming years with greater success.

The two other games played on the fifth and final Hexagonal Matchday were Colombia vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Uruguay – talent-spotting articles have now also been published for these encounters. 

Otherwise, to keep track with the careers of these and many other talented South Americans, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Uruguay 0-3 Venezuela (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 4, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 8 February 2017)

The second game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 4 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Uruguay face Venezuela. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

hexagonal8217

(Source: Wikipedia)

Uruguay 0-3 Venezuela

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 8 February 2017 (YouTube)

Despite being billed as Uruguay’s title-winning match, it ended up as a rout delivered by a very impressive Venezuela side, which now puts the latter in with an outside chance of nabbing the championship on Saturday. Indeed, they were well worth their victory as they edged proceedings from the off, even if Uruguay did end up having the two best chances of the first half – both of these came shortly before the interval, with one being a header against the crossbar. After the break in the 67th minute, Venezuela also rattled the woodwork with a header and, barely seconds afterwards, they took the lead courtesy of Josua Mejías’s low strike from an angle. Uruguay were still reeling from this four minutes later when Ronaldo Chacón was fouled in the area and Yeferson Soteldo converted the penalty for 2-0. Just five minutes later, roles were reversed as a crucial victory was wrapped up when Soteldo was fouled in the area and Chacón stepped up to make it 3-0 from the spot. Such was the delirium, even Antonio Romero receiving Venezuela’s fifth red card in eight games in the last minute could not sour the evening for the boys in burgundy.

Talent Spotting
uruguayflag Uruguay

Suffering their very first defeat of the competition and thus causing sudden, unanticipated doubt upon the ultimate destination of the tournament trophy, Uruguay had very little joy when going forward in this game. Indeed, they were continually thwarted by Venezuela’s well-organised defence, with their best opportunities coming one after the other towards the end of the opening half.

The first occurred in the 42nd minute when, from a free-kick on the inside-right, Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay) surprised opponents by dinking the ball with his left into the area; this found Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid) in space on the right yet he was smartly denied a goal by Wuilker Fariñez, who blocked his shot wide. From the resulting corner, Uruguay came even closer to breaking the deadlock as the cross of Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) was headed hard against the crossbar by left-back Mathías Olivera (No. 5, Club Atlético Atenas).

Otherwise, De La Cruz had a long range shot easily saved and put in another testing cross that caused some problems, but this was very much an off-day for Uruguay. They will urgently need to compose themselves and regroup ahead of Saturday’s clash with Ecuador as defeat could see the hosts instead claim the trophy – even a draw would prove insufficient if Venezuela gain a final-day victory.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

With Manchester City-bound captain Yangel Herrera suspended along with two other regulars and three of the coaching staff including manager Rafael Dudamel, there were fears that Venezuela could implode. Instead, however, they produced a performance of sublime maturity as they were able to keep the heavy tournament favourites at bay before inflicting their first defeat upon them.

Two men who played a role in all three goals were Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) and Ronaldo Chacón (No. 11, Caracas FC). Before they made their mark, they had been involved in some other notable attacks, particularly Soteldo. Indeed, in the 35th minute he did great on the right to take on a player before putting in a fine ball for Sergio Córdova (No. 23, Caracas FC), though the latter’s acrobatic scissor-kick went a couple of yards wide. Later, in the 55th minute, Soteldo did well over on the left where he ran into the area and cut the ball back from the byline but Chacón couldn’t quite finish it off, instead winning a corner.

12 minutes later, however, they made more telling involvements. Indeed, some 35 yards out on the right, Soteldo whipped in a fine free-kick that, from just inside the area, Chacón rattled against the crossbar with a header. Subsequently, the ball was then cleared before being knocked back into the path of Chacón on the inside-left some 35 yards out and he slid in Josua Mejías (No. 17, Carabobo FC) inside the area who, in turn, slipped the ball past the goalkeeper from an angle. Plucky Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain) may have celebrated as if it was his goal, but make no mistake, it was Mejías who gave Venezuela the lead. Just four minutes later, Córdova’s cross for Chacón in the middle of the area led to the latter being hauled down; thus, Soteldo stepped up to convert the penalty and double his country’s lead. Barely five minutes later, the roles were reversed as Soteldo dashed into the area only to be crudely brought down for a spot-kick which Chacón put away to complete the 3-0 demolition.

Otherwise, earlier Venezuela had a few minor chances to break the deadlock in the first half. In the 26th minute, the impressive right-back Ronald Hernández (No. 20, Zamora FC) did well on the right, taking on a defender and then shielding the ball from him to get a shot away from the right edge of the area, which the goalkeeper saved low. Four minutes later, Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) put in a good cross from the right which, in space, Peña got a head to, though this went comfortably wide. Lastly, three minutes later in the 33rd minute Lucena’s corner was headed goalwards by Williams Velásquez (No. 2, Estudiantes de Caracas) and hit Peña but though he was only four yards out, opponents swarmed and made it difficult for him to adjust his body to get a shot in.

Nevertheless, Mejías, Soteldo and Chacón were to be the goalscoring heroes and ensure that, barring a five-goal defeat at the hands of Argentina on Saturday, they have already qualified for the Under-20 World Cup. It is a tremendous achievement for this well-organised and talented crop of players – the first time since 2009 that Venezuela will have done so – and if they instead beat Argentina with the Ecuador-Uruguay game also going their way, they will turn even more heads by winning this competition for the first ever time. A nation can dream.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 4 were Ecuador vs Colombia and Brazil vs Argentina – talent-spotting articles have also been published for these matches. 

Otherwise, the fifth and final Matchday of the Hexagonal will be on 11 February 2017 and the games shall be Argentina vs Venezuela, Colombia vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Uruguay – expect to see one last bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Brazil 1-0 Venezuela (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 3, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 5 February 2017)

The first game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 3 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw Brazil play Venezuela. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

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(Source: Wikipedia)

Brazil 1-0 Venezuela

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 5 February 2017 (YouTube)

A game that was heading towards a 0-0 draw was enlivened by a last-minute golazo and some subsequent, contentious events. Indeed, it was a somewhat lethargic game of few chances, with the closest to a goal in the first half being Brazil’s Richarlison heading a 19th-minute corner onto the crossbar. In the second period, it was Venezuela’s turn to hit the woodwork, as Yangel Herrera struck a low 30-yard effort in the 68th minute against the post. However, with a goalless draw long seeming likely, Felipe Vizeu had other ideas as he picked up the ball and then thunderously struck home into the top corner from 25 yards out. It was a great goal, though some claim there was a foul in the build-up and not long afterwards, tempers began to flare. Indeed, Brazil’s David Neres clearly punched Josua Mejías, though this went unpunished with instead Venezuela’s Heber García soon receiving his marching orders. After the final whistle, presumably for his protestations, left-back Eduin Quero was also given a red card and manager Rafael Dudamel was seen fuming, as the match officials required protection from the heavily-shielded police.

Talent Spotting

brazilflag Brazil

Felipe Vizeu (No. 9, Flamengo) won Brazil the game with an 89th-minute golazo. Centrally, he gained space from Herrera (by illegal means, according to Tim Vickery) before lashing the ball into the top corner from 25 yards. Previously in the 80th minute, Vizeu had managed to squeeze in a low shot that was comfortably saved and in the 55th minute, he chased a good through-ball from the inside-left, though the goalkeeper got out just about in time to clear.

The person who came close to playing him in here was Richarlison (No. 18, Fluminense), who had Brazil’s best other chance, heading the 19th-minute corner of Matheus Sávio (No. 20, Flamengo) straight against the bar.

Otherwise, the game was hardly choc-a-bloc with chances, with the best other two opportunities Brazil could muster barely worthy of a mention: After 23 minutes, a left-sided cross found Gabriel (No. 14, Lille, France) but his header went hopelessly wide and in the 65th minute, a free-kick from Maycon (No. 17, Corinthians) went over the wall but also safely into the goalkeeper’s hands.

Lastly, David Neres (No. 11, Ajax) was less of a jinking, attacking threat in this game, with his most memorable contribution instead being a late punch that gave Josua Mejías a nosebleed. This went unpunished, with Venezuelans instead soon getting in trouble with the referee, though one wonders what Neres’ new owners Ajax made of this behaviour from their €15 million acquisition.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

Venezuela were perhaps also suffering from some mid-Hexagonal fatigue, though their defence maintained their impressive form and they had looked on course for a very useful point that would have bolstered their qualification hopes for the Under-20 World Cup.

Though neither gave vintage performances, Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) and Yangel Herrera (No. 8, Manchester City) again showed glimpses of why they are Venezuela’s most highly-rated outfield players. However, as nobody really stood head and shoulders above their team-mates, what follows instead is a list of their team’s best chances:

After five minutes, Soteldo curled in a free-kick from the right that Herrera glanced a header from, though this went straight to the goalkeeper. A couple of minutes later, Soteldo did well on the left to gain some space before sliding a good ball over to the right inside the area; from here, Sergio Córdova (No. 23, Caracas FC) struck a low effort that deflected to the goalkeeper. Seven minutes later, Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain) impressively beat Gabriel for pace on the right, before rolling the ball to Ronaldo Chacón (No. 11, Caracas FC); from a central position, side-on from the goal, he struck a decent shot, though it was directly at the goalkeeper. Much later in the 68th minute came Venezuela’s best chance when Herrera picked up the ball some 30 yards out and struck a fine, low, right-footed effort that hit the base of the post before rolling across the goalmouth. Lastly, in the fifth minute of stoppage-time, the boys in burgundy had one last throw of the dice when Soteldo’s free-kick was headed out to a central position 30 yards out; from here, right-back Ronald Hernández (No. 20, Zamora FC) struck a low, testing drive with the outside of his right boot which only went about a yard wide.

Alas, they could not find a way through and succumbed to their first defeat of the tournament. As much as they were right to feel aggrieved about some refereeing decisions, one wonders if the looming first loss also caused some tempers to boil and led to the red cards to Heber García (No. 14, Sud América, Uruguay) and Eduin Quero (No. 3, Deportivo Táchira) – not to mention the post-match fury of manager Rafael Dudamel.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 3 were Uruguay vs Colombia and Ecuador vs Argentina – talent-spotting articles have now been published for both of these matches. 

Otherwise, Matchday 4 of the Hexagonal will be on 8 February 2017 and the games shall be Ecuador vs Colombia, Uruguay vs Venezuela and Brazil vs Argentina – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Ecuador 2-4 Venezuela (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 2, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 2 February 2017)

The third game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 2 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw hosts Ecuador play Venezuela. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

groupstage020217

(Source: Wikipedia)

Ecuador 2-4 Venezuela

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 2 February 2017 (YouTube)

Gaining their first victory of the tournament, Venezuela burst through the floodgates and humbled hosts Ecuador in a very convincing display. In a rather quiet first half, Yangel Herrera opened the scoring in the 40th minute with a fine, if deflected, effort. Half time produced a surprise all-consuming patch of fog, which threatened to halt the game, but thankfully it did not come to that, even if the hosts were soon hoping that the match would be called off. Indeed, within 19 minutes of the restart, they were 4-0 down as, firstly, Yeferson Soteldo converted a penalty in the 53rd minute, then three minutes later Ronaldo Chacón collected Soteldo’s deflected shot and blasted home for the third; lastly, in the 64th minute, Sergio Córdova received Soteldo’s pass and comfortably struck home for the fourth. Late on, Ecuador, who barely managed a shot from open play in the entire game, were able to paper over the scoreline somewhat, with two penalties converted by, first,  Pervis Estupiñán in the 88th minute and then, seven minutes into stoppage-time, Bryan Cabezas. Despite this, the match was Venezuela’s and they can now consider World Cup qualification a serious possibility.

Talent Spotting

ecuadorflag Ecuador

The hosts got forward in the first half but were always thwarted by the opposition defence, who did not allow them to play with their characteristic verve and bustle; consequently, they had no attacking moments worth recollecting. The second half was little better, as they only managed to cause minor inroads when Venezuela were already thumping them 4-0; for example, in the 76th minute when substitute Wilter Ayoví (No. 8, Independiente Del Valle) forced a low parry from his 25-yard right-footed blast. Ecuador may have underestimated their opposition or simply been worn down by the competition as they were barely in this game; they can count themselves very fortunate that they were gifted two soft penalties – scored by Pervis Estupiñán (No. 6, Granada, Spain) and Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta, Italy) – to at least improve their goal difference.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

Though Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) may have had some involvement with all four goals, it was nevertheless a fine team performance from Venezuela, as they finally burst out of their shell to not only win, but win handsomely. Before they opened the scoring, the first half had been a rather quiet affair as the Venezuelan defence had done a fine job frustrating and neutering the Ecuadorian attack. Venezuela did not get forward a great deal themselves, however, with their best attempt perhaps coming from a 22nd-minute corner curled in by Soteldo which Ronaldo Chacón (No. 11, Caracas FC) headed at the near post into the side-netting.

Nevertheless, in the 40th minute, they well and truly got the ball rolling. Just outside of the right corner of the area, Yangel Herrera (No. 8, Manchester City) received a short pass from Soteldo and then curled a sublime effort over the goalkeeper to give Venezuela the lead – a dozen replays later and it’s still unclear how many of his compatriots watching on are willing to admit that it took a hefty deflection. Into the foggy second half, Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain) won a penalty eight minutes after the restart and Soteldo stepped up, perhaps doing the sensible thing in the conditions, by simply striking it down the middle to make it 2-0. Barely three minutes later in the 56th minute, Soteldo’s shot was deflected into the path of Chacón, who struck home a fine left-footed effort for his first goal of the tournament. Eight minutes later, Soteldo did some nice work on the left of the area before sliding it over to Sergio Córdova (No. 23, Caracas FC) who also scored his first goal of the tournament with a low, left-footed shot that seemed to wrongfoot the goalkeeper.

Other than the goals, Venezuela didn’t have a great deal of other chances but then, they didn’t need them. In the 19 opening minutes of the second half they blitzed the hosts on their own soil, leading the Venezuelans in attendance to Olé every pass, with their team appearing to have very much arrived as credible contenders at the tournament. In stoppage-time, the fans also began singing their country’s national anthem, ‘Gloria Al Bravo Pueblo’.

However, it was nevertheless disappointing that they managed to give away two unnecessary penalties. The second one was a careless handball from a corner but the first was due to goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) somewhat recklessly colliding with an opponent over a long ball. It’s the second game in a row that the much-acclaimed youngster has given away a penalty and he has now also conceded all three that he has faced in these two Hexagonal games. Given that his tournament began with a notable spot-kick save against Uruguay, one can not help but feel that he is gradually losing some of his lustre.

That said, though it must have been annoying for he and his compatriots to have their goal difference eaten into late on, they have still only conceded four goals in six games – the joint-best in the competition, with Uruguay. Furthermore, things can’t be too bad sitting second in the Hexagonal table with four points from a possible six – expectations, naturally, will have increased.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 2 were Colombia vs Argentina and Uruguay vs Brazil – talent-spotting articles for both matches have already been published.

Otherwise, Matchday 3 of the Hexagonal will be on 5 February 2017 and the games shall be Brazil vs Venezuela, Uruguay vs Colombia and Ecuador vs Argentina – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Colombia 1-1 Venezuela (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 1, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 30 January 2017)

With six teams having qualified from the initial group stage, the Final Phase – also known as the Hexagonal – of the 2017 edition of the U-20 South American Youth Championship is now under way. The first of three games which took place on Matchday 1 saw Colombia take on neighbours Venezuela. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

30117grouo

(Source: Wikipedia)

Colombia 1-1 Venezuela

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 30 January 2017 (YouTube)

Venezuela came close to defeating neighbours Colombia, though were thwarted by a late equaliser. The first period consisted largely of half-chances until Yeferson Soteldo put La Vinotinto‘s U20s ahead with a finely curled free-kick. The second half saw more forward forays by Colombia but the win appeared to be Venezuela’s when Carlos Cuesta was sent off for a foul on Soteldo in the 70th minute. However, half-time substitute Juan Hernández hadn’t deserted the cause and with barely five minutes left won a penalty, which he then duly stepped up to convert to earn a draw for Colombia. Although on balance a point apiece may have been a fair result, the awarding of the penalty left many Venezuelans fuming, including senior internationals Salomón Rondón and Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, who both aired their views on Twitter.

Talent Spotting

colombia Colombia

As Juan ‘El Cucho’ Hernández (No. 10, América de Cali, on loan from Granada, Spain) started his second successive game on the bench, perhaps his manager was saving  him for future battles against – based on reputation, at least – stronger opposition. However, a goal down at the break, his presence was required and he was to emerge as the most significant player of the second half. His first moment of note occurred in the 56th minute when, on the right flank, Leyser Chaverra (No. 15, Universitario Popayán) headed towards him; instead of simply controlling the ball, Hernández displayed some ingenuity by swivelling off the ball and allowing it to run into his path towards the edge of the area before having a low strike parried at the near post. A few minutes later on the right just outside the area, perhaps due to a lack of options he decided to shoot, with his right-footed strike curling inwards before being parried away. However, his most significant contribution came with around five minutes left when he chased a long ball and was brought down for a foul in the area by the Venezuelan goalkeeper – even if the latter did also get a touch on the ball. Thus, he stepped up and confidently dispatched the penalty to gain his nation a point as well as solidify himself as his side’s most important player.

The majority of his team-mates were less visible though, particularly in the first half, the attacking midfield trio of Ever Valencia (No. 13, Atlético Bucaramanga), Jorge Obregón (No. 19, Unión Magdalena) and Luis Fernando Díaz (No. 17, Barranquilla) seemed the likeliest to get Colombia a goal. Indeed, after just two minutes, Valencia slid in Obregón at an acute angle inside the area, though his shot went wide. In the 23rd minute, Díaz stroked a pass to Valencia on the left inside the area and, had it not been for the sliding block of a defender, could well have put his side ahead. Lastly, after 33 minutes from the edge of the area on the inside-right, Obregón hit a well-struck drive that forced a good parry out wide.

The closest Colombia came to scoring in the first half occurred in the 25th minute when Michael Nike Gómez (No. 11, Envigado) robbed an opponent on the right then, from the byline, played in a low ball that was uncontrollably stabbed by a Venezuela defender from close-range, forcing his own goalkeeper into a good instinctive save. Otherwise, the only other moment of hope before Hernández’s arrival came just before half time when Eduard Atuesta (No. 20, Independiente Medellín) curled a 30-yard free-kick over the wall, requiring a low diving save from the goalkeeper.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

He has been criticised for his lack of end-product but here, albeit from a static position, Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) finally provided something of substance for his cheerleaders to purr over. Indeed, though some Colombians felt their goalkeeper could have done better, Soteldo’s 36th-minute free-kick was exquisitely curled over the wall into the back of the net. Otherwise, he was less successful from his other set-pieces and there was less midfield dribbling wizardry than has been the case, but he was nevertheless the man who was fouled in the 70th minute for Cuesta’s red card – had he not been he would have been one-on-one and, at a stretch, just about able to get a shot away.

Goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) made some routine stops as well as one decent first-half save from Obregón, though perhaps in this game more than any other, he gave scouts with an eye on him cause for concern. Indeed, he dealt with one cross unconvincingly (no doubt a rather common occurrence for a goalkeeper of 5 feet 9 inches) and, on another occasion, dallied outside his area by the touchline before being partly dispossessed and nearly fatally caught out. Most significantly, he committed the foul that conceded the penalty; while some argue that he got the ball first, he did nevertheless make contact with Hernández at virtually the same time with what was a rather clumsy attempt at intercepting. All the same, these things happen to the best and he has still only conceded two goals in five games – if, as seems likely, Venezuela let in at least a few more in their remaining games, one wonders if more shortcomings of his shall be exposed.

Otherwise, captain Yangel Herrera (No. 8, Atlético Venezuela) quietly impressed, on at least a few occasions displaying some neat footwork to shield the ball from opponents and, more generally, ensuring that Colombia rarely got too close for comfort – he has surely been emboldened by his seemingly imminent move to Manchester City.

Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) was once again a threat from set-pieces, though perhaps his two most notable crosses from these dead-ball situations came in the early exchanges. The first was in the 9th minute when his ball into the area from the left was headed on in space to Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain), who instinctively stabbed at the ball, but his effort was too close to the goalkeeper – had the latter a cooler head, he could well have found the back of the net though, to his minor relief, the flag was, in any case, raised soon afterwards. Lucena’s second decent set-piece came a couple of minutes later as his corner was headed, in a good position, by Williams Velásquez (No. 2, Estudiantes de Caracas), but alas, it went straight towards the goalkeeper, who caught.

Ultimately, it was nevertheless a fairly solid defensive performance by Venezuela and there was doubtless relief when Soteldo doubled his country’s tournament tally, though as both of these goals were from set-piece scenarios, fans will be keen to see more open-play attacking moves in their four remaining games.

The two subsequent games played on Hexagonal Matchday 1 were Uruguay vs Argentina and Ecuador vs Brazil – click to read talent-spotting articles for these encounters.

Otherwise, Matchday 2 of the Hexagonal will be on 2 February 2017 and the games shall be Colombia vs Argentina, Uruguay vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Venezuela – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Day 10 – 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20 (Uruguay 3-0 Bolivia & Argentina 0-0 Venezuela)

On the tenth day of the 2017 edition of the prestigious U-20 South American Youth Championship, attention turned to the final matches from Group B, which concluded the entire group stage: Uruguay took on Bolivia, then holders Argentina faced Venezuela. Below are video highlights, brief summaries of each game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…

groupb270117

(Source: Wikipedia)

Uruguay 3-0 Bolivia

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 27 January 2017 (YouTube)

Uruguay secured their place in the Hexagonal with this comfortable win over Bolivia, who had to await the outcome of the subsequent game to see if they would still be joining them. After 18 minutes, defender Agustín Rogel opened the scoring by knocking in Nicolás De La Cruz’s free-kick from the left. Later, just before half time, Rodrigo Bentancur doubled the lead with a golazo, as he teed himself up for a fantastic strike from just outside the area which swiftly bypassed the goalkeeper’s gloves. Bolivia did make some forward forays but it was mainly Uruguay who created the best chances; they wrapped things up with the third goal in the 83rd minute when Rodrigo Amaral was slid into a one-on-one position in the area – he thus controlled and placed his shot just inside the near post.

Talent Spotting

uruguayflag Uruguay

Though the resting of a few notable players as well as the relative ease with which La Celeste‘s youths undertook their task perhaps meant superheroic feats were not required, some players nevertheless had their moments.

Captain Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) was responsible for the 18th-minute free-kick crossed into the area with his right boot from the left which found Agustín Rogel (No. 18, Nacional) in a crowd; from this, the centre-back instinctively converted for the opening goal. Aside from this assist, though De La Cruz took some more set-pieces and got into some decent positions, the closest he came to having any role in another goal was his 77th-minute shot; here, from approximately 25 yards, he picked up the ball and quickly struck a good cross-goal effort that the goalkeeper did well to parry wide.

Perhaps more so than during his previous two tournament games, Rodrigo Bentancur (No. 20, Boca Juniors, Argentina) – here, returning from suspension – was more of an attacking threat. From the halfway-line in the 12th minute, the highly-rated holding midfielder came roaming fotward to the edge of area, where he struck low and wide. Ten minutes later, he again gained much space for himself, this time with a nice first touch on the right, though his low ball into the area caused no harm. However, he certainly did some damage in the 44th minute when a corner was eventually knocked towards him just outside the area, somewhat right-of-centre. From here, he took a couple of touches with his right to tee himself up in a standing position that was virtually parallel to the goal-line; subsequently, he unleashed a brilliant left-footed strike that flew past the goalkeeper at the near post to double the lead.

Given the scoreline, 65th-minute substitute Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay) did not really need to be a driving force, terrorising opposition players. Nevertheless, though he otherwise managed a minor charge or two as well as a late unremarkable shot, he did also get himself a goal. This came in the 83rd minute when Diego Rossi (No. 16, Peñarol) neatly made his way past a player before playing Amaral into space on the left inside the area; the latter took just one touch before squeezing the ball in at the near post for the third.

One man who made a nuisance of himself throughout the game without, ultimately, making it count was Joaquín Ardaiz (No. 7, Danubio), starting here his first game after two brief substitute appearances. He actually almost scored, not once, but twice: firstly, in the 24th minute when he beat a defender to a through-ball on the inside left; from the edge of the area, he poked a low bobbling shot past the goalkeeper but it came back off the far post. Later on in the 75th minute, he arguably had a better opportunity when he was found in much space, one-on-one; however, despite waiting for the ample moment to lift the ball over the goalkeeper, his effort was too low and easily blocked for a corner. Otherwise, though there’s a fair chance he will hit the back of the net at some point over the next fortnight, the several additional shots and crosses he attempted either missed their targets or were of little serious threat.

boliviaflag Bolivia

Though, as it turned out, a draw would have kept Bolivia in, they were unable to match their opponents and, barring a couple of minor moments, put in a fairly forgettable performance. Indeed, the likes of Limberg Gutiérrez (No. 20, Nacional, Uruguay), Moisés Villarroel (No. 8, Bolívar), Bruno Miranda (No. 11, Universidad de Chile, Chile), Ronaldo Monteiro (No. 9, Bolívar) and Rubén Cordano (No. 1, Blooming) may have suggested potential in their opening day win against Peru. However, there was little from them to get excited about in their subsequent three games; goalkeeper Cordano, for one, has largely discredited himself in the last two matches with some poor fumbles, though he was nevertheless notable here against Uruguay for taking a 53rd-minute free-kick from 25 yards, which went through to his opposite number. The free-kick taking goalkeeper – a fine South American tradition.

However, one man who it may be worth keeping an eye out for in future is 17-year-old Ramiro Vaca (No. 10, Quebracho). He scored a great free-kick against Argentina and also got another one on target as well as nearly setting up a goal against Venezuela; here against Uruguay just before half time, he curled a great right-footed free-kick from around 35 yards, requiring the goalkeeper to parry out wide.

Argentina 0-0 Venezuela

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group B, 27 January 2017 (YouTube)

Not a game to dwell on for too long. Given the result of the preceding encounter, Argentina knew they were already through and did not seem too fussed about nabbing first place off Uruguay; Venezuela, on the other hand, merely required a draw. Thus, neither goalkeeper was seriously tested with instead the closest thing to a goal being one or two blasted efforts off-target and some through balls that just needed a touch of two. Owing to their precarious position, Venezuela could never really relax, though when Argentina had Cristian Romero sent off in the 85th minute, seeing out the draw did become somewhat easier. When the full-time whistle blew, their players understandably rejoiced.

Talent Spotting

argentinaflag Argentina

There are many talented players in the Argentine ranks, though this did not really prove to be the occasion to showcase their abilities.

Although he had less success than in previous games, Tomás Conechny (No. 20, San Lorenzo) was perhaps his side’s liveliest attacking player. The closest he came to scoring occurred in the 63rd minute when he did well to chest a cross from the left, before blasting a left-footed effort from 15 yards that went just over, giving the goalkeeper an almightly fright along the way.

Otherwise, he sometimes won space on the flanks, put in some half-decent balls and generally tried to tee up team-mates. All Argentine moments of semi-interest seemed to involve him and these included: a 10th-minute cross from the left that Tomás Belmonte (No. 17, Lanús) headed straight over; a 12th-minute short ball to Lautaro Martínez (No. 9, Racing Club) who, in turn, passed to Belmonte centrally 25 yards out and whose shot, though well-hit, went wide; a 42nd-minute Conechy left-sided corner that was headed over to the right to be put back into the area by Brian Mansilla (No. 11, Racing Club), from whom somehow the ball fell to top-scorer Marcelo Torres (No. 21, Boca Juniors) at an acute angle, though his cross-shot was parried out and cleared; lastly, a 49th-minute Conechny free-kick from 30 yards that dipped low and caused the goalkeeper to awkwardly spill out.

Nevertheless, despite these slim pickings, expect to see much more of these players and some of their team-mates in the Hexagonal stage; as ever, Argentina look to be one of the favourites to claim the trophy.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

Similarly, Rafael Dudamel’s men did not come out all guns blazing seeking a goal, though they did nevertheless cause some trouble in the final third:

In the 23rd minute, goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) – who would later cause concern when Conechny’s free-kick bounced off him – pumped a ball upfield that the returning Yangel Herrera (No. 8, Atlético Venezuela) jumped to knock on; subsequently, the ball whistled just past Antonio Romero (No. 19, Deportivo Lara) in the area and wide. Four minutes later, Ronaldo Lucena (No. 16, Zamora FC) – who may well be his side’s most useful set-piece taker – curled in a dangerous free-kick from the left which begged for a knock goalwards, but was instead deflected off for a corner. Eight minutes later, right-back Ronald Hernández (No. 20, Zamora FC) surprised many by taking on a couple of players on his flank before working his way into the area; ultimately, he attempted to get a shot away but was blocked off.

In the second half, Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) continued being a sporadic nuisance and the closest he came to having a hand in a goal was his 77th-minute free-kick from the left; this was knocked low through the wall and caused the goalkeeper to block it out, with the ball then being hesitantly cleared for a corner. However, probably the closest Venezuela came to a goal occurred from the free-kick on the left that followed Cristian Romero’s dismissal. Indeed, Ronaldo Lucena dipped this in towards the back post where Williams Velásquez (No. 2, Estudiantes de Caracas) was standing, but alas, the ball was just a little too high for the defender.

Nevertheless, for the first time since the Salomón Rondón-led generation of 2009, Venezuela have made it to the final stage of the tournament. Curiously and somewhat impressively, they currently have the best defensive record of the final six teams (one goal conceded in four games) as well as the worst attacking stats (one goal scored in four games). Many eyes will be interested to see whether the likes of Fariñez and Herrera can maintain the former and, on the other hand, whether Soteldo, in particular, can make his dribbles and playmaking count more by playing a role in at least a few additional goals.

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. The next games will be on 30 January 2017 when the Hexagonal phase, featuring the six qualified teams, gets under way. The matches will be Colombia vs Venezuela, Uruguay vs Argentina and Ecuador vs Brazil – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical