Venezuela

Venezuela

  • Capital: Caracas
  • Official Language: Spanish
  • Nicknames: La Vinotinto
  • Association: Federación Venezolana de Fútbol (FVF)
  • FIFA Code: VEN

Records

  • Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
  • Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Best Copa América Result (Men): Fourth Place (2011)
  • Best Copa América (Women): Third Place (1991)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 25th (November 2019)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 54th (September 2018)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 129th (November 1998)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 131st (December 2012)
  • Most Capped Player: Juan Arango – 129 caps
  • Top Scorer: Salomón Rondón – 31 goals [as of Mar 2021]

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (República Bolivariana de Venezuela) is the most northerly nation within the CONMEBOL confederation, with Colombia on its western border, Guyana (a member of CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union) on its eastern border, Brazil on its southern border, and the Caribbean Sea to its north. Despite the FVF being founded as early as 1926, it wouldn’t be until 1967 when the Venezuelans finally competed in the Copa América. As expected for a country where baseball is regarded as the senior sport, they have been historically the ‘whipping boys’ for the remainder of the football-fanatical continent. Venezuela failed to win a match in twelve consecutive Copas between 1975 to 2004, and are one of only two CONMEBOL sides to have yet won the Copa América (along with Ecuador). Also they are the only South American side to have not qualified for any senior World Cup as of yet.

Despite their history of being the plucky underdogs within South America, it would seem the fortunes of La Vinotinto are on the rise. A strong generation of players progressed into the national side within the 21st century, allowing Venezuela to reach four quarter-finals in the past five Copa Américas (as well as hosting the tournament in 2007) and finished in fourth place in 2011 – an incredible achievement for a country with a historical lack of international success. It would also seem the future of Venezuelan football looks set to improve even further with a seemingly golden generation of players coming through. In 2017, La Vinotinto impressed the football world when their under-20s side qualified for the 2017 U20 World Cup, and then progressed all the way to the final, agonisingly losing out on the trophy by a single goal to England in the final held at South Korea. Even though the country is massively struggling financially after a ‘boom period’ during the early part of the 21st century, which saw massive investment made in footballing infrastructure, there are huge hopes that Venezuela can become one of CONMEBOL’s strongest teams and finally achieve qualification for the World Cup in the near future…

To talk about one of the most interesting international sides in world football, who look to be on the cusp of a golden era for Venezuelan football, we interviewed the absolutely superb FUTVE English. It is an English-language Twitter account and podcast which focuses on all things involving the Venezulan game, whether it be the national leagues, the national teams, or Venezuelan players applying their trade abroad. Not to mention bringing unique interviews, data & analysis from all angles. To find their social media accounts and podcasts, follow the links below:

From FUTVE English, we had Kevin Vivas and Dominic José Bisogno answering our questions on the men’s national team, whilst Kat Sheppard answered on behalf of the women’s national team. Kevin is a Caracas-based journalist and actor in training, being a student at the illustrious UCAB, whilst Dominic is a Minnesota-based journalist who writes for a number of other publications within the Minnesota area. Finally, Kat is a former Venezuela international, for whom she won gold, silver, and bronze medals, and a league and cup champion with Caracas FC. She also participated in the first ever Copa Libertadores Femenino. To find their social media accounts, the links can be found below:

To find out more about Venezuelan football, and about the writers of FUTVE English, we would highly recommend you check out and read a superb book written by Jordan Florit (who also manages FUTVE English) titled ‘Red Wine & Arepas: How Football is Becoming Venezuela’s Religion’. Described as “part travelogue, part sportsbook, part love letter to an embattled nation”, Jordan (with huge help from Kevin) goes around the intriguing world of Venezuelan football, with many interviews with some of the key names within the game. The link to buy the book, as well as Jordan’s Twitter account is below:

Key: KV = Kevin Vivas; DJB = Dominic José Bisogno; KS = Kat Sheppard

Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Juan Arango

KV: Juan Arango is by far the most recognised player in our country. Being the first player to shine in a major league such as Spain’s, and being the figurehead of a national team at its peak has remained in the memory of all Venezuelans. In Venezuela, Juan Arango is an icon. In a country that is not a purely footballing country, the vast majority will have heard of him. And it’s not a question of propaganda. His level of play was quite high. Highly respected in the Bundesliga.

Richard Páez

As a coach, it’s quite complicated to list one. Titles would speak for Noel Sanvicente, but the Venezuelan league lacks prestige in our own country, and his failure in the national team devalued him. I would say there is a tie between Richard Páez and César Farías. It’s very similar to the Aragonés-Del Bosque continuum. Richard Páez evolved, and that’s why nobody forgets him, but with César Farías he exploded, and we’re all left with the enjoyment of those moments.

DJB: Juan Arango is the obvious choice for player, Richard Páez for manager.

Lisbeth Bandrés

KS: Best Player: For me the best player I have seen is Lisbeth Bandrés. She is from a generation of Venezuelan women’s football that wasn’t talked about a lot, before the “boom” of the national team. The most technical player I have seen and played with, and also a great leader.

Best Manager: It is a tough one, but I am going to have to go with Enzo Tropiano. He knows football inside and out, and has proven to have very successful teams. But besides that, even though his methods are non orthodox at times, he educates players in a holistic way not only about football but also as people, values. He is also not afraid to go against the grain and has done really important things like have a 12 year old Veronica Herrera play in a Copa Libertadores.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?

Adalberto Peñaranda

DJB: Cult hero is harder to narrow down for me, I suppose people have favorites that never quite made it to the top. Some might say that Adalberto Peñaranda [23 year-old forward currently on loan at CSKA Sofia from Watford] is a sort of anti-hero.

KS: Deyna Castellanos [21 year-old forward at Atlético Madrid], because of the decisive goal from the centre circle against Cameroon to secure them qualification to the next round in the U-17 World Cup in Jordan, and also granting her a FIFA ‘The Best‘ award nomination in 2017.

KV: Juan Arango is heritage. There may be a star in the future, but the father is never forgotten. In terms of understanding it, if Salomón Rondón’s career had emerged in Arango’s era, Rondón would be the icon. It’s a question of how Juan marked us.

Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from ?Venezuela currently?

Denya Castellanos

KS: As of today, Deyna Castellanos is the player that could be regarded as the best one in the national team because of her performances with it and in her club, Atlético de Madrid.

Yangel Herrera

KV: Darwin Machís [28 year-old striker currently at Granada CF] and Yangel Herrera [23 year-old defensive midfielder also at Granada CF]. More frankly on Yangel for being young.

DJB: A year or two ago I might have said Salomón Rondón, but now I’d say one of Darwin Machís, Yangel Herrera, or Yeferson Soteldo [23 year-old winger at Santos].

Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?

DJB: Plenty to enjoy, but still needs massive improvement to achieve our goals.

KV: Worrying. Many players with good feet, but little offensive proposal. I think that the victory against Chile was very circumstantial and generated a false expectation. The vast majority of games you are not going to win by allowing them to have the ball in your half.

KS: It is hard to say because they have not competed in official tournaments. The last time they had a training camp was right before the pandemic in Italy, and they played a few friendlies and gave a good performance. Nevertheless, there are quite a few players demonstrating a good level in their clubs, and some of them in elite leagues like Liga Iberdrola in Spain.

Q. Are there any Venezuelan players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

KV: Anderson Contreras – Caracas FC [19 year-old midfielder]
Yangel Herrera – Granada CF (on loan from Manchester City)

Yerliane Moreno

KS: I think Yerliane Moreno [20 year-old attacking midfielder at UD Granadilla Tenerife] is one of the players we should look out for. She is really talented, and her jump to European football is definitely going to make her improve as a player.

Cristian Cásseres Jr

DJB: In my opinion, big upcoming talents include Cristian Cásseres Jr [21 year-old midfielder with New York Red Bulls], Saúl Guarirapa [18 year-old forward with Caracas FC], and Óscar Conde [18 year-old defender with Academia Puerto Cabello].

Q. Looking at Venezuela’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?

KS: Their Sudamericano performances where they were champions of South America.

DJB: The run to the Copa América semi-finals was obviously one of our better tournament runs, as was making the U20 World Cup final, but really the last 10 years has been one long, gradual period of improvement.

KV: Although in recent years Venezuela has accumulated many historic games due to its recent growth, still the turning point is marked since the 3-0 away victory over the Uruguayan national team in the famous Estadio Centenario. It has its own nickname: ‘Centenariazo‘. I was just 6-7 years old, and I remember how it was talked about in a country where back then soap operas and baseball were the main topic. Nowadays, pushes like the ones that have given those results, have turned the spotlight on ‘La Vinotinto‘ being now a cultural heritage.

Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?

KV: Before 2001, almost all the results are disastrous. But if we come to this new stage, clearly the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers were a tremendous slump. We again finished last in a qualifying group, something that hadn’t happened since the qualifying group for France 1998. It wasn’t the product of a bad team, not at all. It was the result of games with key concentration errors and a dressing room that was depressed by the terrible start. At that time Salomón Rondón was playing in the English Premier League, Adalberto Peñaranda was in his prime in La Liga, Roberto Rosales was an undisputed starter in La Liga, Tomás Rincón in Serie A, Rómulo Otero was a star in Brazil’s Serie A. In short, it was a bad tournament, as it has happened to anyone. It was painful. Considering that for years we were ‘La Cenicienta‘, the South Americans called us that again only judging by the results, as the development of the matches was nowhere near as good as it was in the past.

DJB: For low points, look at our record for most of the 20th century.

KS: The performance of the women’s national team across all age groups has been in constant progress. So you could say in the beginning of our history we didn’t accomplish a lot in terms of results but we did in terms of growing the game in the country.

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Venezuelan national team?

DJB: The passion is endless, the underdog spirit is real, and you’ll never stop dreaming. The downside? Well, the dreams don’t come true too often.

KS: Best thing: The feeling you get seeing girls accomplish things that were unthinkable a decade ago.

Worst thing: Seeing the progress being slowed down by bad management and the unfortunate conditions a lot of them are under in Venezuela due to the country’s situation.

KV: The best thing is that winning makes your life better. That the day you play, it’s special. Being a fan of a club can be overlooked every weekend, but being a fan of your national team is like preparing a romantic dinner on a specific date. Winning increases pride in a country that needs to be vindicated by its social and political landscape, and the xenophobia suffered by our compatriots in other nations on the continent. I think that makes it all the more beautiful to win. However, it is so beautiful to win, that it also increases the pain when you lose. In that case, better not to check the social networks and that’s it. That’s the hardest thing too. The joys are not so frequent.

Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?

KS: Not that I know of.

KV: Not much, actually. There is a famous chant in some Latin American countries and also widely used by fans of clubs here: “Let’s go (insert the name of the gentilicio) that tonight/afternoon we have to win“.

DJB: I’m not familiar with the songs so much.

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?

The 2005 shirt (left), the 2009 shirt (middle), and the 2015 shirt (right)

DJB: I only own the home kit for 2015-2017 (I think), with the neon yellow adidas stripes. I suppose that one is special to me, as I also watched us play the U20 World Cup final in 2017 with it.

KV: I consider the most iconic shirt to be the Atlética shirt worn during the 2006 World Cup Qualifiers, as it was the first shirt to be sold on a massive scale, and it was with this shirt that the national team brand was first promoted. However, I have more special memories with the one used in the Copa America 2011 and World Cup Qualifiers 2014, and it was the shirt with which we achieved the best results: semi-finalists in the Copa, and only one place away from the World Cup play-offs. Besides, I went to my first two Venezuela matches when they were playing in that uniform. The memories are magical. From the television, to the stadium. Plus it was very beautiful.

KS: The 2008 and 2009 adidas Vinotinto shirts.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Venezuelan national team?

KV: I say absolutely nothing. Since I was a child I always said that ‘the next qualification was the definitive one’. But it’s impossible to predict. The talent of the Venezuelan footballer is already established. We are everywhere and we are performing well. A new sign, apart from the other existing ones, is that now the teams in the Colombian League are full of Venezuelans at high and leading levels. It is, with all due respect, as if the Premier League had the largest number of foreigners coming from Scotland and many of them excelling at all levels. So, that’s just it. There is growth. Our league is still lacking, especially because of the economic, political and social issues. But, I’m not saying ‘this year yes’, because we are in the most competitive sub-continent to go to a World Cup. Of course, the increase in quotas in 2026 will help us a lot.

KS: I hope the growth a lot of players are experiencing in terms of their football in foreign clubs and countries translates to a lot more mature national team, especially in the adult category. I also hope sooner than later the federation gives steps forward towards the development of a women’s football strategy specific to the country’s women’s league that is realistic and develops grassroots football. It’s what it’s going to nurture the national team in the future.

DJB: Someday, somehow, we’ll make the World Cup.

A massive muchos gracias to Kevin, Dominic and Kat from the superb FUTVE English for answering our questions on la Vinotinto. Remember you can find their excellent accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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