Our run down of the teams involved in the 2011 Copa America, which kicks off on July 1, continues with a closer look at Venezuela.
The days of Venezuela being the whipping boys of South American football are over as the national team finally found their touch in the past decade. La Vinotinto finished just two points shy of Uruguay in qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup in a campaign that featured a win over Ecuador in Quito and a draw against Brazil in Campo Grande. Not withstanding their upsurge in fortunes the fact remains that Venezuela have only ever won two games at the Copa América.
Momento de gloria
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez got out his chequebook ahead of the 2007 Copa América as his country played host. La Vinotinto put in a personal best in front of their home crowd as they went unbeaten in their first three games to finished top of Group A. After drawing with Uruguay in the group stage the two teams met again in the quarter-finals and Venezuela found Diego Forlán in unstoppable form. The tournament four years ago is viewed as a watershed moment for football in Venezuela.
El director técnico
Behind the rudder of Venezuela’s footballing revolution we find César Farías. Farías joined the national set-up after working his way up through the leagues and taking charge of some of his country’s biggest clubs. Farías maintained the buoyancy surrounding the game in Venezuela following the 2007 Copa América by steering the youth ranks towards the 2009 under-20 World Cup. He also oversaw Venezuela’s best ever attempt at reaching a senior World Cup as they missed out on a play-off shot against Costa Rica by two points. Farías encourages his side to express themselves, seeing them outpass Spain at times during a recent friendly defeat was testament to his patient approach. With a tireless work ethic combined with a top to bottom knowledge of football in Venezuela there is no better man than Farías to ensure la Vinotinto continue maturing nicely.
It’s a common conception in Venezuela that if they are to play in a World Cup they must be able to call on players who are performing regularly in the world’s most competitive leagues. Step forward Juan Arango of Borussia Mönchengladbach who has been wearing his country’s armband since the sea-change of 2007. Well on his way to 100 caps and widely acknowledged as the greatest footballer his nation has ever produced, el Huracán del Caribe leads by example on the pitch. Arango organises things from the middle of the park and possesses the ability to conjure up vital goals as his final day strike against Hamburg in last season’s Bundesliga proved. With the sands of time against him Arangol has just a few years left at his prime to bless his nation with something truly special.
Before the big bucks arrived at La Liga’s Málaga the goals of Salomón Rondón went a long way to ensure that the club retained their place at Spain’s top table. Rondón first defied gravity in Spain when he saved Las Palmas from dropping out of Spain’s second tier. Hitting double figures in a struggling team convinced Málaga to shell out €3.5 million at the start of last season and they have already been more than repaid on their investment. Despite Ruud van Nistelrooy’s arrival at Málaga the Venezuelan, who has been scoring goals for his country since he was 18-years-old, will be out to upset the odds again next season.
The presence of 36-year-old José Manuel Rey in Venezuela’s Copa América squad suggests that the nation are struggling to find suitable replacements in the heart of defence. However, with Gabriel Cichero, Greddy Perozo and Oswaldo Vizcarrondo all more than capable at the back it seems unlikely el Rey will get onto the pitch. What Rey offers is a focal point of inspiration, Venezuela’s most capped player and his wealth of experience will be key to the progression of Farías’ team. If Rey does get a game watch out for his net busting free-kicks such as the howitzer he scored for his country in Ecuador.
Alongside Lucas of Brazil there was little doubt that Yohandry Orozco was the revelation of the South American under-20 Championships earlier this year. Orozco played the role of talisman during the tournament as his wore the captain's armband and chipped in with a couple of goals. His individual effort against Perú saw him set off from his own half, leave countless defenders for dead before slamming home a shot from the edge of the box. Orozco secured a move to Wolfsburg on the back of his performances at the youth competition and will be looking forward to showing his national team what he has picked up in Germany so far.
Spain and Barcelona have much to thank Venezuela for after Jeffrén Suárez left his homeland and moved to Tenerife as a nipper. Jeffrén may be fresh from helping Spain to win the European under-21 Championships but under FIFA rules he remains eligible to play for the Venezuelan national team should he find opportunities limited with Spain.
Rumores de transferencia
Salomón Rondón to Arsenal, Jeffrén Suárez to Liverpool
Lauris Tortolero is unlikely to be overly impressed by seeing the captain’s armband hanging over her bedpost. The wife of Juan Arango is also the daughter of Argenis Tortolero, former captain of la Vintotinto, and sister of Edson Tortolero, another member of the family to have skippered the Venezuelan team.
Síguelo en Twitter
@Salo23Rondon - Gran victória,la permanencia al alcance de la mano. Vamos Málaga
La opinión experta
Venezuela has more quality players now than it ever has done in the past and César Farías must take credit for developing so many of our youngsters. Our national team has moved on further after the improvements brought by our previous manager Richard Páez. Now we have a team that is not only organised at the back but also dangerous in attack. We have players with Europa League and Champions League experience under their belts and this was never the case before. Venezuela is now an exporter of talent and we need to keep this going to improve. People say we are in the group of death but we have enjoyed good results against these teams recently. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve in Argentina in preparation for the road to Brazil 2014.
Giovanni Savarese - former Venezuela and Swansea City striker
After drawing away to Brazil and beating Ecuador on their own patch during World Cup qualifiers there will be little fear in the Venezuelan camp ahead of the tournament. Farías will be encouraging his players to attack and work on the shape that he hopes will take them to the next World Cup. If that process picks up a few more shock results all the way then nobody back will be complaining.
There is so much to like about this Venezuelan team and their commitment to attack rather than park the bus. They have the quality to spring a surprise and a securing their third Copa América victory is by no means out of the question. But this is football rather than fairy tales and these lads are going out in the group stage.
¿Por qué ser fanático?
The man who built the stadiums to host the previous Copa América is laid up in a Cuban hospital. Just how grave Hugo Chavez’s condition is nobody is saying but you can be sure it will improve if la Vinotinto can pick up a few results. Do it for Hugo!
¿Un club en League Two?
Even with a spate of initiatives to endear the population to football the beautiful game plays second fiddle in the sporting landscape. Bradford City has rugby league to contend with while baseball continues to hit football out of the park in Venezuela.
Sup up your ron de ponsigué and wolf down the hayacas before being on your merry way to Plaza Alfredo Sadel de Las Mercedes. Once you’re suitably well oiled shake your rump to the gaita zuliana.
When Monopoly hands you a tenner for finishing second in a beauty contest the chances are that you lost to a Venezuelan. The country has produced five Miss Worlds and six Miss Universes.
Goalkeepers: Renny Vega (Caracas, VEN), Dani Hernández (Real Murcia, SPA), Leo Morales (Anzoátegui, VEN).
Defenders: Gabriel Cichero (Newell’s Old Boys, ARG), Grenddy Perozo (Boyaca Chicó, COL), José Granados (Real Esppor), Oswaldo Vizcarrondo (Anzoátegui, VEN), José Manuel Rey (Mineros Guyana, VEN), Roberto Rosales (Twente, HOL), Alexander González (Caracas, VEN).
Midfielders: Giácomo Di Giorgi (Anzoátegui, VEN), Franklin Lucena (Caracas, VEN), Tomás Rincón (Hamburg, GER), Juan Arango (Borussia MonchenGladbach, GER), Yohandry Orozco (Wolfsburg, GER), Luis Manuel Seijas (Santa Fe, COL), César González, (GimnasiaELP, ARG), Jesús Meza (Zamora, VEN).
Forwards: Nicolás Fedor (Getafe, SPA), Salomón Rondón (Málaga, SPA), Daniel Arismendi, (Anzoátegui, VEN), Giancarlo Maldonado (Atlante, MEX), Alejandro Moreno (Chivas USA).
v Brazil 03/07/2011 16:00 Sante Fé
v Ecuador 09/07/2011 18:30 Salta
v Paraguay 13/07/2011 19:15 Salta
FIFA ranking: 68
Odds to win: 100/1
Copa America record: P49 W2 D9 L38 F34 A155
Copa America best: 2007 Quarter-finalist
More teams will follow in this daily series. Plus, for more on Copa America 2011, listen to The South American Football Show.