When people look at the table for the South American Qualifiers, they can see Venezuela in last place, with merely 6 points after 14 matches. These terrible results can be related to many things, including terrible management, unskilled players, corruption within the Venezuelan Football Federation (FVF), and also due to the rough times the country is currently undergoing.
Having said all of this, the U20 World Cup in South Korea really gave the Venezuelan people many moments of joy. Finally, the country has a generation of footballers to be excited about. Commanded by Rafael Dudamel, who also coaches the senior squad after being appointed on April 1st of last year, the under 20 squad possesses many useful characteristics that are recently trending in modern football.
They have a solid foundation, aligning with a double line of four to defend. Their GK Wuilker Fariñez, plays a vital role to the team. Leading the defence, he is not only a fantastic shot stopper, but Venezuela benefit massively from his ball distribution. All of Dudamel’s defenders seemed to be organised and eager to defend. Up until the last minute of the quarter finals, Venezuela had not conceded a goal. The side was brilliant in defence. They also like to pressure the ball aggressively, and Yangel Herrera is the perfect man for the task. His anticipation allows him to intercept the ball, recover possession, and start attacks. His partner, Ronaldo Lucena is the set-piece specialist. His crosses from corner kicks and free kicks produce many goal scoring opportunities for Venezuela. The most talented players in attack are Sergio Cordova, star Adalberto Peñaranda, and standing at 159 cm. tall, Yeferson Soteldo. Ronaldo Peña, on the other hand, combines technique and hard work. His role is similar to that of Mario Mandzukic in Allegri’s Juventus side.
Enough with the overview, let’s break down this promising group of players into a more analytical approach:
Venezuela varied between a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2, however, they chose to align mostly with a wide 4-4-2 when had the ball. When they didn’t have it, their two banks of 4 closed down until winning possession. Their superb chemistry allows them to defend in compact areas without giving space to defenders. Here is an example of their formation:
As shown, Venezuela align two lines of four that get more compact as the ball comes closer to their goal. They do a brilliant job at defending in really tight areas, and give their opponents few opportunities to score. Peñaranda and Cordova also play an important role in the team’s defensive efforts. Dudamel has them pressure the flanks, which most of the time makes rivals lose possession. Although Adalberto does not possess the same defensive efforts as his teammates do, credits to Dudamel for involving him in the team’s quest to regain possession.
The fact that they conceded just 3 goals in the whole tournament, speaks volumes about their defensive discipline. Now, when we look at the goals they conceded, one came from an unfair penalty, the other barely crossed the line, and the third was a double rebound that won the tournament for England.
The young goalkeeper did all he could in all three goals he conceded. His saves were crucial to Venezuela’s progression through the tournament. Whenever the team would allow scoring opportunities, Fariñez would come in clutch to save his country. His composure and firmness when stopping the ball are true signs of an elite player. His personality makes him the leader of the team, alongside Yangel Herrera. Here are just a few of his saves across the U20 World Cup:
His saves helped Venezuela hold clean sheets in all of their first four matches. His most stellar outings came against Uruguay and England. He constantly denied the Uruguayan attack with spectacular saves, and ended up being his team’s hero in the penalty shoot-out. He saved two shots to take his team to the U20 World Cup Final.
Not only does Fariñez show great skill to block all types of shots, he also possesses extremely accurate kicks. He largely contributed to Venezuela’s ball distribution from their initial third. His long balls helped the team escape pressure, perform counters, create scoring opportunities, and retain possession. Here are some of the young GK’s ball distributions:
Wuilker’s long balls end up in favourable situations for Dudamel’s side. In these clips, Wuilker never fails to find one of his teammates up the field. His constant accuracy throughout the tournament really showed how precise the young GK’s kicks really were.
After analysing the team’s solid structure and unique goalkeeper, let’s go ahead and take a closer look at another vital piece for the team: Yangel Herrera.
The young New York City midfielder did not fail to impress in the U20 World Cup. His athletic physique allowed him to constantly win the ball back for Venezuela. His anticipation and quick reading of the game lead to interceptions all over the field. His aggressive pressure was mostly effective, however he was beaten sometimes during the England and Uruguay matches. Here are just a few of his interceptions throughout the tournament:
These clips do a very good job at showing Herrera’s anticipations during the World Cup. His brilliant knowledge of the game allowed him to be one step ahead of the play at all times. Quite often, his interceptions lead to attacks for his team. Below are some examples of Herrera starting plays from recovering the ball.
Venezuela’s high pressure was executed to perfection with Herrera, Cordova and both Hernandez playing a pivotal part. His pressure also delays the rival attacks, making time for his teammates to form into their compact double line of 4.
Most of Venezuela’s chances come from either dead balls, crosses or individual abilities. Their two most technically gifted players this tournament were Adalberto Peñaranda and Sergio Cordova. Both the Watford and Caracas wide midfielders were constant threats all around the pitch. They combine pace, dribbling ability, smart runs and excellent finishing.
Without a doubt, was one of the most talented players this tournament. He was the special one for Venezuela in this World Cup, as he provided unmeasurable benefits to the team. His dribbling technique is similar to Neymar’s, although the young Venezuelan is still makes the wrong-decision often. Here is just a glimpse of his superior dribbling abilities:
His ability to take on defenders in all parts of the field was incredibly entertaining to watch. Although his lack of passing at times can frustrate, the young boy has loads of potential. Whenever he improves his decision making and his footballing IQ, his production will go up. Here are all the goals Peñaranda was directly involved in this tournament:
His goals and assists were extremely important for Venezuela to reach the final. His opener against the United States was his highlight of the tournament. The young attacker’s contribution was not, however, measured merely on goals or assists. His penetration between the lines and constant dribbling were his most valuable assets for Venezuela.
The young winger of Caracas FC had a superb tournament. His contributions came in a more direct manner. He scored many goals coming from corner kicks, brilliant runs, rebounds, as he had an extremely active tournament in attack for his side. His great strength and pace allowed him to easily beat defenders down the flanks and create chances for himself.
Here are his dribbling skills, and here are his scoring contributions to the team in the U20 World Cup.
His great movements behind defensive lines locate him one-on-one against the keeper fairly often. His finishing could improve in the future, however his many chances created throughout the tournament suggest that he has ease to get himself into scoring opportunities.
Set Piece Specialists:
Venezuela’s most strong feature are their impeccable set-piece plays.Whether it being from a corner, or a free-kick located in any area of the attacking half, Ronaldo Lucena makes sure to give the perfect delivery for his teammates. Lucena was followed by many scouts for his brilliant pin-point accuracy when crossing the ball. Here are some examples of his crosses coming from free kicks:
Their most reliable source of scoring opportunities were corners. Lucena always seemed to find a ‘Vinotinto’ head in the box. Most deliveries, however, had something in common. They either went far back near the penalty spot, or really close to the goal. Here are a few clips of Venezuela creating and scoring from corners. Whenever the ball goes away from goal, Yangel and company start near the goal, and run outwards. It has proven to be very effective in giving them space for headers inside the box:
Venezuela hold a vast amount of players that are great at heading, including Velasquez, Ferraresi, Peña, Cordova and Yangel Herrera. They managed to score from corners against Vanuatu, Japan, and Mexico.
Venezuela’s U20 squad is a generation that will look to excite fellow football fans in the future. Rafael Dudamel has put together a side that can defend well, compete against anyone, create scoring opportunities at ease, and most importantly, a side with unmeasurable heart. It seemed nearly impossible to think a Venezuelan side could play in a World Cup final, and a compact and hard working side made it possible for the ‘Vinotinto.’ Although they lost in the final and only lose to England by a score of 1-0, the boys competed until the final whistle.
Venezuelan football finally has a foundation to build on, but whether this team will yield success in future competitions is a matter of many other factors than just sole talent. The FVF must guide these young adults into becoming great footballers, an event that is unlikely given the poor management skills the federation possesses. Will Dudamel be able to build on this team for future 2022 qualification to Qatar? We shall see. He most certainly has the players to do so, now he needs the proper tools.