The campaign relaunches…
Conmebol Qualifiers for FIFA World Cup 2022
Friday 13 November 2020 — Estádio do Morumbi, São Paulo
Brazil vs Venezuela
Tuesday 17 November 2020 — Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, Caracas
Venezuela vs Chile
Soteldo Starts As Venezuela Seek Points
With two big tests on the horizon, Venezuela manager José Peseiro knows he’s got a job on his hands if he is to improve upon his team’s pointless start to World Cup qualifying.
The Portuguese gaffer got to work straight after last month’s dismal defeats against Colombia and Paraguay, forgoing a return to his European base to instead remain in the nation he now leads.
There, the domestic league kicked off on 14 October, so Peseiro has been able to meet with many club bosses as well as run the rule over the home-based talent.
This has resulted in a surprising six local call-ups initially featuring in the final squad, with each player belonging to a different team, as the courteous coach said he did not wish to cause too much disruption given that league action will continue throughout the international break.
However, this figure has since lowered to four as goalkeeper José Contreras and midfielder Christian Larotonda have unfortunately been struck down by the c-word. Even so, it’s still an eye-catching number, especially considering last month’s squad was entirely composed of overseas-based players.
Admittedly, the likelihood of any of this youthful quartet making it onto either pitch in the upcoming week are not generous, but if there is one individual to keep in mind then it is 19-year-old Caracas FC midfielder Anderson Contreras. He has played consistently for the 2019 champions over the past 18 months and projected himself into a higher stratosphere in September when he scored a sensational 30-yard free-kick in the Copa Libertadores against Colombia’s Independiente Medellín.
Moving on to the opening clash in São Paulo, these are the eleven players who are reportedly very likely to start (most likely in a 4-3-2-1 formation):
W. Faríñez; R. Rosales, Y. Osorio, W. Ángel, R. Feltscher; T. Rincón, J. Moreno, C. Cásseres Jr; D. Machís, Y. Soteldo; S. Rondón.
For many national team followers, the inclusion of Yeferson Soteldo leaps out as, to the dismay of many, the 23-year-old dribbler only featured last month as a late substitute against Paraguay. Since then, he’s certainly been in the headlines.
Indeed, to the horror of Santos and Vinotinto fans alike, his team actually agreed to sell him to Saudi Arabian outfit Al Hilal. This headturning deal was purportedly owing to the Brazilians’ financial difficulties, but the player was less enamoured by the prospect. It seemed like he might be forced out against his will but thankfully Huachipato, his erstwhile Chilean club who are owed money by Santos, stepped in and an agreement was reached to keep el enano put.
In the country where he plies his trade, he’s predicted to pair up behind the striker alongside Darwin Machís, arguably the most in-form attacker in the squad. This tandem will be an intriguing experiment, as some have voiced concerns that the pair may be incompatible because both are inclined to operate on the left flank.
Also standing out from that line-up are three players who were unable to join up last time around.
First, of course, there’s Salomón Rondón, whose Chinese side, Dalian Pro, refused to let him travel in October. Having narrowly avoided relegation, their season is now over, leaving Venezuela’s record top scorer free and at a loose end for the past few weeks.
He’ll certainly boost his country’s front line as Sergio Córdova — who was initially called up but was then prevented from travelling by his German team — can’t be said to have made the most of his two outings as lead man last month.
Barring an injury to Rondón, it’s unlikely any of the other forwards in the squad will see much action. That said, many supporters will be pleased that Jan Carlos Hurtado made the final cut; the promising 2017 U20 World Cup finalist recently bagged his first two goals for Brazilian side RB Bragantino.
Second, there’s Júnior Moreno, who has been permitted to travel after his club, DC United, failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs. He’ll return to his customary position in front of the back four alongside captain Tomás Rincón; this pair will be joined by the fresh-faced Cristian Cásseres Jr — one of few players to come away from the previous qualifiers with any credit.
Absent from this line of three is Yangel Herrera, who, together with Machís, has continued to reach new heights with Granada in La Liga and the Europa League. He is suspended for the Brazil game, but will be available against Chile.
The other welcome return is that of the nation’s most high-profile defender, Yordan Osorio, who recently made his Parma debut. The 26-year-old centre-back shone in last year’s 0-0 draw with the Seleção at Copa América and if Venezuela are to come away with anything on Friday, similar defensive heroics will be essential.
Anyone who witnessed last month’s qualifiers, particularly the 3-0 first-half pummelling meted out by Colombia, knows that won’t be easy. One of many things that is of concern in and around the Venezuelan goal is that rusty, underperforming goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez is still yet to make his Ligue 1 debut for Lens.
All this being said, despite the absence of Herrera, this feels like a slightly stronger Vinotinto side that is set to face Brazil. Perhaps some further optimism can be derived from the hosts being without the likes of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Casemiro; although, of course, they certainly have other talents in reserve.
Ultimately, given the calibre of the opposition, Peseiro knows there is a very real possibility that he could enter into the new year having lost his first four games in charge. It would be an understatement to say that a historic first-ever competitive victory against Brazil would certainly be one way to win over the legions of sceptics.
Perhaps more plausibly, at the very least his team just need to demonstrate more cohesion and purpose, particularly in Caracas against Chile; getting a measly point on the board wouldn’t hurt either, if only to allay fears that the campaign isn’t over before it has even begun.
Note: José Contreras, Christian Larotonda and Sergio Córdova have been removed owing to their withdrawals. Alain Baroja (not pictured) has been called up.
Wuilker Faríñez (Lens, France, on loan from Millonarios, Colombia), Alain Baroja (Delfín, Ecuador) & Joel Graterol (América de Cali, Colombia).
Roberto Rosales (Leganés, Spain), Alexander González (Dinamo București, Romania), Wilker Ángel (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Rolf Feltscher (LA Galaxy, USA), Jhon Chancellor (Brescia, Italy), Luis Mago (Universidad de Chile, Chile), Yordan Osorio (Parma, Italy), Jean Fuentes (Deportivo La Guaira, Venezuela) & Óscar Conde (Academia Puerto Cabello, Venezuela).
Tomás Rincón (Torino, Italy), Rómulo Otero (Corinthians, Brazil, on loan from Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Jhon Murillo (Tondela, Portugal), Darwin Machís (Granada, Spain), Juan Pablo Añor (Al-Ain, Saudi Arabia), Yangel Herrera (Granada, Spain, on loan from Manchester City, England), Yeferson Soteldo (Santos, Brazil), Jefferson Savarino (Atlético Mineiro, Brazil), Bernaldo Manzano (Atlético Bucaramanga, Colombia, on loan from Deportivo Lara, Venezuela), Cristian Cásseres Jr (New York Red Bulls, USA), Júnior Moreno (DC United, USA), Anderson Contreras (Caracas FC, Venezuela) & Cristhian Rivas (Estudiantes de Mérida, Venezuela).
Fernando Aristeguieta (Mazatlán, Mexico), Jan Carlos Hurtado (RB Bragantino, Brazil, on loan from Boca Juniors, Argentina) & Salomón Rondón (Dalian Pro, China).