Five goals not enough for Chile
The week after Brazil’s six goal mauling of Venezuela, it was Chile’s turn to try and boost their goal difference. With the journey to Rio de Janeiro still to come, the Chilean hosts would need to win by eight clear goals in order to overtake the Brazilians in the table. Surely, it was not feasible.
As punishment for some irregularities during their home tie against Brazil, FIFA had, five days after the fixture had taken place, ordered that Chile play the game out of the country. Mendoza in Argentina, some 100 miles away from the Chilean border, had been chosen, surely due to its relatively close proximity. The reason why Brazil had filed a complaint to FIFA in the wake of that game, was that the Chilean team had entered the pitch prior to kick-off ahead of both their visitors and the refereeing trio. In addition, the electronic scoreboard had encouraged the home fans to cheer for their team (…). Furthermore, there were complaints about objects having been thrown onto the pitch. The world football governing body had subsequently adhered to Brazil’s objection.
This was the Venezuelans’ final game in the qualification. They had shipped 13 goals from their three matches thus far, and it is fair to say that they had not travelled to Argentina as favourites. It remained to be seen whether they’d be able to keep the scores down at respectable levels.
Prior to kick-off, this is how the table read:
Chile team news
The Chileans were looking to go equal on points with group leaders Brazil ahead of their final game. Surely, a win by eight clear goals was beyond them, even though they were facing whipping boys Venezuela. It was obviously a big minus that they had had to travel across the border to Argentina in order to complete their home qualification schedule, with Brazil winning through after their formal complaint in the wake of the fiery encounter in Santiago two weeks ago.
Experienced midfielder Raúl Ormeño had got himself sent off against Brazil, and was therefore suspended for the visit of Venezuela. Opposition manager Sebastião Lazaroni had, controversially, said in media that “there is no doubt Ormeño was doped”. He had brutally chopped Branco down before two minutes had been played, although it had only earned him a yellow. Before the quarter of an hour mark, though, he was off for a second bookable offence.
Ormeño was one of three absentees from their previous matchday squad of 16. The other two were Swiss based forwards Hugo Rubio and Iván Zamorano. They had both been in action at club level the day before this fixture, thus being rendered unavailable. Their St Gallen side had lost 2-1 away to Bellinzona. A third Chilean, midfielder Patricio Mardones, who has not been selected in either qualification squad in the ongoing World Cup campaign, had also been in action in that fixture yesterday. Both the 27 year old midfielder and his team mate Rubio had got themselves sent off. Mardones had, incidentally, notched St Gallen’s first half equalizer.
Coming into the squad for the three absent players were 27 year old midfielder Juvenal Olmos, based in the Mexican league with Irapuato, winger Juan Covarrubias, a 28 year old team mate of attacking full-back Héctor Puebla at Cobreloa, as well as 20 year young striker Luka Tudor. He was of Yugoslav descent, and was currently enjoying an interesting time with popular Santiago club Universidad Católica.
Manager Orlando Aravena had set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation in both their two previous qualifiers. His nephew, Jorge, had been their midfield playmaker in the central role, whereas he’d had two strong runners surrounding him in Jaime Pizarro and Raúl Ormeño. The latter’s role would now appear to be filled by Greece based midfield man Jaime Vera, who had been an unused substitute for their two qualifiers to date.
Venezuela team news
The Venezuelan squad which had travelled to western Argentina was almost identical to the one which had gone to Brazil last Sunday. The solitary exception was the arrival of experienced forward Ildemaro Fernández, who had scored Venezuela’s only goal of the qualification so far, on behalf of defender or defensive midfielder Héctor Rivas.
While Venezuela had been in 4-4-2 for their opening qualifier, they’d continued in a 5-3-2 formation for their two most recent ties. Either way, they had looked relatively inept, and there had been a big gulf in class between them and the group’s two other teams. They had been able to slow proceedings down in both their home ties, though in Brazil the previous weekend, they’d been well torn apart. Goalkeeper Baena had, along with libero Acosta, been their player of the qualification so far. The ‘keeper had even saved a penalty last time around. It should furthermore be noted how Acosta had played through the pain barrier since taking a knee in the chest from his goalkeeper in their first game, the 4-0 home loss against the Brazilians.
A lot had been expected of attacking midfielder or forward Carlos Maldonado, who had scored all four of Venezuela’s goals during the recent Copa América. However, the 26 year old of Atlético Táchira had been unable to follow up on that success, as he’d hardly been allowed even a sniff at goal. He had, though, assisted Fernández for their solitary goal hitherto. Still, objectively, it had been a disappointing qualification from him.
Venezuela had perhaps looked particularly poor in the midfield department, where there had been little aggression and pressing of opponents. They had also at times been outnumbered in the centre of the park, and perhaps would they look to bolster this area for this their final qualifier.
43 year old Ecuadorian referee Elías Jácome was in charge of his second career World Cup qualifier. The first had taken place as far back as eight and a half years earlier, when Venezuela had won their first ever qualification game: A 1-0 home triumph against Bolivia, with current team captain Pedro Acosta the goalscorer.
Jácome had been in charge of two matches in the recent Copa América, overseeing Brazil’s 0-0 first group stage game against Colombia, as well as their 3-0 win over Paraguay in the second group stage. He’d previously refereed in the 1983 and the 1987 versions of the same tournament. The electrical engineer also had rich experience from continental club matches.
The clash in Caracas three weeks earlier, which the Chilean visitors had won by a 3-1 margin, had been the eighth meeting between the two countries, and their inaugural World Cup head to head.
Following that tie, the overall record read 6-2-0 in Chile’s favour. The two draws had both happened in Copa América tournaments: In 1979 and in 1983 respectively.
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, formerly Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza, had been built for the 1978 World Cup, and had been inaugurated just weeks prior to the tournament. It could hold nearly 40 000 spectators by the time it was ready. The stadium hosted no less than six matches during that World Cup.
It had been rebranded in the wake of the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom.
Since Chile had been charged with irregularities during their previous home qualifier, they had been ordered by FIFA to play their second ‘home’ qualification match abroad. They had decided for Mendoza as the appropriate location. It was fairly well populated for the occasion, considering its status as a ‘neutral’ venue, though a large number of Chilean fans had obviously made the journey.
|1 Roberto Rojas (c)
|2 Alejandro Hisis
|4 Héctor Puebla
|5 Hugo Gonzáles
|6 Jaime Pizarro
|7 Juan Carlos Letelier
|Deportes La Serena
|8 Jaime Vera
|9 Ivo Basay
|10 Jorge Aravena
|11 Fernando Astengo
|14 Patricio Yáñez
|3 Leonel Contreras
|Deportes La Serena
|20 Juan Covarrubias
|x Marco Cornéz
|x Juvenal Olmos
|x Luka Tudor
|12 José Gómez
|2 René Torres
|3 Andrés Paz
|4 Pedro Acosta (c)
|29′, sub 59′
|5 Zdenko Morovic
|Marítimo de Venezuela
|6 Roberto Cavallo
|7 José López
|Marítimo de Venezuela
|8 Nelson Carrero
|Marítimo de Venezuela
|9 Ildemaro Fernández
|10 Carlos Maldonado
|11 Wilton Arreaza
|1 César Baena
|13 Pedro Gallardo
|15 Juan Pedro Febles
|Marítimo de Venezuela
|x William Pacheco
|x Martín Tarazona
Chile appeared to have plenty of support despite the fact that the game had been moved across the border and into Argentina. Still, the open stadium had a spacious feel to it, with quite a lot of area available. Eventually, the attendance figure would be given as 19 000, something which meant that the stadium was less than half full, alledgedly capable of holding in excess of 45 000 spectators at the time. Due to large amounts of snow having arrived in the region during the week leading up to the game, travelling had been difficult, with roads having been blocked and even the train lines having suffered. Most had arrived from Chile, with Santiago an estimated 225 miles away, by plane.
With the two teams out on the pitch and prepared for kick-off, it was possible to have a look at the respective starting line-ups, and for the hosts Crete based midfielder Jaime Vera had come into the side at the suspended Raúl Ormeño’s expense. With neither of Iván Zamorano or Hugo Rubio available to manager Jorge Aravena, the experienced Juan Carlos Letelier had been given a role up front.
For the visitors, there were a few players missing from the squad altogether who had been featuring earlier in the qualification, and one noticed in particular how manager Carlos Moreno had relegated stand-out performer César Baena to the substitutes’ bench and replaced him with José Gómez between the sticks. There was furthermore a recall for centre-back Zdenko Morovic, while José López had been brought in for his first appearance of the qualification. Wilton Arreaza, too, had earned a starting berth, in what looked to be a continuation of Venezuela’s recently used 5-3-2 formation.
The visitors would get the game started through forward Ildemaro Fernández and attacking midfielder Carlos Maldonado, a player also well capable of holding down a striker’s role.
What could be expected from this game was Chile laying siege on their opponents: They had proved in their previous encounter, and towards the final quarter of that game in Caracas in particular, that they were a superior side to the lowly Venezuelans, and the relatively direct style which they were employing under the tutelage of Aravena, with balls often angled out towards either flank from a deep midfield position, either from the manager’s nephew or from Jaime Pizarro, would ensure a busy afternoon for the Venezuelan full-backs.
Speaking of visiting wide defenders: Roberto Cavallo, who so far in the qualification had been operating in midfield, had been placed at left-back on this occasion. The 22 year young player from Caracas club Deportivo Italia had plenty of grit and determination in him, whereas pure skill and technical ability were hardly favourable variables. Teenager Jorge Betancourt had been the starting left-back for their first two qualifiers, and the solid Héctor Rivas ditto in their previous match in Brazil. Neither had been duly successful, something which meant Cavallo had been deployed in the role to look after Chile’s 28 year old Patricio Yáñez, a player relying a lot on pace and flair.
Before a minute had been played, Cavallo had fouled the Real Betis man not only once, but twice. An early caution had been coming when he subsequently rushed too quickly out from the defensive wall as Aravena was about to strike a free-kick from 22 yards just over two minutes in. This would’ve brought some alarm bells out for the visiting management team. Roberto Cavallo would now need to act more carefully not to get himself sent off when dealing with the tricky Yáñez.
Venezuela would’ve been wary about conceding free-kicks within shooting range outside their area, as they must’ve remembered so vividly how Jorge Aravena had netted that quite sensational opener in Caracas. On these couple of early occasions in Mendoza, Aravena was allowed to have a go again, though from closer range he failed to get it beyond the wall. With the second attempt being retaken, Aravena left the responsibility to midfield colleague Jaime Vera, making his first appearance of the qualification, and from the Crete based man’s right foot, Venezuela ‘keeper José Gómez needed to bail his side out with a big save as he flung himself high towards his right. He even held on to the curler from Vera, which would’ve found its way into the back of the net had it not been for the fine stop.
Following two very early fouls and his dashing out of the defensive wall to earn himself that booking, you would’ve thought Cavallo had learnt a lesson. However, on the five minute mark, he put in another cynical tackle on the flying Chilean right winger. This foul was committed some ten yards from the byline, and isolatedly speaking, it was an infringement which had warranted another yellow card. As it is, though, the referee doesn’t even approach Cavallo to have a word; he’s just stood inside the penalty area D, with Yáñez left to dust himself off and give the referee the evil stare. At this rate, will Cavallo be able to continue, or will he be off one way or another? From the right hand channel, Aravena opts to test Gómez’ mettle once again, though his effort is aimed straight at the visiting goalkeeper, who again holds comfortably.
Home goal coming
The early Chilean pressure had hardly come as a genuine surprise to anyone inside the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, and despite the hosts perhaps struggling to create major openings against a compact, deep-lying opponent, they had already tested the visiting custodian. There had been yet another Cavallo foul on Yáñez on 12 minutes, with no further action from the referee than a resulting free-kick, and on the second time of asking, the influental Aravena again had a pop at goal from the right hand channel, this time somewhat nearer to goal than previously. His stinging left-foot shot went half a yard to the left of the upright, with Gómez just about covering his post. Just how much longer would the Venezuelan left-back be able to keep felling his opponent and remain on the pitch?
Venezuela midfielder Nelson Carrero had proved himself as a player with a decent level of technique previously in the qualification, but on 14 minutes he failed to control the ball midway inside their own half, and with Letelier breathing down his neck, he went on to lose possession. Yáñez grabbed the invite, fed Letelier a short ball to his right, and with the stand-in centre-forward in predatory mood, goalkeeper Gómez was unable to keep the experienced striker’s low drive from 12 yards out, meaning the hosts had taken the lead. It was a disappointing goal to concede from the visitors’ point of view, though it was not like something similar hadn’t happened before.
Visitors grow into it
While the Chileans are able to assert plenty of pressure as long as they’re interested, they do at times seem to switch off a little, something which allows the visitors to even make their way up towards the hosts’ penalty area. In midfield, the Venezuelans have given away plenty of space, and they’ve hardly impressed in their pressing game, which seems unorganized, and based more on individual rather than collective methods. However, they do have a few players within their ranks who are able to spot a team mate and find him with a pass. Carrero’s a sound player when given time, and when they’ve come forward, it has so far usually happened along their right, where full-back Torres has made advance on a couple of occasions. Also, Cavallo had threaded Arreaza through down the left, though Chile’s right-back Hisis had recovered in time to commit a foul outside of his area near the byline. The resulting free-kick had been hit into the area by Maldonado, but easily cleared by Gonzáles.
Venezuela: Going through the select
We’ve got to know Venezuela as a 5-3-2 team, albeit they had delievered a sample of something akin to 4-4-2 in their opener against Brazil, even if that formation had not been a straightfoward one. Recently, though, they’ve played with a libero and two centre-backs around him, with full-backs not highly committed to attack, and a pair of central midfielders behind playmaker Maldonado. In addition, there had been two wide forwards. For those who thought that ‘Carlitos’ Moreno had pondered something new and revolutionary ahead of the trip to Argentina, they’d have been left disappointed. It was the identical formation once again.
For one reason or another, the manager had dropped perhaps their best player throughout the qualification campaign so far: Goalkeeper César Baena was on the bench, and his previous understudy, 25 year old Mineros ‘keeper José Gómez, had been placed in goal. Despite the concession of 13 from three matches, Baena had excelled, and indeed kept out several goalbound attempts in all of their games. Leaving him out, unless he was carrying a knock or had felt unwell prior to kick-off, appeared odd from an outsider’s perspective. Perhaps did Moreno want to give Gómez game time at international level? He had looked sound enough early on to leave an impression that Venezuela did have two competent goalkeepers.
In the right-back position was Gómez’ 28 year old team mate from club football, Mineros’ captain René Torres. He had featured at right-back in the home tie against Chile, but most recently he’d been their right-sided centre-half during the 6-0 mauling in Brazil. While a player with fine commitment, he was not too raffined in his passing game, and on the few occasions when he arrived into a crossing position, he would too often waste his chance. He’d shown precisely this on nine minutes here in Mendoza, when he’d accepted a short right-wing corner from Carrero, only to advance a couple of yards before firing a mysteriously poor attempt at a cross way behind goal.
Opposite from Torres, in the left back position, was, as we’ve firmly outlined already, Roberto Cavallo. The steady midfield campaigner did not appear to have pace as his greatest forte, and so he opted to stick very close to Yáñez; it seemed like intimidation tactics. He’d committed several cynical fouls on the Chile winger already, and should not have still been on the pitch.
In the libero position, for the fourth successive qualifier, was 29 year old Caracas wise head Pedro Acosta, the team captain. As always, the curly-haired figure was leading by example from the back, although in surroundings not too dissimilar to what we’d seen in Brazil, the rest of their defensive line was sitting so deep that it was difficult for Acosta to identify any depth behind his fellow central defenders to take out. Still, you’d get commitment and leadership from their number 4, although he’d taken a big hit to his ribs during their opening qualifier. ‘Keeper Baena had accidentally kicked him in the side, and Acosta had needed to play on through the pain barrier. It was not visible through his performances.
Yugoslav born Zdenko Morovic and Andrés Paz, 22 and 25 years of Marítimo and Atlético Táchira respectively, were working as centre-backs, and it did look like Morovic was predominantly occupying the space to Acosta’s advanced right, a territory in which he’d come into contact with both Letelier and, first and foremost, Basay. Paz seemed to be the left-sided centre-half, rather than either of them being a designated marker for a certain opponent, though he’d more often than not be looking to tackle Chile striker Letelier. With the latter already having got his name on the scoresheet, it did not look like an easy task, as Letelier was quite flexible in his approach.
Two men were in Venezuela’s engine room: Team mates at Marítimo (de Venezuela) José López and Nelson Carrero. At 29 and 31 respectively, age suggested that they were quite experienced figures, and as the first half was reaching its midway point, they were beginning to leave their print on proceedings. López was appearing for the first time in the qualification so far, though he had been an unused substitute in each of their previous three qualifiers. He seemed like someone who was relatively confident in possession, and his fairly slight frame seemed to indicate that he was not first and foremost a battle-hardened player. Judging by his opening 20 minutes, he was definitely a second in midfield command behind Carrero, whose playmaking skills were evident once he was given some time on the ball. With the Chileans at times lackadaisical in their pressing, this would occur, and Carrero would be particularly fond of angling balls into wide space.
Ahead of Carrero and López, as an attacking midfielder, was 26 year old Carlos Maldonado. Having netted four times in four Copa América matches not long prior to the start of the qualification, a lot had been expected from the Atlético Táchira man, but he’d failed to deliever much so far. He’d assisted for Fernández’ goal in the 3-1 home loss against today’s opponents, but other than that, he’d rarely been a trouble maker to opposition defences. And he’d been well looked after, something which was a result from his exploits in the continental championships in Brazil. He was a somewhat stocky figure with a low centre of gravity, and he was certainly not without ability on the ball, but too often had he failed to spot a team mate or threaten goal with his efforts. Ideally, he’d be exploiting space through the centre created by the two wide forwards ahead of him.
Up top, both Ildemaro Fernández (right) and Wilton Arreaza were starting their second match of the qualification series. The former had obviously netted in that Chile home loss, and he’d looked sound in their opener against Brazil, possessing plenty of pace in that attacking right hand side position of his. As for Arreaza, he was more a kind of player thriving on effort and commitment; his technical ability appeared limited. He had helped out inside his own half of the pitch at times, but did lack pace to threaten down that left hand side, even if he’d been played in behind Hisis once. Arreaza, incidentally, was the team’s third player on the books of reigning league champions Mineros.
Hosts in control
While there are sporadic counters from the visitors, one clearly does feel that it is the Chileans who are in control. Are they even not quite playing to their capacity yet? Venezuela enjoy breaking down their right hand side, and the speedy Fernández does prove a bit of a nuisance to Puebla, who might not be world class quality defensively, former winger as he is.
For the hosts, it is their midfielders who boss the show, and while Aravena often comes deep to collect from his centre-halves in order to free himself enough to perform his precise, left-footed long-distribution, Pizarro is always looking to close Carrero and López down sufficiently for the Venezuelan midfield duo to rarely be allowed much time in possession. In addition, Vera breaks forward at will in what is a midfield role not really displayed by the Chileans previously in the ongoing qualification. It might be the fact that the opposition is rather lenient in their pressing game, but Vera offers a lot of ideas from his advanced position as the hosts’ inside right midfielder. On 24 minutes he came close to assisting Letelier for a second goal, as he moved inside from the right and struck a shot with his left foot. However, he didn’t strike it well, but the effort fell invitingly for the striker, who took a touch and tried to lob Gómez from ten yards. Letelier’s attempt just cleared the bar.
There’s a further couple of Venezuelan bookings: On 25 minutes, Arreaza mistimes his attempted tackle on Pizarro quite badly, and his card is well earned, while Acosta comes across the halfway line in a rare effort to close an opposing player down so high in the pitch. He showed way too much aggression as he went through a challenge on Aravena from behind, and the Caracas man, too, rightly saw yellow.
Chile have their undisputed number one again between the posts: Roberto Rojas, team captain and all, remains with Brazilian club São Paulo. He’s not been tested much during the first half hour here, but as a commanding presence behind their defence, his leadership abilities are highly appreciated.
The four men across the back remain identical to what we’ve seen in their other two qualifiers. Right to left they read Alejandro Hisis, Fernando Astengo, Hugo Gonzáles and Héctor Puebla. The former is capable of featuring in central midfield, but is also quite an asset as a full-back, and he actively comes forward along the right hand side. Defensively, he’s perhaps struggling with his positioning from time to time, something which had been evident as Arreaza had been allowed to run in behind him and towards the byline earlier.
As the second Chilean to ply his daily trade in the Brazilian league, experienced libero Astengo continues to sweep behind his fellow defenders. The 29 year old had been part of the controversy in the 1987 Copa América final, when he and three others had been sent off in Chile’s 1-0 loss against Uruguay. From a distance, and particularly when you watch a tape which is quite far from high definition in its quality, Astengo looks like central defensive partner Gonzáles’ identical twin, though the latter plays in a much more advanced position, and regularly contributes across the halfway line. Gonzáles, the 26 year old of Santiago club Colo Colo, feels he’s often a target of the men in black, though his ‘hard-man’ reputation has rarely come into the reckoning during this qualification. Rather than get into tangles with opponents, he’s let the ball do the talking, and he appears at times constructive in his forward thinking.
Down the left is Puebla, the 34 year old stalwart of Cobreloa in the northern Chilean desert region of Antofagasta. He’s a tireless runner, though as this game’s developed, he’s had to maintain an eye defensively on Venezuela’s wide forward Fernández, which has not always been so easy for him. Puebla loves getting forward, but he’s not allowed to do so very freely.
We’ve touched on their midfield three already, and while Pizarro and Aravena are well known to the ‘Eliminatorias 1990’ audience from their participation in Chile’s two previous qualifiers, Jaime Vera’s a new face. Not that he’s an unknown quantity in South America, as he’s clearly been around a while, and 26 years of age, he’s already been in or around the national team for five years. He had featured in Chile’s Olympic team squad in the 1984 Los Angeles games, starting in their opening game against Norway and then coming on as a sub in their final group stage draw against eventual winners France. Of small stature, Vera had the look of an energic, busy player, who had a nice surge on the ball, and who was not afraid to make a run from the deep and into the opposition’s area. He was almost deployed as a fourth attack weapon against the Venezuelans.
30 year old Juan Carlos Letelier had only featured for three minutes previously in the qualification, but with Swiss based forwards Rubio and Zamorano both unavailable, his role as a starter was well earned. He looked hungry, and would try and draw his opponents both right and left inside the Venezuelan area. He was also a composed finisher, something which he’d already shown when he’d scored the opening goal.
Wide to the right was the stocky Yáñez, who did not appear to have been intimidated by the physical tactics employed on him by the opposition. He was often searched for and found by either Pizarro or Aravena, and looked to take advantage of his pace and also his guile against what appeared to be an inexperienced direct opponent. He would often make it to the byline and put a cross over. As for Ivo Basay across from him, the France based forward would not feature so distinctly wide, and he would on occasions come into contact with central defender Morovic. He was also not that bent on seeking to make use of the space behind his full-back, though with his pace, he was surely another attacking asset.
Unceremonious approach continues
There are some cynical fouls committed by the visitors. There had been three bookings already by the half hour mark, although one still wonders how Cavallo had not been disspelled following his repeated offences inside the first ten minutes alone. Next up is a poor challenge from Fernández on Basay some ten yards inside the Venezuelan half. It could rightly be classified as a ‘striker’s challenge’, and it leaves the Chile forward in a heap on the ground. Luckily, he’s not severely injured, and play can resume shortly after. Referee Jácome keeps his card in his pocket on this occasion.
Chile extend their lead
After the visitors have briefly threatened along their attacking left, only for Maldonado to be adjudged just offside from Arreaza’s attempted ball in behind Astengo, the home side increase their lead. It is a disappointing goal for the Venezuelans to concede: They let Letelier in behind their defence following a long, raking ball forward from inside the centre-circle by Aravena. Really, it was a plot which the visitors ought to have read, as they must have been well aware of it by now. Letelier appears to be somewhat off balance as he strikes from five yards and an angle, though the goalkeeper has badly committed himself by taking a step out from his goalline, and so he too is imbalanced, rendering him uncapable of stepping back in time to save Letelier’s not too impressive effort. The ‘keeper is left to look like a fool as he only contrives to palm the ball into the back of his net for 2-0.
Venezuela are quite unorganized, and their midfield, with just López and Carrero covering central areas, is whafer thin. That’s hardly a recipe for success at international level, even if they do manage to run at the host defence on a few occasions. Only a minute and a half after Letelier’s second, the visitors even have the ball in the back of the net, and it had been a well-worked attack, only for Maldonado to have been flagged off upon receiving the ball in a right-sided position inside the area. His shot had drawn a parry from Rojas, with Carrero on hand to tap the rebound home, though the linesman on the far side had already raised his flag. Before half time, they’d also have a low effort straight into the arms of the Chilean captain, again from Carrero, who was easily their leading creative influence.
A third before half time
Amidst their ultimately unsuccessful attempts at conjuring up a goal to reduce the arrears, Venezuela keep inviting the hosts to come at them. The away side lose possession in vital areas, they get caught square at the back on several occasions, and a third home goal is only really a matter of time away. Chile’s left-sided defender Puebla had been played through down the left, though flagged just off behind a static Venezuelan defensive line. When the same procedure was repeated only moments after, from Vera’s deft pass, Puebla was allowed to continue. With Gómez coming off his line to face him, he proceeded to feed Yáñez in front of goal, and though the pass had not been the best, the winger was left with a tap-in for 3-0. The white-clad visitors were looking like they were about to implode. Fortunately, they were saved by the half-time whistle.
The first half had shown a superior home side net three times against their plucky opponents, and one felt how it was dangerous every time Chile approached the Venezuelan penalty area. Visiting goalkeeper Gómez had been unfortunate when conceding the second goal, though he’d done well apart from that.
It had been Venezuela’s midfield which had left them so woefully exposed defensively time and again, as they were not only numerically inferior to their hosts, but also without necessary defensive knowledge and ability. This is certainly something which ought to have been addressed by manager Moreno during the half-time interval.
As we’re back for kick-off, one immediately spots changes in both camps: Chile have taken libero Astengo off and replaced him with Leonel Contreras, who gets his first minutes in the ongoing qualification. Let’s see how Contreras, a 27 year old from two-goal scorer Letelier’s club Deportes La Serena, slots in, and whether there’ll be a change of position for one or more starters.
Venezuela, in the mean time, have taken right-sided forward Fernández off and brought on the highly experienced Juan Febles, a team mate of Morovic, López and Carrero at Marítimo. He’s obviously a big name in Venezuelan football, and he’s clocked up 25 caps, a considerable amount in his country, at this point, by the age of 31. Febles had started their first two qualifiers, been withdrawn in both, and had come on as a half-time substitute also in São Paulo the previous weekend. Originally a forward, he could also be drafted in as a midfielder, so it remained to be seen how Moreno had shaped his team for the start of the second period, their final 45 qualification minutes of these ‘eliminatorias’.
Chile get the ball rolling through Letelier and Vera.
Hosts can not keep the pace of the game up
Our tape from this match is yet another Screensport production, and oddly, their English speaking commentator does not even once touch on the fact that victory by a margin of eight goals will take Chile top of the group table. Instead, he keeps going on about how ‘a win by six goals would do their confidence no end of good’ ahead of the decisive clash against Brazil the following weekend. He is right, of course, but being three up at half-time, surely, Chile’s focus would’ve been getting the necessary amount of goals to move top, and thus necessetating ‘merely’ a draw rather than a win in Brazil.
Yet, the signs at the start of the second half are not highly encouraging for the hosts were they to achieve that massive win. They had looked good when they’d managed to keep the pace in their passing up, and not least when they’d been able to draw the visitors’ defenders out of position. Chile look somewhat laboured in the minutes after resumption, when they cannot arrive at goalscoring opportunities. They see Aravena switch the ball from a deep central role and out into space for either winger, yet neither Yáñez nor Basay is able to wriggle free from their opposing full-back. Venezuela take every opportunity at slowing the pace of the game down.
Contreras has come in to directly replace Astengo as the team libero, and like his predecessor, he appears to play with plenty of safety, rather letting his central defensive colleague Gonzáles take the responsibility in moving the ball across the halfway line whenever Aravena/Pizarro is not there to take it off them and pass it long. Apart from an Aravena attempt into the side-netting directly from a right-sided free-kick a minute after the restart, Chile fail to test Gómez until the hour mark. Having said that, they should’ve notched their fourth as Vera was fed the ball inside the area by Letelier, only to blast an effort high over the bar.
The Venezuelans would’ve been pleased with how the second half was panning out. Their substitute Febles had slotted into the right-sided forward role of the player whom he replaced, although he could not replicate Fernández’ explosiveness. Thus, they were more a limited threat to left-back Puebla, who had not always had it his way during the opening half. Strangely, they had not felt the need to reinforce their midfield, though the lack of tempo so far since the restart saw to that they looked relatively safe.
Substitution for visitors
There was a second, forced substitution for the visitors on 59 minutes, when captain Acosta, who had not quite looked his assured self on this occasion, was taken off for young ULA Mérida forward Pedro Gallardo. We’ve since learned that Acosta had taken a big hit in the side from his ‘keeper during their first qualifier, and he had since played with pain. Already three goals down, Moreno felt they could afford to take their libero off, and so it was that he was replaced just shy of the hour mark. The introduction of another forward for a centre-back was interesting, though. In the immediate confusion after Acosta had been taken off, was when Vera had arrived at his big shooting chance, as mentioned previously. Taking over the captain’s armband, incidentally, was midfielder Carrero.
Once their second substitute was on, Venezuela retracted half-time newbie Febles further back in the pitch. He had begun life to the right in attack, though without any kind of pace, he was of very limited threat. The sensible thing to do was really to strengthen midfield numbers, and now it would appear as if Moreno had done this, by shifting Febles back alongside Carrero and López. Gallardo went into the right-sided forward position, while they switched from their 5-3-2 formation to a 4-3-3 version. Taking Acosta off, they no longer had an obvious chief in their rear guard, and so Morovic and Paz made up a central defensive pairing rather than formed part of a three man strong unit.
Hosts look better
Chile’s diminutive inside right midfielder Vera continues to pose problems for the visitors with his advanced running, and having come close to scoring earlier in the half, he sets himself up from an almost identical position on 23 minutes after the restart. This time he strikes it with his left, only to see Gómez parry and Paz put it out for a left wing corner. Only a minute earlier, Letelier ought to have scored his third when he rose to connect with Puebla’s left wing cross. Gómez had failed to get a touch to it, and the striker’s chance had come at an unguarded net. However, he’d almost got into a tangle with team mate Basay for the finish, and he had been unable to guide the header into the back of the net.
The hosts were turning the screw again, and immediately from the left wing corner, they score their fourth. Vera’s ball towards the edge of the area appears wasted, as there’s no Chilean player right there, though it turns fortuitous for them as Gallardo’s attempted clearance somehow makes its way towards his own six yard area, where ‘fox in the box’ Letelier is on hand to powerfully strike home his hat-trick. It was a really poor involvement by the most recent substitute to set Letelier up, but perhaps the Chileans can rediscover their energy and goalscoring touch, and look for more?
No upturn in visitors’ form
Venezuela’s switch in formation had not quite yielded the kind of optimism which they would’ve been hoping for, as Chile were looking to increase their tally even further. Vera was by now the main tormentor, at least from open play, considering how Letelier had only recently been crowned with his hat-trick, and for the third time in the second half he would burst into the area from the right hand channel and test the goalkeeper. This time Gómez was alert and on hand to divert Vera’s low shot out for a right wing Chile corner. Working the ball back towards the box following a short corner, Vera this time reaches Letelier eight yards out for the striker to have a free header. However, it is aimed straight at a grateful goalkeeper. This now is beginning to look like the latter stages of the first half, with Venezuela barely hanging in there.
The visitors’ midfield now appeared to have Carrero at the base, and with Febles (right) and López running just ahead of him. Maldonado, who once again was giving an indifferent display, still had that central role just ahead of the midfield, but he was unable to make much impact, as Venezuela’s forward bursts would typically come from either wide striker. Arreaza, who was playing down the left hand side, had had a decent game, while he was now partnered by Gallardo down the opposite flank.
Approaching half an hour in the second half, it would be Chile to make their second and final change. Winger Yáñez, who had looked a bigger threat during the opening period, and who had swapped places with wing colleague Basay for the last two-three minutes, was replaced by another player fairly small in size: Juan Covarrubias. Like left-back Puebla, the latest addition to the pitch belonged to Cobreloa. He was 28 years of age, and had featured during the Copa América, starting in their first three matches and coming on as a substitute in the fourth.
The booking count had sunk since the recommence, and in all honesty, Venezuela were playing with less aggression than they had done before the break. As their players had tired towards these latter stages, they had been unable to get close enough to the Chileans in order to get tackles in, and they would once again allow Vera plenty of space along the right hand attacking channel. He put a lovely, teasing cross into the centre, and a rare off-the-ball run from Aravena saw the home side’s primary playmaker arrive to connect seven yards out, but well disturbed by goalkeeper Gómez, he was unable to direct his touch goalwards. It was another big chance spurned by the hosts.
Substitute Covarrubias had indeed come on to the left in their attack, with Basay remaining along the right. The latter had not excelled to the maximum of his capacity, but his mere presence along Cavallo’s left hand side defensively for the visitors allowed Vera plenty of space. This was well exploited by the midfield man, who was easily the most impressive player on the pitch in the second half.
While the hosts could not yet add to their tally, at least we saw a fourth booking of the game as Chile had won a free-kick some 27-28 yards away from goal, and with Aravena taking aim, Venezuela midfielder Carrero came dashing out from the defensive wall to block the ball only three-four yards away. The decision to award another yellow card was an easy one by the referee, who had once again let Cavallo off the hook in the situation leading to the free-kick: The left-back had stopped the ball’s flight with the means of an outstretched arm.
Having failed to heed several warning signs and close down Jaime Vera’s avenue towards goal to the left inside their own penalty area, Venezuela ultimately paid the price. Chile added yet another to their scoreline with just six minutes to go, and no one deserved that goal more than Vera, who participated in the build-up, as he received a short pass from Letelier to the right of the area. He brought the ball inside the area for the fourth time, and this time he struck lucky as his low, right-footed effort snuck in via the upright, with Gómez beaten on his near post.
The red and blue clad hosts displayed their continued belief that they could rack up the necessary scoreline to overtake Brazil in the group standings, as Letelier picked the ball out from the net and rushed back to the halfway line. The striker, with three goals to his name already, had been switched out to the right hand side, with Basay coming into the centre. Letelier would not be playing particularly wide, mind.
While Maldonado scuffed an effort just wide from 18 yards about a minute after the final restart, when he really at least ought to have hit the target, Chile would still take advantage of the visitors’ poor defensive organization. Three and four minutes after 5-0 respectively, Aravena and Letelier really should’ve hit the back of the net again. The hosts’ number 10 was playing in quite an advanced role towards the final stages as they were seeking further goals, and he received the ball just inside the area to the right, pulled inside, only to aim a low shot straight at Gómez. Letelier’s chance was even bigger, as Chile overloaded the penalty area, with Vera again bursting down along the right-sided channel. He ultimately pulled it back for the oncoming striker, who went for power when precision could’ve defeated the by now overworked Venezuelan ‘keeper; the shot went over and wide.
There’s a bit of afters, with several players from both sides involved as a combined tackle from behind by Cavallo/Paz on Aravena leaves the Chilean number 10 grounded. Arreaza, always willing to fight for his cause, appears to throw a punch in the direction of Rojas, who has come dashing out from his goal and into the opposition’s half to join in. The only result is a free-kick, though, with the referee taking a lenient approach. Aravena, who had already had several opportunities to strike a set-piece goalwards, once more fired it straight into the wall, and then the same player would see a headed attempt slice off his forehead and wide. This saw the end to the visitors’ torment.
The final scoreline saw Chile move up to five points, though their goal difference of 9-2 was not good enough to skip past Brazil, and they’ll now need to win in Rio next week in order to progress through to the World Cup.
Chile applied expected early pressure, though they would not make their dominance count against aggressive visitors until 14 minutes, when Letelier struck the first among a hat-trick. Standing up well at times against an over-elaborating opponent, the Venezuelans would then succumb twice more before the half-time whistle, as Chile took advantage of their higher stamina levels.
After the break, the visitors once again managed to fend the Chileans off without too much hassle, though when their legs were about to go, and with home midfielder Vera starring in his first appearance of the qualification, it could’ve turned into an even greater rout than the five which the hosts ultimately notched up. Having lost their captain Acosta to injury, Venezuela looked so wobbly defensively that the scoreline could and should’ve been more emphatic.
1 Rojas 6.9
tested by a couple of shots which he parried well, though other than that left relatively unchallenged. As the team captain, you would’ve expected him to be a pretty vocal figure behind the four man defensive line
2 Hisis 7.2
helped the team’s balanced shape when just about every team mate wanted to assist in coming forward, as he was less prone to attacking on this occasion. Still offered apt support for Vera and Yáñez to the right, and defensively he contained Arreaza
4 Puebla 7.3
enjoyed his forward dashes, and on this occasion he would deliever a couple of fine crosses from advanced positions. Defensively, he would face the pacy Fernández during the first half, while he’d keep an eye on both Febles and substitute Gallardo after the break. Fine assist for Yáñez’ goal
5 Gonzáles 7.2
another appearance in which he demonstrated his will to contribute along the ground inside the opposition’s half. Rarely worked defensively, and his ‘hard-man’ tag has not been earned on behalf of these qualifiers alone
6 Pizarro 7.5
at the base of the Chilean midfield, where he put in another fine shift. At times went for the long pass, and quite efficient in either kind of distribution. Rarely asserted himself inside the opposition’s half
7 Letelier 8.1
proved what a capable finisher he is, but ought to have scored more. Not always highly visible, but usually in the thick of the goalscoring opportunities. Could’ve been more composed, especially when he wasted that final chance near the end. Assist for Vera’s goal
8 Vera 8.5
came into the side like a whirlwind! Featured in an attacking midfield capacity, and while he was influental before the break in how he moved forward along the right-handed channel, he was simply unplayable after the break. Sat Puebla up for the assist for 3-0, and eventually got his deserved goal late
9 Basay 6.9
a somewhat indifferent display, but his strengths were also not played to. Was monitored well by Torres, and for a forward player in a 5-0 drubbing, he carried little attacking influence. Had a spell through the centre towards the end
10 Aravena 7.7
started in his usual deep role, from which he often looked to distribute long and effectively along the flanks or in behind the defence, as displayed in his assist for 2-0. Also struck several free-kicks from distance, but usually straight into the defensive wall. Was shifted into a well advanced position with the hosts looking for goals in the latter stages, and looked a threat
11 Astengo 7.0
stood his ground on the few occasions when he was challenged defensively, and would typically leave work in more advanced positions to his central defensive colleague
(3 Contreras 6.8
featured at libero in the second half, and didn’t face much challenge in a defensive capacity. Also left work inside the opposition’s half to his team mates)
14 Yáñez 7.3
exposed to several early fouls, something which might’ve taken some of the sting out of him. Yet he appeared both interested and influental, and he wandered to the left before taken off. Goal was a simple tap-in, and he was also credited with assisting Letelier for his first
(20 Covarrubias –
kept his position wide to the left after coming on, but only played a minor role towards the end, when everything revolved around Vera and Letelier, and even Basay through the centre)
12 Gómez 6.6
only really at fault for the second goal, and made a couple of fine stops in an expected busy afternoon. Also looked decent when coming to claim a couple of crosses, a solitary exception apart, and proved how the Venezuelans are well equipped in the goalkeepers’ department
2 Torres 6.6
did contribute in the forward direction, but proved wasteful on those occasions when he arrived in crossing positions. Defensively, he gave Basay a decent battle, and he was one of few Venezuelans to escape this tie with some credibility
3 Paz 6.0
given something of a run-around by Letelier, and would often fail to keep tabs on the striker. Didn’t always look confident about his positioning. Assumed a leading role defensively after Acosta’s departure, but failed to excel
4 Acosta 6.1
not his usual commanding self on this occasion, and could well have been set back by the injury which he’d picked up during their opening qualifier. Opted to boot it clear whenever necessary, and didn’t spread the usual level of tranquility around him
(13 Gallardo 6.2
came on to the right in attack, and only really managed a couple of fruitless runs down the flank when the game was up since long anyway)
5 Morovic 6.2
slightly less involved in the work of muting Letelier than Paz, as he would more often come into direct contact with Basay. Part of an incoherent backline, and struggled accordingly
6 Cavallo 5.9
started the game so rashly in his repetetive fouling of Yáñez. Should’ve been sent off in the opening stages, but would ultimately regain a sense of control in what appeared to be an uncomfortable left-back task. Failed to cope with Yáñez, and kicking his opponent to the ground was the only way he could reduce the threat level
7 López 6.3
as their more defensive midfielder, he was left with enormous gaps to try and cover, something which was ultimately beyond him. Not too confident in possession, but at least battled to his capability
8 Carrero 6.4
experienced midfielder who accepted plenty of attacking responsibility behind Maldonado, and who did well in this part of his game. Left vast spaces behind him at times, and the lack of central midfield organization helped the hosts to this rout
9 Fernández 6.1
a couple of lively bursts down the right, but otherwise an indifferent afternoon. Played his part in the disallowed goal, and play often happened along his flank. Yet not always firing, and was substituted at half-time
(15 Febles 6.2
a combative type of player, the wise head could not put himself about much, as the game would often pass him by. No success down the right hand flank initially, though covered ground well once shifted back into that midfield role)
10 Maldonado 6.0
again, the Copa América sensation was tamed quite easily, and he could not always be troubled to aid his team’s plight in giving chase. Looked something of a luxury player on this display, which was disappointing. Close to reducing the arrears right after Chile’s fifth
11 Arreaza 6.2
showed plenty of grit, but despite working himself into a couple of decent attacking positions along the left, could ultimately not prove much of a goal threat. A couple of late challenges were instrumental in how he was booked