Venezuela’s football stock has been rising not only in their continent of South America but Worldwide after an impressive year on the international circuit. After narrowly missing out on a place in the Copa America final after a penalty shoot out defeat to Paraguay, this has done little to hamper their progression, as illustrated in their 1-0 victory over Argentina courtesy of Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Amorebieta strike. Only 10 years ago, this result would have been seen as the equivalent of Moldova beating Holland as the ‘La Vinotinto’ were seen as the whipping boys of South American football and only there to improve the other nations goal difference. Such a progression wouldn’t have been seen as football, unlike all of their South American rivals, is second fiddle to their national sport of baseball and there was little emphasis on player development and the domestic and international team were of a poor quality. However things turned a corner when in 2001, Richard Paez took over the national team.
You could say that Paez was helped heavily by the new qualification system, in which each of the sides played each other in a round robin tournament lasting just over two years. This helped many of the smaller sides as this allowed them to develop youth and get in a manager capable of making a team suitable for qualification. Richard Paez, a former Venezuela international, took his country to 8th place out of the 9 South American teams, a small achievement in which saw them avoid the wooden spoon of bottom place, and this was summed up in a 2003 interview when he said “In the old days, we knew we were going to lose and the target was to avoid a thrashing. Now we try to play with balance, to attack as well as defend.” This time period saw the likes of Jose Manuel Ray, Renny Vega and the golden boy of Venezuelan football Juan Arango embedded into a side. The side then missed out on 2006 World Cup qualification after finishing in 8th place. They also hosted the 2007 Copa America to great success, in which briefly the baseball mad country got taken over by football as the country continued its progression by getting to the quarter finals of the competition for the first time in their history.
Despite helping to transform Venezuela to a competitive side no longer viewed as the whipping boys, Paez left his position as manager after citing criticism from the fans for his reason for leaving. Step forward Cesar Farias, a 34 year old manager who experienced successful spells at Venezuelan sides Mineros de Guayana and Deportivo Anzoategui. A few months into his job and he was successfully continuing the job that Paez left behind and this was shown with a 2-0 win against Brazil, which made him the first Venezuelan coach ever to achieve this success. They again finished in 8th place, but this was only 2 points behind 5th place Uruguay, who reached the semi finals at the 2010 World Cup. This form was continued into the 2011 Copa America as they got to the semi finals of the Copa America after drawing with Brazil and Paraguay and beating Ecuador in the group stage and getting a 2-1 surprise victory over Chile before a cruel semi final defeat to Paraguay and even a 4-1 third placed playoff defeat to Peru couldn’t dampen the country’s best ever Copa America finish.
This proved to be a stepping stone to improve the side further with many players abroad with eligibility to play for the country jumping at the chance to represent the La Vinotinto, including the impressive Bilbao centre back Fernando Amorebieta, Ralf and Frank Feltscher, the brothers of Parma ad Grasshoppers respectively and Numancia’s Julio Alvarez amongst others accepting this opportunity. Add this to a squad including the future golden boy of Venezuelan football striker Jose Salomon Rondon of Malaga, alongside the current one Juan Arangao, Belgium based pair Luis Manuel Seijas and Roland Vargas, Twente full back Roberto Rosales and Olimpia centre back Oswaldo Viscarrondo, you have a young and hungry side capable of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. With qualification for the tournament started, Venezuela gained a 1-0 victory at the expense of South America heavyweights Argentina but lost 2-0 away to Ecuador in the opening round. If Venezuela continue striding forward as they are, qualification for the World Cup is a real possibility and under the leadership of Cesar Farias, the South American Andre Villas-Boas, anything is possible for the La Vinotinto.
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