Venezuela – Chile: Visitors needed third goal to see off spirited hosts
Ref.: Carlos Montalbán
L1: César Cachay
L2: Sergio Leiblinger
Written by: kaltz
A week after the first qualifier of the CONMEBOL section, which had been Venezuela versus Brazil, also here in Caracas, the stage was once more set in the Estadio Brígido Iriarte, with Chile the visitors on this occasion. Venezuela had ultimately proved a size or two too small for the group favourites, but they’d given a fine account of themselves during the first half. Could they put up a greater fight against the Chileans, who had probably disappointed somewhat during the recently held Copa América, where they had bowed out after the group stages? Admittedly, they had won their final two matches, but it had not been enough as they had already lost to both Argentina and Uruguay, who would go on to progress from their group.
Venezuela team news
Only a week had passed since Venezuela’s previous qualifier, the home loss to Brazil, but there had been a couple of changes in the squad of 16 nevertheless. Departees since last time around were right-back William Pacheco and forward Wilton Arreaza, a starter and an appearing substitute respectively. Brought into the squad for the pair were defenceman Andrés Paz and young forward Pedro Gallardo.
Last time out, Venezuela had held their own against their illustrious opponents during the first half, though they had buckled as the second half wore on, conceding three times in the latter part of the final 45. Argentina born manager Moreno had lined them up in a 4-4-2 formation, and it remained to be seen whether this would be the case once again.
The compact attacking midfielder that was Carlos Maldonado, who had turned 26 on the eve of the Brazil game, had got the plaudits for his four goal haul during the Copa América, though he had not been able to prove much of a threat against the Brazilians. It was likely that the Chileans would give him just as much attention as Venezuela’s previous opponents had.
Chile team news
Twelve days prior to arriving in Caracas, Chile had rounded off their solitary friendly in the wake of Copa América and prior to starting the World Cup qualification. They had defeated their old rivals Peru by 2-1 at home in Arica, right in the north of the country, almost on the border with the opponents. 20 year old Universidad Católica striker Luka Tudor and midfield playmaker Jorge Aravena (the manager’s nephew) had notched the goals.
Among the 13 players in use in Arica, nine players remained in the squad for this their opening qualifier. The four which had been left out since the Peru match were 31 year old Deportes La Serena defender Patricio Reyes, midfielder Jaime Ramírez (22, Unión Española), as well as forwards Juan Covarrubias (28, Cobreloa) and young Tudor.
It is a relatively experienced squad which manager Orlando Aravena has gathered. Six of the 16 players in the matchday squad are 30 or older. There are even remaining players from their 1982 World Cup squad: goalkeeper Marco Cornez, forward Juan Carlos Letelier, as well as then potential superstar Patricio Yáñez, who was 21 as he burst onto the stage back in Spain ’82. The right wing man had been earning his living in Spain since that tournament, turning out for Real Betis nowadays. Yáñez would have to feature in the Spanish Segunda división for the coming campaign, as Betis had been relegated following the 88/89 season.
No less than seven of Chile’s 16 man strong squad were plying their daily trade abroad. Apart from goalkeeper Roberto Rojas, who was a feature for São Paulo in Brazil, they were all based in Europe: Alejandro Hisis and Jaime Vera with Crete in Greece, Ivo Basay with Reims in France, Iván Zamorano and Hugo Rubio at St Gallen in Switzerland, as well as Yáñez in Spain. In fact, St Gallen, who would go on and win the first stage of the Swiss Nationalliga A in the 89/90 season, also harboured a third Chilean in the shape of midfielder Patricio Mardones, who was not part of this matchday squad.
In comparison to their Copa América squad, Chile had brought in a few new players, with former Bologna forward Rubio perhaps the most eye-catching among them. Neither Basay nor Zamorano had taken part in the continental tournament either.
The Peruvian referee, Carlos Montalbán, was an experienced gentleman, having officiated at continental level since 1979, when he had made his debut in the Copa Libertadores through the group stage game between Olimpia Asunción (Paraguay) and Jorge Wilstermann (Bolivia). He was an annual participant on this stage, whereas his solitary international prior to this qualifier had come during the 1983 edition of Copa América. It had, in fact, taken place in the very stadium to which he had returned this afternoon, as he had overseen Venezuela’s 2-1 loss against Uruguay.
This was to be the altogether eighth meeting between the two countries since they had first locked horns in the 1967 version of Copa América. Chile had run out 2-0 winners in Uruguay on that occasion, and the South America minnows had yet to defeat today’s opponents. However, they could look back on two previous draws, both on home soil, meaning that the Chileans were yet to win in Venezuela. The drawn matches had occured in 1979 (1-1) and 1983 (0-0) respectively, both in Copa América tournaments. The most recent head to head had come in the 1987 edition of the continental tournament, which Chile had won 3-1 en route to the silver medals in Argentina. Five of the 13 players that had turned out for Chile on that occasion were still present: Rojas, Astengo, Vera, Basay and Letelier, whilst only three Venezuelans who had appeared that day were still members of their squad for this qualifier: Acosta, (Héctor) Rivas and Carrero.
The game took place in the Brígido Iriarte stadium in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, precisely like the game against Brazil had done. It had held a capacity crowd a week earlier, though on this occasion the turn-out was less, even if they still boasted some 15 000 altogether, with several hundred having travelled to support the visitors. The pitch looked hard, and the weather, much like the previous Sunday, seemed to have been sunny and warm.
|1 César Baena||28||Caracas|
|3 Andrés Paz||36′||25||Deportivo Táchira|
|4 Pedro Acosta (c)||29||Caracas|
|5 Jorge Betancourt||sub h-t||19||Trujillanos|
|6 Roberto Cavallo||22||Deportivo Italia|
|9 Juan Pedro Febles||sub 52′||31||Marítimo de Venezuela|
|10 Carlos Maldonado||26||Atlético Táchira|
|11 Héctor Rivas||15′||20||Marítimo de Venezuela|
|13 René Torres||28||Mineros|
|15 Nelson Carrero||33′||31||Marítimo de Venezuela|
|16 Pedro Gallardo||20||ULA Mérida|
|8 Bernardo Añor||on h-t||29||Caracas|
|17 Ildemaro Fernández||on 52′||27||Estudiantes|
|x José Gomez||25||Mineros|
|x Zdenko Morovic||22||Marítimo de Venezuela|
|x José Lopez||29||Marítimo de Venezuela|
|1 Roberto Rojas (c)||31||São Paulo|
|2 Alejandro Hisis||27||OFI Kreta|
|4 Héctor Puebla||34||Cobreloa|
|5 Hugo Gonzáles||26||Colo Colo|
|6 Jaime Pizarro||25||Colo Colo|
|8 Raúl Ormeño||31||Colo Colo|
|9 Ivo Basay||sub 60′||23||Stade Reims|
|10 Jorge Aravena||31||Puebla|
|11 Fernando Astengo||29||Grêmio|
|14 Patricio Yáñez||28||Real Betis|
|15 Hugo Rubio||29||St Gallen|
|3 Leonel Contreras||27||Deportes La Serena|
|7 Jaime Vera||26||OFI Kreta|
|12 Marco Cornez||31||Universidad Católica|
|16 Iván Zamorano||on 60′||22||St Gallen|
|17 Juan Carlos Letelier||30||Deportes La Serena|
Precisely a week since the last international was kicked into action here at the Brígido Iriarte, Venezuela come head to head with Chile in the home side’s second qualifier for Italia ’90. The Chileans were embarking on their campaign, and they knew that nothing but a win here would suffice.
Conditions looked sound. It had been very hot the previous Sunday, though perhaps was it slightly cooler this time around, with some clouds partly offering protection from the strong sunshine. The stands were by no means fully populated; the attendance figure would clearly be down on last weekend’s game. However, those who had arrived were making sure to be heard, and it would seem that it was the travelling contingent of Chilean support which was the most vociferous.
Venezuela appear to be in more distinctly red-coloured shirts for this occasion, as opposed to the burgundy jerseys which ‘la Vinotinto’ featured in against Brazil. The Chileans are in their change colours of white shirts and light blue shorts.
The home team had been awarded the kick-off, and we see Juan Pablo Febles and Carlos Maldonado approach the ball in the centre-circle, although we do not have any images from the kick-off ritual itself. Our tape is without the first three and a half minutes or so, and we join the action with the visitors on the attack, down the same end which Brazil had opened the scoring early doors last time around.
Chile tucked into the game with gusto
As we enter the proceedings, there’s a double effort on goal from the visitors. We will learn later that our tape has some three minutes and 45 seconds missing from the start of the tie, so when Chile’s left wing man Ivo Basay, based in France and with a reputation for fine speed, bursts into the area from the left hand channel, it is an early warning sign for the hosts, who see Basay misfire poorly, only for striker Hugo Rubio, with a past in Serie A, to collect before the ball even crosses the byline. He returns it into the centre, and when Venezuela can not clear properly, the ball finds its way to Chile’s inside left midfield man Jaime Pizarro, who has a pop from distance. The effort’s nothing much to write home about, but at least the visitors have set the tone.
Venezuela had gone behind as early as the sixth minute against Brazil the previous weekend, and precisely the same occurs once again when they’ve failed to heed the warning signs displayed by Chile just before. It is midfield playmaker Jorge Aravena who can tuck the ball into the empty net after right wing man Patricio Yáñez has easily, too easily, got himself free along his side. He had attempted to look for Rubio on the near post with his cross, but the striker couldn’t get a touch. However, the duel between Rubio and Andrés Paz on the near post had goalkeeper César Baena committed, so when the ball arrived towards the back post, with no Venezuelan player in sight, it was an all too comfortable task for Aravena to dispatch with his left foot into the back of the net for a sixth minute Chile lead.
So – what had gone so wrong for the hosts from the outset once again? It could well be that they had imagined Chile to be a more equal proposition than the one which they’d come up against the week before. They had not started well, surrendering initiative and allowing the Chileans to take advantage of their weaker sides. It appeared evident that the visitors had studied well Venezuela’s game against Brazil, where the ‘red wine’ had often allowed the visitors to exploit their left hand side defensively. Then, as now, the Venezuelans had teenage full-back Jorge Betancourt defending that flank, and whilst he was a very well built young man, he clearly had some defensive issues which would take much longer than a week to rectify. Chile would look to Yáñez to exploit whatever space Betancourt left behind him, and with the young defender’s positional awareness quite erratic, it was a situation in which the experienced winger would revel.
Hosts look to regain their composure
It would take the hosts a while to find their feet, although by 13-14 minutes, serious damage had already been done courtesy of that early Chile strike. Fair enough, it was a game which the visitors were expected to win, but Venezuela were no longer such a poor side that their opponents could just turn up and little more to claim the two points. Gradually, the home side would regain some composure, and they tried to build confidence by keeping possession, an exercise which they didn’t master to perfection, as they were rarely allowed practice by their opponents in-match.
However, Venezuela were not without some capable players, although they needed a little bit of assistance from the seasoned Chilean ‘keeper in order to bring belief back: Home midfielder Nelson Carrero, who had come on as a second half substitute last time out, attempted a shot from more than 25 yards, which Roberto Rojas should’ve had well covered. Somehow, the visiting captain let the ball slip through his hands and out for a left wing corner. Carrero’s shot had bounced before arriving to Rojas, and on the seemingly hard surface, this looked to have caused the goalkeeper’s problems. From the resulting corner, the ball eventually finds its way out to Venezuela’s defensive midfielder Roberto Cavallo, who has a go from all of 35 yards. Whilst Rojas appeared to be in control of the situation, he once again let the ball out of his grasp, and with Carlos Maldonado closing in, it would have spelt danger had the ‘keeper been unable to claim it at the second time of asking.
A closer look: Chile
With this being our first proper look at the Chilean select, it still wouldn’t take long to determine their formation: They were set up in a very distinct 4-3-3. They were working with a libero at the back and with a midfield playmaker assisted by two water carriers, whilst they would look to exploit the wide areas through two pacy wingers. You could say it was a classic 4-3-3 interpretation from manager Orlando Aravena.
Between the sticks was 31 year old ‘keeper Roberto Rojas, one of seven players in their starting eleven to come from a club outside of the country’s borders. Rojas was based in the Brazilian league with São Paulo. With him being the team captain, you would expect him to be something of a father figure, although it was not as if the team were lacking in experience in other departments. Rojas had let that shot from Carrero inexplicably slip through his hands, and if that effort was something to go by, perhaps did he have a problem with concentration?
Immediately ahead of him, Rojas had a four man defensive line consisting of right-back Alejandro Hisis, libero Fernando Astengo, centre-back Hugo Gonzáles, and left-back Héctor Puebla. The former two were, like their goalkeeper, based abroad, with OFI Crete and Brazilian Grêmio respectively, whilst reputed hard-man Gonzáles was a feature with famous Santiago club Colo Colo, who would go on and claim the league title for the 1989/90 season, their first of three successive championships. Puebla, who in the early phase of the game was of a more attacking nature than his counterpart Hisis (who had performed in the holding midfield role during the Copa América) to the right, hailed from Cobreloa, the reigning league champions, who were something of a stronghold on the domestic scene at the time. The two men in the heart of their defence, Astengo and Gonzáles, both long-haired chaps, were capable ball players, and in particular Astengo appeared sound in how he read the game and would use his intelligence to position himself ahead of the opponents. We did not, at least so far, see much of Gonzáles’ ‘hard-man’ reputation.
The midfield three had deep-lying playmaker Jorge Aravena in the central position. Equipped with a tasty left foot, the Mexico based 31 year old would come deep to collect and instigate, although he was far from foreign to take part in much more advanced positions. This had been well demonstrated through the run which had put him in position to score. Aravena would quite often angle passes out wide, looking for either wing player or even an attacking burst from a full-back, though once or twice did he spill a pass across the sidelines, having used excessive power.
Around Aravena were two players with much less creative responsibility in Raúl Ormeño and Jaime Pizarro. Just like Gonzáles, both were plying their trade at home with Colo Colo, and their tasks were quite distinguishable: Operating right and left of Aravena respectively, they would apply pressure on the opponents when out of possession, and then be expected to feed their playmaker whenever they recouped the ball. Pizarro had offered some attacking assistance early on, but neither him nor Ormeño would be seen often high up in the pitch. Their roles were of great importance to the collective, and it was their presence which allowed Aravena to thrive.
Through the centre up front, Chile had St Gallen’s Hugo Rubio, a clever-headed 29 year old who was distinctly less quick than the other two front runners. Rubio would often offer support somewhat further back, clearly interested in participating in build-ups. It was easy to see a well-developed level of footballing intelligence in him, as he would be well orientated of both his own and his team mates’ whereabouts prior to receiving the ball. Although his aerial play was not his greatest asset, he also did not lack in ability when the ball came airborn. However, in a team consisting of relatively small players, at least from midfield and forward, high balls were rarely put into practice by the Chileans.
The two wide players were both highly interesting, with Patricio Yáñez appearing to the right. He had come on to the global stage as a 21 year old through the 1982 World Cup, where he had featured for a Chile which had failed to advance beyond the group stage. However, he had been hailed as a rising star, gifted with fine technical ability and good speed. Yáñez had moved to Spanish football immediately after that World Cup, and was still working there now, more than seven years later. Perhaps had he not quite lived up to every expectation from back then, even if he was still a sound player. Like many a wide performer, he would not always be switched on, but once realizing that he had space in which to work, he would enjoy himself immensely. And space he found in plenty due to the lack of defensive understanding from the Venezuelan left-back. Yáñez had already claimed an early assist.
To the left in attack, Chile had 23 year old Ivo Basay, a player based in France with Stade Reims. Basay possessed fine speed, and rather than display trickery on the ball, he would try to outrun his full-back and get a cross in from near the byline. He was probably more predictable than his wide counterpart, and would equally drift in and out of the game. Basay was up against a stronger opponent defensively than Yáñez, with Venezuelan league champions elect Mineros’ team captain René Torres directly in his way. He would execute limited influence on proceedings, especially after taking a couple of knocks.
Game more evenly balanced
As the half progresses, it does increasingly look like the hosts have lost some of the respect, or perhaps nerves, which had plagued them earlier. Venezuela would look to sit collectively higher in the pitch, something which potentially made them vulnerable to counters. Chile, with their speedy wingers, could certainly pose a threat in quick transitions, even if by the halfway point in the first half both of their wide men had taken knocks. Yáñez had been brought down cynically by Venezuela centre-back Héctor Rivas on the quarter of an hour mark, something which had led to the first booking of the afternoon, whilst Basay both had been kicked and also would end up injuring himself against the advertising hoardings on one occasion when he’d tried to speed past Torres/Paz, and not been able to stop in time after running out of pitch.
A study: Venezuela
The hosts have changed their formation since the Brazil game, with manager Moreno adopting a five man defensive line on this occasion. There’s been a total of four changes since the previous week, with defenders William Pacheco and Zdenko Morovic, midfielder Bernardo Añor and quick wide forward Ildemaro Fernández all replaced. The latter three were among the five substitutes today, whilst Pacheco, who had done reasonably well at right-back against the Brazilians, was out of the squad altogether.
Keeping goal was once again César Baena of Caracas, who had at times excelled last week, having had plenty to do as the game wore on and the visitors’ dominance had grown steadily. He was a fine shot-stopper, Baena, with decent reach, and though he had been fooled into orientate himself towards the near post for Chile’s opening goal, he would also display a sound level of positional sense. All in all, he seemed a great asset to the Venezuelan team.
Despite boasting five men across the back, Venezuela’s defensive structure and discipline appeared to be lacking. The five defenders did not always work in great cohesion, and they looked particularly vulnerable along the flanks, where young left-back Jorge Betancourt once again appeared to be something of a liability. Granted, he had shown plenty of enthusiasm and some decent ability in possession during the first 45 minutes last weekend, but on this occasion he had seemed to pick up where he had left off after the break last time around. Time and again he was poorly positioned, something which the experienced Yáñez would take advantage of, and he was also easily found out of when transporting the ball forward. To the Brazilians, the 19 year young Trujillanos boy had probably been an unknown quantity, whereas the Chileans seemed well aware of what he had to offer. His passes were also of disappointing quality.
As the team captain, Moreno had once again handed libero Pedro Acosta the responsibility of leading from the back. He had probably been their best outfield player against Brazil, and would once again use his ability to read the game to his advantage, often mopping up behind the rest of his defence, whether it be in the air or along the ground. One could even spot a willingness to come forward, something which had been rare last time out, although he would ultimately decide against, rather prefering the safer option of remaining at the back. Acosta was 29 and from Caracas, like his ‘keeper.
Instead of Pacheco along the right this time, Venezuela had put faith in 28 year old René Torres, certainly not a foreigner to this position, even if he had not featured last week. Whilst he needed to be alert to the threat of Basay defensively, he would do his best to work in tandem with right-sided centre-back Andrés Paz inside him in order to nullify the threat from the quick Chile winger. Torres would also offer his support when the team wanted to mount an attack, and team captain for the league champions, he was not afraid to accept responsibility. He offered commitment, but he wasn’t necessarily an upgrade defensively on Pacheco’s display from last week. Paz, also not selected for their last game, had come into the team to bolster their defence, and he would from time to time go into combat with Chile’s striker Rubio. He was of fair size, Paz, and though their opponents rarely took the aerial route towards goal, he would prove to be an asset on defensive set-pieces. Not exceptionally quick, he would need a head start in order to cope with Basay.
Héctor Rivas, Venezuela’s second youngest players with only 20 years of age, had featured in a defensive midfield capacity against Brazil, but here he had been brought back into the defensive line. Rivas, a very compact player with excellent physique, also boasted a strong left foot which he would sometimes use to hit it long with. Despite his tender years, he would have a reasonably good understanding of positional importance, something which came very handy considering Betancourt’s straying out of position to his left. This meant Rivas would have to do his utmost to keep up with both Rubio and Yáñez, though he would thread a thin line having received that yellow card for his bad foul of the Chile right wing man.
In midfield, Venezuela’s three were far from as well-drilled as their three engine room opponents. 31 year old Nelson Carrero had been brought on as a substitute with 20 minutes to go last week, though with his team mates on the verge of surrendering by then, it was not much that he could do to steady ship, even if he had shown some promising touches in the centre of the park. Now, with Añor out of the eleven, it was Carrero’s task to work in the central midfield position, assuming the role of playmaker. He seemed to have fine vision, even if execution was not always the best. He did like to transport the ball, and displayed decent technical ability, although he could be seen to slow play down somewhat, when it could’ve proved a better decision to feed it out wide.
In Carrero’s immediate vicinity was the workmanlike Roberto Cavallo. He had put in a lot of effort against the Brazilians, where he had more or less shadowed Bebeto around. Again, Cavallo’s main focus was to put a dent in the opposition’s progress, as he was not someone who thrived in possession. He seemed to be positioned slightly towards Carrero’s right, and would come into contact with both Pizarro and Aravena. Around the halfway point in the first period, Cavallo even struck on target, though his effort from 28 yards did not trouble Rojas, who gathered easily.
Juan Pedro Febles had played as a striker against Brazil, but this time around he had been drafted back into midfield, although his position was a distinctly wide one: Febles was operating towards the left hand side. He was far from quick, only seemed to have a limited range of technique available to him, but he would offer endeavour and presence; he was a compactly built player. Alas, his co-existence with Betancourt along the left failed to come off, mainly because the latter misplaced his passes in Febles’ direction. Although he was surely a fine player to have in your team, the 31 year old from Marítimo (de Venezuela) seemed almost a misfit on this occasion. This was not entirely his fault alone.
Carlos Maldonado had won the plaudits during the Copa América, when the 25 year old (he had turned 26 on the day of the Brazil game) had notched no less than four times in four appearances. A stocky little player with a typically low centre of gravity, Maldonado was a similar character to that seen in many a South American club or national team. In their previous game, he had worked as something of an advanced midfielder, aiming to attack through the centre between the two wide forwards, whilst on this occasion he was clearly a forward, seemingly with little defensive responsibility. He was clearly someone whom the Chileans had identified as a threat, and he would often come into contact with Gonzáles. So far, Maldonado had been unable to stamp his authority on proceedings.
While Ildemaro Fernández had shown his pace to the right in attack for Venezuela seven days earlier, the moustached 27 year old had been replaced in the starting line-up by enthusiastic young striker Pedro Gallardo. The 20 year old from ULA Mérida was replicating Fernández’ role as a right-sided attacker, and he would look to take Chile’s left-back Puebla on for pace. Gallardo did display that he had pace to burn, though he was rarely given the chance to accelerate, predominantly because supply was limited. Venezuela would look their most threatening when Rivas was able to knock it long and diagonally into space for him, although with only Maldonado lurking in the centre, they lacked bodies to prove much of a threat in subsequent moves.
More static now
Approaching the half hour mark, there’s preciously little happening in front of either goal. It is not that the teams are lacking in effort; it is not a dull game at all. However, quality could certainly be better, and first and foremost it is the many misplaced passes from the home players which undermine their opportunity to take the tie to the visitors. Chile are clearly more comfortable in possession, and stroke the ball around their team quite well. In the Venezuelan team, there’s usually a great stretch between defence/midfield and their two attackers, something which demands much greater precision whenever a ball’s hit in the forward direction.
Whilst the threat from Yáñez has diminished somewhat, the winger has short spells where he moves across to the left. Basay appears to have completely drifted out of the game since taking that last knock, though Yáñez’ burst after accepting Aravena’s short pass catches Torres in two minds: should he tackle or stand his ground? His indecision almost sees him concede a penalty, as there probably were referees out there who would’ve fallen for Yáñez’ tumble after trying to take the ball past the full-back inside the area. Just a goalkick, though.
Another booking and another goal
When Chile’s right-back Hisis attempts to make advance along the right hand channel, he is stopped in his track after a tackle from Cavallo, though the latter’s team mate Carrero, who is able to pick up the pieces, doesn’t realize that there’s been an infringement, and he demonstrates his displeasure by chucking the ball into the ground, thinking he’s been made culprit for a non-offence. His plea for a yellow card is heard by the referee, and the visitors have a free-kick some 30 yards out, to the right of goal.
There appears to be little imminent threat, though the visitors’ playmaker steps up to curl one with his left foot, and although the distance is great, sometimes you’ve just got to stop and applaud the player in question rather than berate someone for a lack of intervention. Could Baena have got to it? Aravena struck it right into the top corner, and the ‘keeper had guarded his side of goal, expecting his defensive wall to bail him out should Chile’s number 10 strike it towards that side. However, it was a world class strike; you won’t see many better goals. The away side find themselves two goals to the good with eleven minutes left for play in the first half.
Venezuela tweak their tactics
Even before the second Chile goal, Venezuela had made sure to involve Febles more. The imposing player had done next to nothing out wide to the left, but was now more or less working as an advanced midfielder centrally, almost similar to what Maldonado had done against Brazil. Manager Moreno must have seen how their attempts to make inroads along the left had been futile, and Febles would get to use his physique to better effect through the centre. Approaching 40 minutes, he is challenged in the air by full-back Hisis when Cavallo hits a hopeful ball towards the edge of the area. Maldonado and Chile libero Astengo do not realize that the whistle has already gone for a foul on Febles, and the little forward darts into the area, taking Astengo on. The libero stands his ground, and manages to block Maldonado’s effort out for a corner…until they realize that the whistle’s gone. The free-kick, which is brought back to some 24-25 yards out, goes straight into the defensive wall from Torres. A minute earlier there had been a third Venezuelan booking when Paz had arrived too late for a challenge on Aravena halfway inside the Chilean half.
Through to half time
The hosts pin the Chileans back for the final minutes of the opening period, and they are a tad unfortunate to be two goals down, much thanks to that ‘worldie’ from Aravena. Their slight tactical adjustment appears to have come off well, as they now have another body in the centre, rather than out wide where little or nothing was happening.
As for the visitors, they are probably quite content with the way things are going, and so are possibly relaxing just a little, whether it be intentional or not. Their earlier attacking impetus had worn off as the half had progressed, and while Basay had not made much of an impact along his left hand side, even Yáñez, who had been so threatening in the first 20 minutes, had gone off the boil.
Venezuela hit a couple of free-kicks and crosses into the centre, though Rojas commands his area well. Astengo is performing admirably behind the rest of their defence in order to keep them tight, and what struggles they experience defensively happens along the left, where Puebla is not quite able to keep those crosses out. Gallardo had arrived more often on the ball, and he was giving the left-back a fight for the money. Still, they had been pretty toothless in front of goal thus far, the Venezuelans.
The half peters out with little more in terms of excitement occuring, though should the game continue in the same frame after the break, it could be an interesting final 45 minutes. Venezuela just need a break going forward. And they must be aware of any counters defensively; Chile had come close to scoring right before the half-time whistle from one such: Rubio had broken free from Acosta to the right in the area, and he had angled a cross 45 degrees, only for no visiting player to be able to connect.
We are once again given an in medias res treatment as we’re back for the second half, though whereas nearly four minutes had gone missing at the start of the first 45, luckily a mere seven seconds are absent at the beginning of the second period.
It doesn’t take long before one can spot a player replacement: For Venezuela, their first half weak link, left-back Betancourt, has been told to take a seat for the second half, and into the action, literally, has come busy midfielder Bernardo Añor. After his tigerish performance last time around, it had felt a little odd that he had not been a starter today, but at least he’s given the final 45 minutes to prove his worth. With this obviously not being a like for like swap, let’s see what repercussions this has throughout the host team. Añor, incidentally, introduces himself to the audience within a minute of the restart, as he makes it past two opponents, Ormeño and Gonzáles, high up the pitch and strikes a shot from 24 yards which Rojas can safely gather. A sign of what was to come?
Chile, on the other hand, are keeping with the same eleven which had started the game.
Venezuelan changes in practice
The changes which had occurred in the host side’s select were that they had switched from five to four across the back. With Betancourt off, the meaty Rivas, who had played as the left-sided centre-half in the first period, stepped wide to take up the left-back position. This could possibly even see him benefit further from his excellent left foot, which had already given a preview of its long range distribution.
Inside from Rivas, captain Acosta was still performing libero duties at the heart of the Venezuelan defence. Whilst he had been playing behind two centre-backs before the break, the sole such player now was Paz, who was threading a tight-rope after his first half booking. Paz probably lived a slightly easier existence than Zdenko Morovic had done in the previous qualifier, though keeping up with Rubio meant that he would at times move quite high in the pitch, as the Chilean centre-forward occasionally came deep. Torres remained at right-back.
Whilst three midfielders had been in use during the first half, the hosts now had a midfield foursome, although it could well be argued that the strong Febles, who had been playing out towards the left hand side to little effect from kick-off, but who had tucked inside for the latter stages of the opening period, was part of a now three-pronged attacking line. Nevertheless, Cavallo, initially the more defensive among their three midfielders, still sat deep, acting as a shield in front of his defenders, whilst Carrero, who had been tasked with the majority of playmaking from the central among the three midfield roles in the first 45, now was working to the right from newcomer Añor, whose energy appeared useful right in the centre of the pitch.
The speedy Gallardo remained as a right-sided forward option, with Maldonado operating through the centre, and at times feeding off knock-ons from Febles, when there was a ball played up high from the back. This is where Febles seemed particularly useful. That, though, was about to change, as Moreno again rung the changes on 52 minutes: He withdrew Febles for Ildemaro Fernández, the 27 year old from Estudiantes of Mérida, a city to the south west of the country. Fernández, much like Gallardo on this occasion, had proved useful against Brazil, and with plenty of pace to burn, the Venezuela team now had two quick forwards either side of Maldonado. Perhaps did it seem a little odd that Febles needed to come off, though, as he had won a couple of headers since the break? With Fernández now on towards the left, it seemed unlikely that Rivas would choose to aim high when he played it forward.
“Hand of God”
There’s a slightly controversial moment on 54 minutes, when another high crossfield pass (despite the change in circumstances) from Rivas deep on the Venezuelan left hand side appears to have found the head of Maldonado, who had seemed to arrive first to the ball ahead of ‘keeper Rojas right on the border of the 18 yard line. It had been difficult to spot at first, but replays would show that Maldonado had actually got to the ball with his hand; it was an incident not unsimilar to Maradona’s famous World Cup goal from three years earlier. The Venezuelan forward had failed to direct his effort on target, with Chile eventually mopping the loose ball up, though ultimately the referee had displayed good vision in spotting the unlawful attempt, awarding the visitors a free-kick. A pat on Maldonado’s back from Rojas also revealed that there were no bad feelings from the exposed goalkeeper.
Chile second best
As for Chile at the start of this second half, they might not have intended to be sitting so deep, but they were clearly second best, with an aggressive Venezuela side pinning them back. With Aravena not always offering so much running in the central midfield position, a lot of defensive responsibility fell on Ormeño and Pizarro, both of whom were busy players, though with Añor a new and difficult midfield adversary, they failed to get a grip in the centre of the park. The Chileans might not have been overly concerned as they were two goals to the good, but nevertheless they were surrendering a lot of territory, and they would also struggle to keep up with the quick Venezuelan transitions. In addition to the forward three and midfielder Añor, the visitors would also need to look out whenever Acosta opted to cross the halfway line, something which would happen almost with regularity in the first quarter of an hour after the break. This newfound Venezuelan impetus appeared to have caught Chile by surprise.
Visitors’ first substitution
The away side had offered preciously little as an attacking threat since the half-time break, and manager Aravena clearly felt he needed to shake things up a little. France based Basay, Chile’s wide left attacking player, had hardly been in the game at all since early in the first half, and on the hour, he was withdrawn for a much more imposing player physically in young, Swiss-based striker Iván Zamorano. The 22 year old had featured in the 1987 version of Copa América, as Chile had done so well to win the runners-up spot behind Uruguay, but for whatever reason not taken part in the same tournament which had recently been held in Brazil. Zamorano was a team mate of Rubio’s at St Gallen (where also Patricio Mardones, a Chilean midfielder, was featuring). Interestingly, within seconds after coming on, Zamorano arrives first to an accurate free-kick from the left wing by Aravena and heads powerfully into the back of the net, only for the “goal” to be disallowed for offside against both Rubio and Zamorano. The Venezuelan defence had stepped forward just prior to Aravena’s inswinger. What a header, though!
Hosts pull a goal back
There is no immediate improvement for the visitors after their substitution, and Venezuela continue their impressive start to the final 45, taking the game by the scruff of the neck. However, they’ve not made Rojas work yet, and they need to up their accuracy inside the final third of the pitch. For all their promise, they’ve failed to prove a direct goal threat. That is about to change, though, as substitute Fernández manages to pull a goal back after a cleverly worked free-kick following a push by Ormeño against Añor some 30 yards from goal. As Chile expect the ball to be lifted directly into the area, Torres instead hits it square for Rivas to pin a cross into the centre from the left. He finds an unmarked Añor, whose cushioned header reaches Maldonado on the far post. In turn, Maldonado ducks down to head it on towards Fernández, who is unmarked on the edge of the six yard box. His first attempt is blocked by Rojas, but he profits from a lucky bounce, as the ball comes straight back to him, and he can just tuck it into an empty net for 1-2. The way Venezuela have played since the break, this is definitely deserved. Can they continue in the same vein?
Chile strike back
Venezuela had clearly been hoping to continue their search for attacking efforts after Fernández’ goal, though they owed to Baena to be alert to keep Aravena’s 30 yard drive out immediately after. It had been the first time the home stopper had been tested since the first half, as he’d only seen an earlier long range effort by Ormeño over. Another quick transition by the home side would then tee right-back Torres up for an effort which was ultimately disappointing, and perhaps had the Venezuelan players spent so much energy that they were now beginning to tire somewhat. Chile were allowed more time on the ball in midfield, and they would look to Aravena to hold on to it, though he was not featuring as prominently as he had done during the first 45 minutes. Forward Rubio, on the other hand, who seemed to enjoy something of a ‘free’ attacking role now after Basay had been replaced by Zamorano, with the latter slotting into the centre-forward position, would soon appear along the left, soon along the right. On 72 minutes, he would release right-back Hisis for a precise cross into the centre for Zamorano to rise above Acosta to head home. It was a third Chilean goal, and though one had perhaps been able to spot an improvement from the visitors since allowing the hosts to score, the goal seemed somewhat harsh on Venezuela. Zamorano, though, again proved his aerial capability. Acosta had not stood a chance.
Game turns one-sided
While the enthusiastic home crowd were trying to spur their heros on to have another go at the visitors, it was more and more evident that there was little resistance left in the Venezuelan players. Their earlier efforts had clearly taken their toll, and that third goal seemed to have zapped whatever energy had remained in the home side’s players. It had been a big, gallant effort, but ultimately they would find themselves under the cosh, and you were beginning to realize that what was left of the game was an exercise in damage limitation.
Venezuela had some fine players in their team, but as a whole, they could not quite match the visitors. The change in game picture which had occurred following Zamorano’s goal was quite astonishing, considering how the hosts had been on top for the first half of the final period. Now, there were no further initiatives from the back by the inspirational Acosta, and Aravena was again seeing more of the ball in the centre. Rubio appeared to revel in his free attacking role, while Zamorano’s physical presence just proved too much for the hosts to handle. In addition, Yáñez had come back to life again, and would test Baena after a quick turn on the ball just inside the area, only to see the ‘keeper push his low effort around the post.
In fact, Baena would on several occasions for the remainder of the game come to the hosts’ rescue. Venezuela no longer had the strength to counter, and they were pushed deeper and deeper, something which enabled the Chilean players to have a go from distance. Chile were also good in setting their full-backs, first and foremost Hisis, up for crosses, and it had been the right-back’s ball in which had assisted for their third goal. There was almost a carbon copy ten minutes from time, although it had been Yáñez aiming it into the centre on that occasion for Zamorano to head. Baena had managed to tip it acrobatically over, and he would be in demand again less than a minute later, as Yáñez, of all people, that time arrived to another Hisis cross and see his goalbound effort palmed over.
Through to full time
Chile have a stunning ten efforts at goal during the final 15 minutes, six of which necessitate saves from Baena. The home ‘keeper sure earned his wages for this fixture, despite him being on the losing side of a 3-1 scoreline. It is almost painful to watch how easily the visiting players create their openings, with the Venezuelan defence being sliced open time and again. Some of the goalkeeper’s saves are top notch.
The visitors, having regained their composure, did seem a class above their hosts, and in the end they had been good value for their win, even if they had been pinned back for the first 22-23 minutes of the second half. They had Astengo leading them by example at the heart of their defence, where he made a number of fine interceptions. Their midfield, once back in the ascendancy, overpowered that of the hosts, and they had some tricky individuals in forward positions, where Yáñez at best was a pleasure to watch, although he failed to maintain that high level for 90 minutes. A drifting Rubio seemed to enjoy having Zamorano on the pitch, and the latter also proved a big thorn in the Venezuelan side for half an hour. All in all, it could have been an even more emphatic win, although they had displayed their leniency for spells. Brazil next would obviously be the ultimate test to their strength and character.
Venezuela struggled along their left hand side defensively, where Chile’s tricky winger Yáñez time and again outwitted young Betancourt. It had been the Spain based 28 year old who had assisted for midfielder Aravena’s opening goal, and while the hosts had looked for the pacy Gallardo along the right to hit the visitors on the break, they had failed to trouble Rojas. Instead, it had been a truly fantastic Aravena free-kick which had increased the visitors’ lead during a first half which had been enjoyable, and where Venezuela had come back into it and evened things out possession-wise.
The hosts had switched to 4-3-3 after the break, and they played with plenty of energy and optimism, typified through half-time substitute Añor and soon-to-be-brought-on Fernández, with the latter getting their goal back halfway through the final period. However, they had run out of steam, and though the visitors had hardly looked threatening since the break, they made it 3-1 thanks to a strong Zamorano header from Hisis’ cross. The Chilean substitute had added some physical presence up front, and they almost went on a rampage through to full time, with Baena standing between them and further goals.
Not always convincing, but Chile had done what had been asked of them, while Venezuela for spells had shown plenty of endeavour and promise.
1 Baena 7.6
could not be blamed for either goal, even if he would’ve been disappointed to concede from almost 30 yards. Still, that was a world class free-kick. Made several impressive saves to keep the scores down late on, and gave another confident impression
3 Paz 6.6
he would at times struggle when Rubio chose to come deep, as that was his man. Other times he would intercept well, but showed too much aggression on a couple of occasions. Wisely left the ball to others when in possession
4 Acosta 7.3
superior positioning. Pace perhaps not all that great, but he would make timely interceptions and break up Chilean play time and again. A conservative first half, but more contributive in coming forward after the break. Stood no chance against Zamorano in the air for the decisive goal
5 Betancourt 5.7
Chile had clearly identified him as the weak spot in Venezuela’s defence, and he struggled throughout the 45 minutes which he played: poor positioning, dreadful distribution, and some woeful tactical decisions. International inexperience shone through
(8 Añor 6.9
like last weekend, he showed plenty of endeavour and energy, immediately resurrecting the Venezuelan midfield. Played in quite an advanced capacity, and played a major part in how the hosts were on top for 22-23 minutes after the restart)
6 Cavallo 6.5
not the most impressive defensive midfield display you’ll ever see, as he failed to get to grips with Aravena, and he seemed quite one-paced. Distribution also far from desired quality
9 Febles 6.6
could do nothing wide to the left, but tucked into the centre after half an hour or so and was more useful with his physique. Too slow when play happened along the ground. Brought off for tactical reasons
(17 Fernández 6.9
came on with pace to burn, and his introduction saw Venezuela execute a few quick transitions which troubled the visitors. Played wide left, and got the goal which gave them hope for a few minutes)
10 Maldonado 6.7
not as frequently involved as could have been wished for, but displayed his fine close control a few times, even if it ultimately led to nothing. Played his part in the goal with a headed assist
11 H Rivas 6.8
steady and composed, struck some fine long-passes with his sound left foot. However, struggled defensively, especially as the left-sided centre-back in the first half, as he needed to cover for the out-of-position Betancourt. Also saw Chile attack down his side towards the latter stages
13 Torres 6.8
provided plenty of assistance in coming forward from his right hand side, but his crossing was poor. Also some inept tactical decisions inside the opposition’s half. Defensively coped well with Basay, and was combative against whomever approached his side
15 Carrero 6.7
accepted plenty of playmaking responsibility, particularly in the first 45 minutes. Attempted to switch play, but not always successfully. Battled well, but part of a midfield which was not always so coherent
16 Gallardo 6.6
the go-to player for pace from the outset, and he made the Chilean left-back forget about attacking involvement after a couple of first half scares. A bit tunnel-visioned, and remained out wide to pose little goal threat, one first half moment apart when he swivelled and shot over
1 Rojas 6.6
did not have an awful lot to do, but had a wobbly first half moment from Carrero’s shot, and also seemed a little nonchalant on a couple of occasions
2 Hisis 7.1
attack-wise he had a terrific game, capped off with the assist for the third goal. Also curled in a few other fine crosses from advanced positions. Defensively not that impressive, as he struggled with Fernández’ pace
4 Puebla 6.8
started well coming forward, but grew increasingly reluctant to leave his own territory, probably much due to the speed of his direct opponent Gallardo
5 Gonzáles 6.8
enjoyed transporting the ball into the opposition’s half. Closed down well, but didn’t quite live up to his ‘hard man’ reputation
6 Pizarro 7.2
the defensive stabilizer in the Chilean midfield, where he played with intelligence and assuredness. Typically opted for the safe, shorter pass
8 Ormeño 7.0
offered plenty of running, and proved useful in tracking back while Venezuela were on top for the first part of the second half. A couple of wayward shots
9 Basay 6.2
showed some early initiative along the left, but got tackled hard a couple of times and took a knock. After that, he was very anonymous
(16 Zamorano 7.5
showed for half an hour why he should be a starter: Physical, strong in the air, held the ball up, made space for others around him, and proved his goal threat. Right decision to call off his powerfully headed goal right after he was introduced, but what a header that was)
10 Aravena 7.7
dictated play for the first half hour, scored twice, of which the second was a peach, until he drifted out of the game for the spell which the hosts dominated. Came back strongly, even if he didn’t dominate like previously. Angled passes well out wide
11 Astengo 7.6
a very good performance in sweeping behind Gonzáles. Read situations impeccably, and would usually arrive first on the scene. Also decent in transporting, even if it didn’t happen often
14 Yañez 7.4
on the receiving end of some big challenges early doors, but even that did not disspirit him. Had assisted early for 1-0, and would torment Betancourt during the first half. Would occasionally wander towards the left, and even had a header well saved by the ‘keeper second half
15 Rubio 7.3
was little involved in the early proceedings, but grew more confident and visible as the game progressed. Seemed to particularly enjoy life after Zamorano had come on. Would often come deep to participate in build-ups, and revelled in a ‘free’ role for the last 30 minutes